Michele Lupini and Garry Kingsley-Wilkins stunned the rally community on Saturday, when the pair won the McCarthy Automark All-Tar rally out of the blue in their Sabat Saab 9-3R. Not only was it the duo's first event in the car, but also the powerful front-wheel drive Saab is the first car to break the AWD Subaru domination of the Northern Regions rally championship so far this year. -

- 25 seconds adrift of the Sabat Saab at the finish were Jose Ferreira and Miguel da Costa in their Italian Panel Beaters Subaru Impreza, who in turn ended nine seconds ahead of Callie van der Merwe and Gideon Trollip in their rear-wheel driven 2.8-litre Nissan Exa. Hugely impressive too, were Michael Houghton and Bryn Doherty who ended fourth overall in their 1300 Toy-Toy Used Spares Toyota Tazz. -

- It was also the end of a result drought For the Sabat crew - Lupini and Kingsley-Wilkins had not finished a rally this year in their Sabat Toyota Tazz in the national series, but luck was with them at last this weekend. "We came here knowing we had a reasonable chance to win," Lupini admitted. "We also understand full well that to finish first, we first need to finish, so we decided to adopt a cautious approach." -

- But the Sabat Saab already had the rally world sitting up and watching when the team drove home second of 63 starters behind the superbly driven Thundersport racing Golf of Hein Boze and Greg Gericke around the Zwartkops racetrack on Friday evening. "I had only driven the car briefly before, so that first stage was tricky - the wrong way around Zwartkops in the dark without proper lighting in this beast was entertaining indeed," Lupini mused. -

- The second stage - around Zwartkops again on Saturday morning saw a similar result, the storming Sabat Saab albeit much closer to the nimble Golf, which maintained its lead at the next stage at the Valhalla Arena. But the Saab crew was looking to the trio of stages at Gerotek to make their move... -

- The fourth stage on Gerotek's mountainous dynamic handling course remained a challenge as Lupini had to bear the Saab 's lack of adequate under-floor protection in mind over the various jumps and yumps on the stage. "Even though we did our best to protect it, we still cracked the sump," Michele confirmed. "So we were relieved to lose just six seconds to Hein and Greg and that our expert Sabat Saab team were able to remedy the damage quickly and effectively..." -

- From there it was to the high-speed Gerotek oval where the hugely powerful Saab really came into its own for the first time. Averaging 195km/h for the three laps on the oval including starting and stopping, Lupini took his first stage win of the event to close within a few seconds of the Golf. -

- Stage six was on Gerotek's ride & handling track, which saw the Saab winning again to move into the rally lead, before crews headed to the spectacular Waltloo testing ground stage. There an emphatic drive saw the Sabat Saab emerge 20 seconds ahead of the van der Merwe/Trollip Exa after a wheel-to-wheel battle for three of the crews' five laps at the facility. -

- "I love Waltloo," Lupini admitted. "It's a stage that requires me to draw on every last bit of my race and rally experience, so when Callie entered the stage ahead of us we knew we were in for a fight..." The Saab was soon right on van der Merwe's tail and Lupini took his chance as quickly as it came, slipping by the slithering Nissan on the inside of one of the many hairpins on the stage to a roar of approval from the large crowd. -

- From there the crowd was entertained by a thrilling battle as Lupini held off the attention of the hard charging Nissan to take another stage win and consolidate his lead. Sadly, the Boze/Gericke Golf retired in the Waltloo stage leaving Lupini 20 seconds ahead of van der Merwe and a further six seconds clear of the Ferreira/da Costa Subaru with two stages to run at the Carousel casino. -

- A wrong slot on the complicated first casino stage saw Lupini drop ten seconds to stage winner Ferreira, but van der Merwe also ran into trouble to lose second overall to Ferreira. The final super special stage saw Lupini pip Ferreira to win the All Tar Rally by a comfortable 25 seconds. -

- "I can't tell you what a relief this is," Lupini admitted after his first rally finish in over a year." I have to thank our team - Garry, Shaun, Brian and the guys who stood by us throughout this trying time, and to Willem, Beulan and the men at Saab for putting together such a fantastic machine for us this weekend." -

- "And then to our sponsors, Sabat batteries, Saab, Sasol Dual Fuel, Dunlop, Bilstein shock absorbers, Signs for You, Lusio Auto Body, Toy-Toy Used Spares and Multipurpose Cement, thank you for your patience - we told you it had to come right!" -

- It was a vital win for the Sabat Rally team after a disastrous season of rallying so far - this victory could not have come at a better time. But the Sabat Saab will be remembered for coming out of the blue and winning the All-Tar Rally first time out - an achievement of note in the super competitive area of Northern Regions rallying... -

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