Local motor rally driver Jess Watson and his wife Sasha were crowned the winners of the 50th edition of the Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge Rally, becoming the first husband and wife pair to achieve that feat at the conclusion of the three-day event at Cresta Lodge yesterday.
The victory means the pair now set the pace in the FIA African Rally Championship drivers and co-drivers series, as the Toyota Zimbabwe Challenge Rally was the opening leg of the eight-legged series.
The husband and wife team, who were driving a Mitsubishi Evo10, dominated almost all the competitive stages from day one on Friday on their way to finishing in 2 hours 40 minutes and 17 seconds.
They shrugged off the challenge of compatriots Craig Green and Mike Exton (Mitsubishi Evo8) who came home in 2:47:32.
“It feels nice to have finally managed to win the Zimbabwe Challenge after many years of trying. I have done numerous rally competitions and come close and not managed to win one, but now we have managed to win and it’s much more special being the 50th edition. It’s also special and emotional for me as I had my wife as my navigator,” said Watson.
Watson said he was hoping to continue his challenge in the rest of the continent ahead of upcoming races in Zambia and South Africa before heading north.
“I would like to compete in Africa, but I’ll have to find some more sponsorship. G-Fuel E85 supported strongly in this event hopefully they will be keen to support us to Zambia and South Africa,” Watson said.
Zambia’s Mohammed Essa, who was co-driven by a Zimbabwean navigator Greg Stead, finished in third place in 2:51:02 just managing to pip the Rwandan pair of Giancarlo Davite Sylvia Vindevogel (2:51:54) in a photo finish for the Subaru N10s.
Promising Zimbabwean driver Tyrone Carr and his co-driver Clint Ashdown settled for fifth place in their Toyota Corolla ahead of the husband and wife pair of Ronald Parsell and Ebrahim Bronwyn in a Subaru WRX.
South African Pieter Pilusa and George Chitepo completed the list of cars that managed to finish the event as eight other cars failed to complete the gruelling event. Pre-competition favourites Jamie Whyte and Chase Attwell were among the list of casualties who failed to complete the rally, joining other drivers such as Jas Mangat from Uganda, Laureen Marufu, Richard Robinson and Michelle Yorke.