23 Jun The Race Against Poaching
Team Africa debut at the July Imola 12-Hour and Misano 24-Hour Races
On Saturday 8th July, Team Africa Le Mans will make history by being the first African motor-racing team to enter the Creventic 24-hour endurance race in Misano, Italy.
The Johannesburg based racing team are out to prove a point to the rest of the world that African teams can also compete at the top level of world motorsport. Team Africa will be racing a Ginetta G55 car, branded in the colours of the international STOP! Poaching initiative.
Speaking from his South African base, the team’s founder Greg Mills, said: “Motorsport is seen to be largely out of reach for ordinary person, particularly Africans, but we want to change that perception and show that with application and determination anything is possible. But we are also using the Team’s profile and race publicity to highlight a critical cause among a wide audience,” says Mills, “in the cost of poaching in Africa.”
The anti-poaching branding especially profiles the continent’s dwindling rhino population, which has decreased by 7,000 over the past decade to now number just 25,000. Recognising that more can be achieved in partnership, the Team is also working with the Ichikowitz Family Foundation in publicising this critical issue.
With the anti-poaching cause behind it, the Team has received well wishes from the ‘great and the good’ of motorsport, including world F1 champions Emerson Fittipaldi, Jody Scheckter, Damon Hill and Mario Andretti, sportscar and F1 aces Bruce Johnstone, Dan Gurney, John Fitzpatrick, Brian Redman, Derek Warwick, and Mike Wilds, SA motorsport engineering legends Gordon Murray, Ken Howes and Rory Byrne, famed F1 designers Robin Herd and Tony Southgate, and even ‘Mr Formula One’ Bernie Ecclestone himself.
Reinforcing the African link, the Team has a number of continental businesses behind it, including Ethiopian Airlines, Fast Oil and Hollard Insurance.
Team Africa made their racing debut last year in the Paul Ricard 24-hour race, where the team managed a respectable third in class and 23rd overall from over fifty entries. The team plans to use the lessons learnt during that race to improve their performance this time. “We will certainly be trying to run fewer and slicker pit stops” says David Horsey, the Kenyan team manager who won the African rally championship for Peugeot and was a factory Toyota driver on the Safari Rally. “We spent nearly an hour in the pits in total at Ricard. Even ten minutes less than that, and we would have moved up a place or two”.
The team will be putting everything to the test a week earlier during the 12-hour race in Imola.
“After their sterling performance last year at Paul Ricard,” says Adrian Scholtz, the head of Motorsport South Africa, “I wish Team Africa Le Mans everything of the very best with the upcoming events. Everything about this project has a feel-good factor for me, from the driver line up to the wildlife charity cause. I really hope they do well on-track. However, I have no doubt that, even if things don’t quite go to plan, the team will have fun. This is ultimately what motorsport should be about.”
Their drivers are not short of international experience. Mills is joined by fellow South African, Sarel Van der Merwe, a previous winner of the Daytona 24-hour race, as well as Le Mans winners Jan Lammers and Emanuele Pirro.
Between them there are no less than six Le Mans 24-Hour victories and 13 top-three podiums, three Daytona 24-Hour victories and four podiums, two Sebring 12-Hour wins and five podiums, two World Sportscar and one US LM Series Championships, 15 South African rally and racing championships, and much more.
It is clear that Team Africa are not just coming to make up the numbers but to win. Lawrence Tomlinson, the owner of Leeds-based Ginetta, is delighted by the African team’s success. “They like to portray themselves as just amateurs having fun, which they are having in spades, but you only have to check out their driver strength and engineering talent to realise the significance of Team Africa’s intentions in what is a most competitive car.”
Support, too, has come from quarters outside motorsport. The Premier of the Gauteng Province, David Makhura, says: “Team Africa Le Mans is, as its name suggests, an African team. I am very pleased and not a little proud that it is based in the province of Gauteng, the heartland of South Africa’s economy, the centrepiece of Africa’s industrial dynamism. The Team’s international results confirm that it is adding to that illustrious record. I wish the members well in their next foray in Italy, at the 12- and 24-Hour races in Imola and Misano. I know that they will represent Africa well, hope they will show a clean pair of heels to the rest of the field, and look forward to welcoming them back victorious to Gauteng. Good luck,” adds the Premier, “In bocca al lupo!!”
For more information or interview requests please contact TeamAfricalemans@gmail.com or see www.teamafricalemans.com
MSA Publishes media releases from a host of different sources on our website as a service to the sport. It is not practically possible to vet/approve every release that is published. Some news items and articles are written by correspondents and do not necessarily represent MSA’s views.