A 17-year-old Israeli rally driver was hailed for making history over the weekend for winning a long distance motorcycle race across the Sahara Desert.
Gev Teddy Sella was declared champion of the Africa Eco Race on Saturday after completing the 6,500 kilometer course 50 minutes ahead of his nearest competitor.
Sella was called an “Israeli prodigy” in some foreign media reports because the teenage driver had never competed on a desert track before.
He is the youngest-ever champion of the grueling competition, considered to be one of the toughest in the world.
“It’s hugely exciting and kind of unbelievable,” Sella told the Ynet news site after his victory. “This is going to take a while for me to comprehend.”
“I never thought I would win. I thought that maybe if I’m lucky, I’d finish among the first, but didn’t think it would actually happen,” he said.
Sella took an early lead in the race — winning five of the 12 stages — and managed to maintain a sizable margin the entire time.
Each year, thousands of drivers spend 12 days competing in the annual rally that extends for more than 6,500 kilometers across the deserts of Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal.
The Africa Eco Race began in 2008 in response to the relocation of the famed Dakar rally from northern Africa to South America over security concerns.
The rally aims to promote sustainable development and individual awareness about eco-responsibility.
After his unexpected win, Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev called Sella to congratulate him
“You made history.. and brought pride and honor to Israel,” Regev told Sella. “I’m proud of your achievement and of the title you’ve been awarded.”
The minister invited Sella to her office to collect a certificate of excellence.