Log in
Updated few hours ago

Lwakataka leads local drivers against foreign legion in Pearl

Ponsiano Lwakataka after winning the Mbarara rally recently

Ponsiano Lwakataka after winning the Mbarara rally recently

For the last ten years, barring the Covid-19 pandemic era between 2020 and 2021, Ugandan rally drivers have only won the Pearl of Africa rally thrice.

That was Ponsiano Lwakataka in 2011, Jas Mangat 2013 and Hassan Alwi in 2016. Foreign drivers have been rather dominant.

However, Uganda’s National Rally Championship (NRC) leader after two rounds of racing, Lwakataka, has his sights on this year’s Pearl rally, which is the third round of the African Rally Championship (ARC) event, scheduled to take place this weekend from May 6 to 8.

But clearly it is going to be hard for Lwakataka and the rest of the Ugandan crews, considering the foreign legion that is lined up.

A total of 11 foreign drivers have registered for this year’s event, which is expected to cover a total distance of 468 kilometers, with a competitive distance of slightly more than 271 kilometers and a liaison distance of 197 kilometers between the stages and the service park.

Leon Ssenyange, a former co-driver to former NRC champion Ronald Ssebuguzi, took part in seven Pearl of Africa rallies. But his best was in 2018, when they finished second overall. Ssenyange, told The Observer about the challenge Ugandan drivers face.

“The kind of cars that most foreign drivers bring are pretty strong and new. That gives them a clear advantage over most of our drivers, most of whom have cars that are ten years or more old. It is near impossible to compete with drivers whose cars are five years old, and are still in fine mechanical condition,” Ssenyange explained.

For starters, Lwakataka, who won the Mbarara and Kaliro Sugar rallies, and is in prime position to win the NRC, has been grappling with mechanical problems as far as his car is concerned. And, therefore, it will be a big test on his side, to sustain a real run for the podium this weekend.

In fact, Ssenyange said that to compete at this level, every driver must ensure that their car is in tip-top shape. In any case, their mechanics must be on call to make corrections whenever the car experiences any set-backs.

Notably, ARC championship contender, Kenya’s Karan Patel driving a Ford Fiesta is expected to start as car number one off the grid. He has already won three rallies this year, including the Kenya Equator rally last month, which is an ARC event.

The ARC leader Leroy Gomes, who is navigated by his wife Urshlla, is also expected to bring in their Ford Fiesta, making the event even more competitive.

Forty-nine rally cars will be up for scrutineering by Thursday (May 5), before they set off on a shake-down event at Mzuri park in Namataba, Mukono on Friday.  Then, they will proceed to Lugazi, before the tough action gets underway on Saturday.

Comments are now closed for this entry