Zim's Stead guides Essa to ARC title

HARARE - Navigator Greg Stead made it a fourth straight podium finish for Zimbabwe in four years when he steered Zambia’s youthful driver Mohammed Essa  to the FIA Africa Rally Championship(ARC) title on Sunday.

The two were crowned ARC champions after winning the 2012 Puma Energy Tanzania International Rally held in Dar es Salaam this weekend with two rallies remaining in the Arc series.

Racing in a Subaru Impreza N12, Mohammed and Stead put up a spirited performance and finished the rally a comfortable six minutes ahead off closest rival Dharam Pandya of Tanzania.

The Arc series podium finish for Stead made it the fourth consecutive time a Zimbabwean has been crowned continental rallying champion following the exploits of Zimbabwe’s top drivers Conrad Rautenbach in 2011 and Jamie Whyte in 2009 and 2010.

Zimbabwe Motorsport Federation spokesperson Themba Mazvimbakupa said the country’s continued continental dominance belied local competitors’ lack of sponsorship.

“Well, the results are speaking for themselves, we are a force to reckon with in the continent,” Mazvimbakupa said.

“We are excited because we are providing champions day in and day out, not only in rallying but in motocross. We are excited for the future of Zimbabwean motorsport, because of the vibrant juniors that are coming through. The likes of Shamiso Chitima and Tyron Carr in rallying as well as Mudiwa Chigumba, Tristan Granger and Jayden Ashwell in motocross shows a bright future for Zimbabwean motorsport,” he added.

Stead was ecstatic.

“I just want to thank our sponsors and service crew. Without them we could not have made it,” Stead told the Daily News yesterday.

The 29-year-old Stead and Essa, 22, were funded by Mohammed’s family, Madison Insurance, Puma Energy Oil and several other Zambian sponsors.

Many Zimbabwean drivers who often have to self-sponsor themselves for the eight legged ARC challenge unsurprisingly fell out of the Arc series in the opening legs due to limited funds.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I’m very proud to have lifted Zimbabwe’s flag high,” Stead said.

“One of the most important things between a driver and a navigator is that the two should have a deep understanding of each other, I think that’s something me and Mohammed shared. Mohammed drives with his head and not just with his foot on the pedal, and that made us a good pairing.”

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