Top Zambian motor rally driver Mohammed Essa (21) has entered for the opening round of the Zimbabwe national championship series that revs off in the capital next weekend.
Essa together with local driver Chase Artwell qualified for the Pirelli Star Driver final qualifying round in Spain although they both did not make the final cut.
The Pirelli Championship is designed to identify the most talented and promising young drivers from the FIA regional championships in Africa, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East.
Essa who is a two-time Zambian champion told the Times of Zambia that the rally was important as it had been pencilled just a month before this year’s Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge slated for the weekend of March 11-13.
The Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge Rally will be the opening leg of this year’s FIA African Rally Championship and the other seven legs of the 2011 ARC series will be staged in South Africa (March April 15-17), Zambia (May 20-23), Kenya (June 17-19), Uganda (July 15-17), Tanzania (September 2-4), Rwanda (September 30 to October 2) and Madagascar (November 25-27).
The Zambian said he had decided to take part in all the rallies on this year’s Zimbabwe Motor Sport Federation calendar as the local championship was more competitive than the Zambia series.
“This will be the first leg of the Zimbabwe national championship, so I am going there to look at the roads and also compare my pace with the Zimbabwean drivers because I think they will be the most competitive in the African championship this year,” said Essa.
The two time Zambian champion took part in the Pioneer Panel Beaters and Guard Alert Rally (PGA) in Norton last year June where he came second behind Conrad Rautenbach.
He however found the going tough two months later at the Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge Rally where he was halted by a mechanical problem.
According to the Zimbabwe Motorsport Federation calendar next week’s national rally will be staged by Sables Motorsport Club and will be the first event of the 2011 national rally championship.
The reigning African Rally Champion for the past two seasons Jamie Whyte and his co-driver Philip Archenoul are also expected to take part in the event.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport on Sunday, Archenoul said there were expecting start studded line-up for the national rally event which most drivers will be using to fine-tune their preparations ahead of next month’s “big one”.
“At the moment Jamie Whyte is rebuilding his car and will be racing against time for next week’s rally. We will be just going out there to enjoy ourselves ahead of the big one, the Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge Rally next month,” said Archenoul.
The veteran co-driver added that other local drivers like Craig Green, Jess Watson, Big Chitima, Richard Robinson and female driver Maureen Marufu were going to take part in the event.
Meanwhile the country’s motorsport controlling body, the Zimbabwe Motorsport Federation will hold their annual prize-giving event and annual general meeting on February 26 where the efforts of athletes who excelled last year will be recognised.