Driving a T1 Rally Raid car for the first time, 18-year-old Aliyyah Koloc has successfully completed the Sugarbelt 400: the latest round of the South African Rally Raid Championship. Driving her Buggyra Racing/Red-Lined VK50, Aliyyah finished 22nd overall after two full days of action from May 12-13, capably navigated by South African co-driver Riaan Greyling.
This was her first time at the wheel of a top-class car and Aliyyah learned quickly, putting a roll earlier in the rally behind her to rack up more miles and experience with this challenging V8-powered machine, manufactured by local team Red-Lined – with whom Buggyra ZM Racing is partnering this year to accompany Aliyyah on her adventures in the South African Rally Raid Championship. As well as this, she is also competing in the FIA Middle East Championship for Cross-Country Bajas, the FIA W2RC, and the 24h Series: a varied and educational programme that takes in both circuit races and rally stages.
“I just finished the Sugarbelt rally, my first race in the T1 car,” said Aliyyah. “It was a really difficult rally in between the sugar canes, really narrow. It’s completely not what I’m used to. But we made it to the finish; we just had one flip, rolled, and I ended on my roof. Thankfully someone helped, but we’re at the finish now, with a lot of new experience.”
Aliyyah is contesting a selected programme of events in the South African series this year with a view to building up experience for the 2024 Dakar Rally, which takes place in Saudi Arabia in January. The twisty roads of the KwaZulu Natal Midlands region are in stark contrast to the sand dunes of the Middle East, but it all counts towards building up a useful stack of experience in a wide variety of conditions, which will prove invaluable as Aliyyah enters her second Dakar in eight months’ time: the pinnacle of off-road racing.
Martin Koloc, Buggyra CEO and team principal, commented: “For her first time in a T1 car, this was a great performance from Aliyyah, as once more she demonstrated a maturity beyond her years. With only two days of testing behind her, she took the step up in performance in her stride and learned as much as possible, which was the name of the game last weekend. Many thanks to Red-Lined and Riaan, whose experience played a huge part in the benefit that Aliyyah took from this fantastic event.”
Aliyyah has already had a busy rally season, starting in January with the Dakar Rally. Racing in the competitive T3 category, she classified 33rd on her debut Dakar. This was followed in March by her so far career-best cross-country result: third among the registered FIA World rally raid championship runners in the T3 category of the Abu Dhabi Desert Challenge.
Coming up next in Aliyyah’s busy racing programme this year will be the 12 Hours of Monza from 10-11 June, round three of the 24h Series, when the 18-year-old will switch back to endurance circuit racing.