Despite missing the usual big names in addition to the small number of entries confirmed for the 1st Sprint Rally scheduled for today in Busegera, Nyamata District, Eastern Province, the organisers expect an exciting event.
According to the Rwanda Automobile Club (RAC) president Salim Abdulgani, the race, which will have a total of 120 km with 10 competitive stages, is expected to attract both local and Burundian drivers.
Among the only seven participants, who confirmed their participation before the deadline on Thursday, is the reigning national champion Mohammed Roshanali Abbasi navigated by Lee Youssef Habimana in their fledgling Subaru N10.
The Burundian pair will be the firm favourites to win the sprint rally, which is part of the first round of the Rwanda-Burundi Rally Championship 2016 series initiated this year.
Having won the ‘Rallye des Milles Collines’ last year, Abbas was crowned the national champion when he finished the season with 77 points. He finished in 8th position during last year’s Mt Gorilla Rally behind Rwandan Mitraros Elefterios / Paganin Paolo.
The other driver to watch out for will be Rwandans, Jean Claude Gakwaya, navigated by Claude Mugabo, driving Peugeot 205.
His big foot on the pedal should not be ruled out this time around, having shown his driving prowess during the last three Mountain Gorilla events when he finished in the top seven. Last year during the Rallye des Mille Collines, he finished second to Roshanali.
Speaking to Saturday Sport ahead of today’s event, Gakwaya was a bit anxious but promised to do the best to win the rally, although he expects a tough challenge from Roshanali.
“This will be an interesting competition since it is the first event of the year on the local calendar. Much as the number of competitors is very small, the competition will be stiff. I will try to do what I’m good at,” he stated.
He added, “Roshanali is a good and experienced driver, who has been around for some time, but if I had the Subaru I don’t think it would hard to go against him.”
Gwakaya will be driving a Peugeot 205 and not his usual Subaru N10, which got an accident last year and is yet to be fixed properly.
A string of consistent results in the last three years helped Gakwaya to step up the Subaru during the Rally des Mille Collines when he went on to prove he is the next big thing in local motorsport when the likes of Giancarlo Davite hung up their gloves.
The other local driver is Gratien Rutabingwa from Gratient Rally Team, who will be navigated by Claude Rwigema in a Peugeot 205. After a year out of action, the veteran driver made a comeback in motorsport two years ago.
Burundian Zamin Mwananteba and Dias Maceri will also be around to show what they are made of. The pair began racing in Rwanda two years ago. The duo looks forward to be part of the ambiance in Bugesera in their Toyota Celica ST202.
The 2015 Rwanda/Burundi 2WD champions started his second year of rallying with a debut in Uganda, when he raced in the Kabale Rally where he was named the best foreign crew and went on finish second in the 2015 Rallye des Mille Collines.
The other Burundi driver Thierry Mutore in a Subaru WRX will be part of the sprint. Mutore has raced in Rwanda for the last three years.
Not some much is known and expected from the other participates like; Janvier Mutanga and Serge Rusagara since they have not competed in events. Mutanga will be racing in the Toyota Corolla RSI while Rusagara will race in his Toyota Corolla.
Nyamata being quite smooth, fast and somewhat tighter, the sprint will be thrilling for the drivers.