Queen Kalimpinya last weekend became the first Rwandan woman driver to compete in the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally since its inception in 2002. All eyes were on the Miss Rwanda 2017 finalist ever since she was announced among the drivers lined up to compete in the just-concluded race in Bugesera but, while rally enthusiasts were anticipating to see her impress on her debut, the female driver and her co-driver Olivier Ngabo did not finish after suffering mechanical issues during stage 11. “It’s a race that requires ample time to prepare and it’s always a tough one for a driver, like me, when you are competing in it for the first time but we are happy for such an important experience to participate in it and compete until we stopped,” Kalimpinya said after the rally. Despite the poor slow, the former beauty queen considers herself a winner who was able to learn a lot from Africa’s top drivers who took part in the rally. “I am so happy that I was able to compete alongside top international drivers,” she said. “There are drivers who I always wanted to meet and I had an opportunity to look at how they drive the car, the techniques, that’s another experience that I wanted to have one way or another,” she added. After the Rwandan Rally, the female driver is positive she can find opportunities in motorsport despite the fact that it is a male-dominated sport in Rwanda. Kalimpinya says she has always loved driving and has been spotted in different parts of Kigali riding a motorbike as her daily transport routine. However, she had no idea about car racing nor did she put her attention on the sport until Fabrice Yoto, an official from Rwanda Automobile Club, sold her the idea to venture into motorsport after he was impressed by how the former beauty queen was enjoying riding a motorbike. “When Yoto asked me about racing, I had no idea whether I would be able to do it or not but I decided to give it a try,” she said. She started as a co-driver in 2019 until she started racing as a driver during the Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally, becoming the first ever female Rwandan driver to do so. Kalimpinya insists she lost the Rwandan Rally not because “I am a woman” but other circumstances that can force any other driver to drop out of the race. “I call upon fellow young women to try this sport. There are safety measures since some may fear driving at a certain speed,” she added. Olivier Ngabo, her co-driver, said the future is bright for Kalimpinya as long as she sticks to the sport to gain confidence and experience. “They can’t let you play Rally when you are not capable of playing it. So I have confidence in Kalimpinya that we can win a championship together in the future,” Ngabo said. Kenyan driver Karan Patel and his co-driver Khan Tauseef won the Rwandan Rally after finishing the race with a 13.2 second advantage ahead of Zambian rival Leroy Gomes. A victory in Rwanda saw the Kenyan’s points rise to 105 after collecting all the 30 points of the race to keep his second place on the 2022 African Rally Championship (ARC) rankings, 19 points behind top ranked Gomes (126 points). Despite losing the Rwandan Rally to Patel by a narrow margin, Gomes and his wife who is his co-driver Urshila Gomes are still in pole position of winning the 2022 ARC with a victory on their home soil during the Zambian rally which is due in Lusaka from October 21-23.