From ELIZABETH CHATUVELA in Chisamba
AFRICA Rally Championship (ARC) defending champion Mohammed Essa is back in contention for the title after winning the 488-kilometre nerve-wracking Puma Energy Zambia International Rally Championship in Chisamba.
Essa clocked 3:08:15 hours.
Yesterday’s victory pushed Essa to joint third on the ARC circuit with 25, eight behind 50-year-old Davite Giancarlo of Rwanda. Zambia’s Jassy Singh is second with 30 points.
Essa is sharing the third position with Eric Pages of Ivory Coast and Jan Habig of South Africa. The two drivers missed the Zambian leg.
Essa missed the Ivory Coast rally and crashed out during the South Africa rally.
Essa, who led the battle of cars from the first round of the 16-stage event, was a marvel to watch as his competitors trailed him.
Essa started yesterday’s leg six minutes ahead of second-placed Giancarlo and continued with his dare-devil driving behind the wheels of his new Subaru N2010.
The ARC champion wrapped up the championship with an official podium finish at Lusaka’s Hotel Intercontinental where he popped champagne, with his navigator Greg Stead, amid cheers from hundreds of fans.
Essa said winning on home soil has boosted his morale of retaining the title.
“We won the ARC title last year with a new car and it was awesome. We are back again this year with another new car and a win really gives us confidence to go all the way,” Essa said.
In second position was Giancarlo, who was navigated by Sylvia Vindevogel in a Mitsubishi Evo X.
Giancarlo timed 3:15:22 hours while Jas Mangat of Uganda was third, taking 3:19:53 hours.
National rally champion Jassy Singh ended the day on a bad note when Monze based-driver Kenny ‘Ichongedwe’ Mukosa wrestled the fourth position from him after his Subaru N12 developed a mechanical fault midway the last stage.
Mukosa won the hearts of spectators who shouted aisha (uncle) each time his Subaru N10 was in sight.
The Monze-based driver finished second to Essa on the national log with a time of 3:33:47 hours while Jassy is third and fifth overall with a time of 3:41:20 hours.
Other three drivers who finished the race are Danni Beani who was sixth (3:57:46 hours), Toofail Dalal (4:23:33 hours) and Yazdaan Ticklay (5:10:36 hours).
And Muna Singh Junior won the Super Rally after outracing his only competitor Farouk Ticklay. The Super Rally is designed for drivers who crash out of the main event.
Navigated by his sister, Balveen, Muna wrapped it up in 1:46:21 hours while Ticklay, who was navigated by Jassy’s twin sister, Jasmeen, finished in 2:21:36 hours.