The Die Is Cast For Puma Energy Zambia International Rally 2012
By Ignatius Mazeko
THE 590-km Puma Energy Zambia International Rally blasts off this afternoon at the Lusaka Motor Club’s spectacle twisty but fast one-car start 1.54-km super special stage that has year in, year out embarrassed several crews.
The embarrassment on this tricky twice-run stage is bound to continue today as some crews are likely to overshoot and lose ground before the rally proper tomorrow and on Sunday when machines go on real test in Chisamba’s Mutendere area and Silverest respectively.
Fifteen vehicles, led home by the debutant Prodrive-built Madison/Puma Subaru Impreza N12B driven by FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) leaders Mohammed Essa of Zambia and Greg Stead from Zimbabwe, will start this three-day competition at Rally HQ, Hotel InterContinental.
Essa has 27 points and leads the African race by two points from Zimbabwean Jess Watson and Mark Cronje of South Africa who are both not part of this rally expected to be flagged by Sports Minister Chishimba Kambwili and Puma Energy Chairman Jacob Sikazwe at 2pm in Lusaka.
Therefore victory this weekend for Essa, who gets car number one for the first time in the history of the Zambia round of the African championship, will be a morale booster from three rallies going into a further five rallies in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and Madagascar.
He reiterated in an interview that he is going for nothing less than an outright win and for sure with the competitive 2004 and 2005 African champion Muna Singh not taking part due to financial constraints; Essa at 22 has to carry the heavy burden of representing Zambian effectively.
Four foreign drivers whom Essa was up against in the ARC’s Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge and Sasol Rally South Africa have followed him to his home rally hoping to outdo him, a feat they failed to do achieve in the opening two Harare and later on Nelspruit.
The four are Rwandese Giancarlo Davite (Subaru N11), who is five points behind Essa in fourth position, 2009 and 2010 African champion Jamie Whyte (Subaru N10), his Zimbabwean counterpart Richard Robinson (Mitsubishi Evo 8) and Uganda’s Jas Mangat (Subaru N12), all yet to register points.
Davite’s co-driver Sylvia Vindevogel said she was looking forward to the rally and has warned Essa, who has boosted his service team by hiring Prodrive-trained Zimbabwean Neil Demert, to watch out for the foreign crews.
“Essa be ready we all gonna push you. Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Uganda, Zimbabwe, Zambia......tchouk tchouk, twende she, haraka bwana! Good luck Essa,” Vindevogel said.
Davite, Whyte, Robinson and Mangat are all highly experienced, quick and aggressive drivers with proven track records and they will no doubt give Essa, who is set to start car number one on the road sweeping the way for his rivals, a good run for his money over the next three days.
The margins today will be in seconds of single digits for obvious reasons that the stage is too short for crews to hand each wide leads although anything is possible going by the anxiety and determination of the faces of all the 15 crews.
In the local championship, Muna’s eldest son Jassy will, just like Essa in the African championship, hope to extend his lead after winning the season opener, the Poncho Fringilla Rally about four weeks ago.
Driving Muna’s Subaru N10, Jassy will however have a daunting task with the return of national champion Paul ‘Poncho’ Monge who missed his own rally because his Subaru N12 was at the time in transit to Nelspruit for the Sasol Rally after it was hired by Essa for Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Salim Mohammed returns to action with a locally built Subaru after rolling his Subaru N10 badly during the Poncho Fringilla Rally while Mujo Simakoloyi will make a debut in a Toyota Corolla with Ashish Patel counting on another good finish after taking second position behind Jassy.
Jassy’s younger brother Muna jr. steps into his sibling’s VW Golf 3 with his aunt and seasoned co-driver Tinky Naidu calling the notes. Azim Ticklay, Dani Beaini and Massimo Sellicato all driving Toyota Landcruisers complete the list of 11 Zambian drivers competing in the rally against four foreign crews.
The first vehicle goes on the ramp at Hotel InterContinental at 2pm and will be followed three minutes later by the second competitor and the sequence will follow in that order heading to the Lusaka Motor Club in the Showgrounds for super special stage expected to be watched by a capacity crowd.
The rally will be witnessed by a high powered delegation from the FIA led by world motorsport governing body’s rally commission vice-president Jonathan Ashman from the United Kingdom who is playing the role of Steward.
The rest of the FIA officials are South African Willie Du Plessis the Chairman of Stewards, Ralph Stead from Zimbabwe is the Observer while the Technical Delegate is Viren Goricha of Kenya. ©ZMSA
Puma Energy Zambia International Rally official Entry List (in alphabetical order)
1. Ashish Patel (Z)/ Shital Naik (Z) - Subaru Impreza GC6
2. Azim Ticklay (Z)/ Mali Chulu (Z) - Toyota Landcruiser
3. Dani Beaini (Z)/ Adrian Sutherland (Z) - Toyota Landcruiser
4. Giancarlo Davite (RW)/ Sylvia Vindevogel (RW) - Subaru Impreza WRX
5. Imran Ticklay (Z)/ Lastone Chulu (Z) - Subaru Impreza WRX
6. Jamie Whyte (ZW)/ Gareth Dawe (ZW) - Subaru Impreza WRX
7. Jas Mangat (EAU)/ Gihan De Silva (EAU) - Subaru Impreza WRX
8. Jassy Singh (Z)/ Dave Sihoka (Z) - Subaru Impreza WRX
9. Massimo Sellicato (Z) - Toyota Landcruiser
10. Mohammed Essa (Z)/ Greg Stead (ZW) - Subaru Impreza WRX
11. Mujo Simakoloyi (Z)/ Colin Garder jr. - Toyota Corolla
12. Muna Singh jr. (Z)/ Tinky Naidu (Z) – VW Golf 3
13. Paul Monge (Z)/ Ray Thornicroft (Z) - Subaru Impreza WRX
14. Salim Mohammed (Z)/ Ajit Naik - Subaru Impreza WRX
15. Richard Robinson (ZW)/ Colin Schreiber - Mitsubishi Evo 8