Briton Tony Pond, who became a household name in South Africa when he drove rally cars for Nissan, Opel and Toyota during the Eighties, has died. He was 56. CARtoday.com spoke to Sarel van der Merwe about the passing of his great rival and friend.
Briton Tony Pond, who became a household name in South Africa when he drove rally cars for Nissan, Opel and Toyota during the Eighties, has died. He was 56. CARtoday.com spoke to South African rallying and track racing legend Sarel van der Merwe about the passing of his great rival and friend.
Pond, who lost his battle against pancreatic cancer late last week, was “one of the fiercest competitors from abroad to ever race in this country,” Van der Merwe said. “In his day, he was without a doubt one of the top drivers in the world.
“We had some epic dices through the years when he was racing for General Motors (later Opel) and Datsun (later Nissan),” Van der Merwe added. “Tony Pond was a tough campaigner and he never gave up. But he was also a good friend. He will be missed and live on in the memories of SA rally drivers and fans for a long time.”
From his early days in road rallying in Britain, Pond graduated to stage events with a Ford Escort Mexico, and was then signed by Opel in 1975, finishing fourth on the RAC Rally.
According to , Pond was renowned for his spectacular driving style and made his name in the V8-engined Triumph TR7, twice winning the Manx and Ypres asphalt events. He also drove for other manufacturers such as Talbot, Datsun and Vauxhall.
Pond continued to be linked with British Leyland, driving a Rover Vitesse before beginning the Metro 6R4 programme in the mid Eighties. Perhaps the highpoint of his career was the 1985 RAC Rally, which he finished third in the 6R4, defeated only by the Lancias of Henri Toivonen and Markku Alen.
His international career ended with the demise of Group B, and he returned to the national arena. One of his most famous feats was recording a 160 km/h-average lap of the Manx TT course in a near-standard Rover Vitesse in 1988.
He was also an accomplished circuit racer and came close to winning the Spa 24 Hours in 1984 for Rover. Pond is survived by his wife, Nikki, and son, James.