Essa, Stead crowned champions at FIA Gala

HARARE - Zambian driver Mohammed Essa and Zimbabwean navigator Greg Stead were officially crowned FIA African Rally Champions at the end-of-season FIA prize giving ceremony in Istanbul, Turkey last Friday.

The annual prize giving gala sees the champions from all of the FIA’s series honoured with silverware in front of racing legends.

ESSA and his co-driver Stead won the 2012 Championship by an overall victory in the Puma Energy Rally of Tanzania earlier this year with two rounds to spare.

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

At 22, Zambia’s ESSA becomes the youngest ever ARC winner, a position previously held by Zimbabwean Rautenbach.

Stead was happy to defy lack of sponsorship to win the title.

“It’s an amazing feeling, I’m very proud to have lifted Zimbabwe’s flag high,” Stead told the Daily News recently.

“One of the most important things between a driver and 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.”

The star of the night at Istanbul was perhaps Sebastian Vettel and Red Bull Racing, who officially became champions at the ceremony.

Vettel was presented with the trophy by FIA President Jean Todt and became the youngest triple champion in Formula 1 history.

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