NEWLY CROWNED African rally champion, Mohammed Essa says he is happy to have realised his dream of winning the FIA Africa Rally Championship (ARC).
Essa, who arrived at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport in Lusaka yesterday from Tanzania, said it was a great feeling to be an African Rally champion and paid glowing tribute to his sponsors for the support rendered to him.
The 22-year-old Essa won the Rally of Tanzania after dominating the two-day event from start to finish, clocking 2:01:35 to lead the ARC chart on 114 points, 89 points clear of closest challenger, Giancarlo Davite of Kenya, who finished the rally in fourth position.
Essa said in an interview that his success would not have been possible had it not been for the continued support from the corporate world especially his sponsors Madison General, I-connect and Puma Energy.
Essa, who also became the youngest rally driver to win the African title at the age of 22, is the third Zambian driver to have won the event after legend Satwant Singh, who got the title eight times and 2004/2005 winner, Muna Singh.
He said there was need for the corporate world to help the Zambia Motor Sports Association (ZMSA) improve and lift the sport's standards in the country by investing in youth development programmes.
Essa said there was a lot involved in motor sport, hence the need for the corporate world to get on board and help the sport grow and reach greater heights.
"I owe my victory to my sponsors who have put me where I am today. It is because of their continued support that I have managed to achieve this victory to become the African rally champion," Essa said.
Essa said he would not compete in the two remaining rallies to be held in Uganda and South Africa because he had already achieved his goal of becoming an African champion.
"I will not take part in the Uganda and South Africa rallies, because I am comfortable where I am right now. My participating in Tanzania was to win so that I can win the title with two rallies to spare and that I managed to achieve," Essa said.
And Sports Permanent Secretary Agnes Musunga said Government was proud of Essa's achievements.
Musunga said motor sport was one of the sport disciplines that lacked recognition in the country.
Through Essa's triumph, she said, the sport was now well-known and that the Government's policy of hard work was being implemented.
"This is a happy occasion for all of us because this trophy interprets the Government policy of encouraging and developing all sports codes in the country, we have done it again as a country," Musunga said.
She encouraged Essa to continue working hard and also go into schools and colleges to educate the youth on the importance of sport. Musunga expressed gratitude to Essa's sponsors saying the corporate world had the responsibility to promote sport in the country unlike leaving everything to Government.
Madison General managing director Chabala Lumbwe said the company made the right decision to sign up Essa and was proud that the dividends were paying off through Essa's victory, who brought the trophy where it rightly belonged.
Lumbwe pledged continued support to Essa and was confident that the driver would continue bringing honour to Zambia.