A total of 20 local and foreign drivers were flagged off at the Rainbow Towers in Harare Friday to signal the start of the 2010 edition of the Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge Rally.
Zimbabwe Motorsport Federation president, Austin Whitehead flagged off the competing drivers with their co-drivers as they headed for Donnybrook for the super-special stage.
Today, action will be at the Ruwa Country Club where competitors will negotiate their way on the dusty routes in the surrounding forests and farms from early morning until late afternoon before moving to Norton Country Club Sunday.
Leading the pack at the starting line yesterday was three-time winner Conrad Rautenbach, who is aiming to equal his father Billy Rautenbach’s record of four Zimbabwe Challenge Rally titles.
The younger Rautenbach and his co-driver Peter Marsh have won the rally between 2005-2007. They are favourites to win the title in their Ford Fiesta S2000 which is by far the most powerful of all the vehicles that lined-up Friday.
The second driver to be flagged off was current African Rally Champion holder (ARC) for the past two seasons, James Whyte and his co-driver Philip Archenoul who will be hoping to win the prestigious local rally for the first time.
Whyte will be aiming to romp to victory in his Subaru Impreza to complete a remarkable season in which he became the first Zimbabwean driver to win two ARC championships.
“I have won just about all the other legs of the ARC in Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Rwanda over the past 15 years but the Zimbabwe Challenge Rally has always been elusive.
“I think there is no better platform to celebrate my ACR title win by winning the Zimbabwe Challenge Rally for the first time. My third-place finish in last year’s edition has given me confidence that I can do it this time around.
“It would certainly be icing on the cake if I manage to win it this time. However Rautenbach will pose the main challenge,” said Whyte.
Former winner Muna Singh of Zambia, Rwanda’s Giancarlo Davite, and defending champion Chase Artwell were flagged off third, fourth and fifth respectively.
South African-based Zimbabwean driver Robson Maganezi was the only driver to pull out from the initial entry list after experiencing problems with his vehicle.
Like in previous years, there will be female representation at the rally with Mitchell Antipas and Laureen Marufu taking part while Verlaque Michelle of South Africa is also one of the participants.