Patriotism at Stake in the Pearl of Africa Rally
It is not only the usual motor rallying suspects turning up for this weekend's national duty at the Pearl of Africa Rally 2011.
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First published: July 15, 2011
For long, the Ugandan Head of State Yoweri Kaguta Museveni has been agitating for patriotism among Ugandans. He even reached the extent of suggesting that patriotism be put on the education syllabus. His call seems to have come to pass as manifested in the KCB Pearl Of Africa Rally that gets underway this weekend 15th -17th July, 2011.
For quite some time, the top local rally drivers have been divided into factions characteristic of a co-wife kind of relationship. The situation reached its apex early this year when former national champion Ronald Ssebuguzi publicly declared that he couldn't drive in the rally where Ponsiano Rwakataka was competing. In the last National Rally Calendar Championship organized in Masaka, Ssebuguzi who had registered for the event withdrew on the eleventh hour upon realizing that Rwakataka was to take part.
It is interesting that the two have found a motivation to bury their hatchet for the national interest ahead of the KCB pearl of Africa Rally. "This is a national call, whereby it calls for unity. We are attacked by foreign invaders whom we can't accept to dominate us at own backyard. We are therefore ready to die for our country," says the ever vocal Ponsiano Rwakataka.
The country's female leading driver Susan 'super lady' Muwonge almost echoed her local adversaries when She warned that she hadn't registered to participate but with a mission to accomplish.
"For some time, the foreign drivers have dominated us at home but it's the precise time to pay them back," promised the National Rally Calendar (NRC) leading driver.
The 1999 African Champion Charles Muhangi who has shied away most of the NRC championship this year, is among the entrants to hold Uganda's flag and is breathing fire ahead of the big event.
"I'm more than ready to take on any one including Jimmy Whyte? Last year I performed poorly due to circumstances beyond my control but this time I'm ready to fight on for my country and fans," Muhangi said.
Muhangi, in last year's event finished 9th a poor performance he attributed to his car. The Subaru N12 Which he had just bought at 210 million shillings failed to start on day one at a special super stage in Lubiri. He only joined the race on day two after rescue from a foreign European mechanical team fixed his car.
It is not only the usual motor rallying suspects turning up for this weekend's national duty at the Pearl of Africa Rally.
Uganda Peoples Defense Force driver Ismail Lule who has been out of the sport for three years has resurfaced from the hide to take part. The other notable drivers to shoulder Uganda's flag include National Champion Nasser Mutebi in his Subaru N8, Ronald Ssebuguzi who has just replaced his car Engine and John Barlow Luumu. Mansur Sanya, Edison Mungyereza in N10, Ismail Ortega, Godfrey Lubega and Godfrey Nsamba are also on the list. Veteran driver Wycliffe Bukenya has also secured a new Mitsubishi Evo 9 at 150 million shillings in time to take part in the July rally.
The Ugandans, are to tussle it out with a group of 'invaders' commanded by African reigning champion Jimmy Whyte from Zimbabwe, Burundi's Allan Bethise, Christak Fitidis of Rwanda and the Madagascan pair of Fredrick Rokotomanga and Ronarievo Jean. Former Ugandan speed merchant Jas Mangat who defected to Kenya is also back on his former hunting ground, to take part.
Ponsiano Rwakataka will open the route ahead of the likes of Jimmy Whyte, Ronarievo and Rotomanga. Nevertheless, he isn't bothered of the likely pressure. "I'm an experienced driver. I can't be on pressure because Whte is behind me. In fact it's a blessing to me," says Rwakataka.
Jimmy white, will take off next after Rwakataka with Ranarievo, Jas Mangat, Rakotamanga, Ssebuguzi and Dethise following in that order. "Super lady" Suzan Muwonge, will be flagged off in eighth position in front of Fitidis and Mungyereza.
Mean while, Mungereza has been boasted with a four million shillings sponsorship package from Mechatools and Equipments Limited ahead of the rally.
The event which is the fifth round of the Continental Championship tip off on Friday 15th 2011 with a cock tail for the 32 driver crews shortly after a car scrutinizing exercise. Thereafter, drivers will be flagged off at KCB Oasis Mall Bank branch before heading to Lubiri for the first competitive Section. The People of Mukono and the newly created district of Buikwe will be blessed with a free meal of dust when the cars traverse their respective areas on day three as the battle for the king of motor rallying gets under way.
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First published: July 15, 2011
Ramathan Kasozi is a member of Ultimate Media Consult (U) Ltd. . A graduate Journalist, Kasozi has more than 5 years experience reporting on sports in Uganda for different print and broadcast media houses.