At the tender age of five, Gennaro started his motorsport career in karting. In 1997, he won the Cadet Class Championship and thereafter moved to the UK where he raced junior karts for two years. Gennaro was the youngest driver to compete in the ROK World Karting Championships in 2006.
We got to chat to Gennaro Bonafede, one of the BMW GTC race car drivers and here’s what he had to say:
BG: You have driven for VW, Audi and now BMW. What makes Team BMW different from the others?
GB: I think for me, it’s the feeling of being part of one big family at BMW South Africa. We engaged with Plant Rosslyn a few weeks back and it was great to see everyone together going forward in one direction.
BG: Which BMW Motorsport car gives you the biggest thrill?
GB: I’m a huge fan of the M5. The twin-turbo V8 really kicks you back in your seat and considering it’s a big unit, it really performs well!
BG: What do you think about the BMW M4 GTS?
GB: I think it is incredible! A real track car made to be legal for the road. The technology that has been transferred into that car surely was stemmed from the DTM Program.
BG: Where is BMW Motorsport heading in the next couple of years?
GB: I think they have cemented their success in DTM, winning this year’s championship again. I have this feeling that they will start investing more time into GT3 racing now with the new M6 GT3 car. Locally, I am really excited to see where we go with GTC.
BG: What do you think about electric car racing?
GB: For me it’s a difficult one to say. I am very open to hybrid technology in motorsport as it helps with development for road cars of the future.
BG: Do you have a stringent training regiment, diet etc? Please elaborate.
GB: My training regime is more focused around concentration as well as eye work. We work hard on being calm and being able to perform at high temperature as inside the race car the temperatures are in the high 50’s. I spend a lot of time in the sauna to combat this. In terms of diet, I try eat as healthy as I can in general. Your body can’t perform with the wrong fuel.
BG: What are some of the rituals that you do before a big race?
GB: I actually really enjoy a relaxing dinner, some wine and some laughs. I find that sometimes if things are too serious, it can have a negative effect.
BG: What should you not do before a big race?
GB: I think just the usual of not doing anything too strenuous or something that could heavily distract me from the job at hand.
BG: If you weren’t a racecar driver, what would your next career option be?
GB: Well I am currently a Business Analyst at AVI Limited during the week. Education was always very important to me when I finished school and luckily I could complete a degree and was then offered a job. I like to stay busy!
BG: What motivates you?
GB: I think the will to win and succeed. There aren’t many better feelings than winning a race that you’ve been working so hard for. The feeling of winning for our team, sponsors and family is really something that makes me feel on top of the world, that’s something that will never fade.
BG: Name your best and worst race finish.
GB: Definitely coming 4th in the Karting World Championships in Italy many years ago is something I’ll never forget, obviously winning the first race for BMW and Sasol in GTC a few weeks ago was really special as well.
I don’t remember my worst on purpose haha!
BG: Name a person (or people) that has inspired you (either in your career or personally) and how have they inspired you.
GB: I think my dad had a great influence on me in my younger years. He was very successful in motorsport in South Africa and so it was in my blood from when I was born.
BG: What is the scariest thing that has happened to you?
GB: I had a huge crash in East London a few years ago. Hitting the barriers at over 160kph was really scary, thankfully I came out with not even a scratch or bruise.
BG: And the funniest?
GB: I think it has to be making an error on Live TV when I was presenting the Formula 1 show. I had a slip of the tongue and it turned out to be such a laugh.
BG: How did you get into motorsport?
GB: It was definitely my father’s influence. He’s won 10 South African Championships and so I was privileged enough to have been given a chance in a go-kart at the age of 5.
BG: Name three things that you think should be improved in everyday driving that should be taught to learner drivers?
GB: For one, looking ahead! Too many drivers on the roads look at the car ahead, when something dangerous happens, it can be prevented by having knowledge of a few cars ahead of you.
Being on the phone while driving is a big thing too!
The last, I think to have spatial awareness of the cars and people around you can avoid any potential dangers.
BG: What advice would you give to anyone who wants to race professionally? (What education routes would you recommend – engineering, sciences, math, athletics?)
GB: I studied engineering after school which I really enjoyed. However, to get into motorsport, you need to start young and I hate to say it but you need money to start off. Motorsport is a financially-reliant sport.
BG: If you were given a chance to start over in professional race driving, what would you do differently?
GB: I think that I probably would’ve taken my racing more seriously in my younger years. I have always seen motorsport as a huge source of fun and a way to experience something very special. However, I only started taking my racing seriously at the age of 15 (which is still young I guess).
BG: Tell us something about yourself that not many people know.
GB: I actually am very weird. When I’m with family or friends I am a strange character who loves to play jokes and have a laugh.
BG: What is your favourite food?
GB: I love pasta. My family has Italian heritage which means that we love a good pasta. I personally think my mom makes the best but I’m probably biased.
BG: What was the last song that you listened to?
GB: LDRU – Next To You (Kyle Watson Remix)
BG: Describe your life using a movie or song title.
GB: Rush (movie)
BG: Which for you is the best racing circuit in the world?
GB: I have to say that it is the new Kyalami! I haven’t raced at many tracks around the world however, Kyalami is incredible now. The elevation changes as well as the variance of slow and fast corners makes it very technical.
Catch Gennaro Bonafede and Hennie Groenewald on 22 and 23 October 2016 as they head for round four of the Sasol Global Touring Car Championship, racing with the BMW GTC.
Part of this massive motorsport festival is to celebrate the iconic re-opening of the circuit after a considerable refurbishment. The track measures 4.5km and 12m wide in which lies 15 challenging corners (such as Barbeque, Crowthorne, Jukskei Sweep and Leeukop) with big elevation changes.
The Sasol GTC Racing Team welcomes visitors to their pits to chat to the drivers and view the cars at close quarters. Will you be there this weekend?