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Motor rally: a blend of thrill and risk

Speed is something most of us would love to have a feel of. Rally drivers and fanatics are no strangers to this adrenaline-rising engagement.

Speed is something most of us would love to have a feel of. Rally drivers and fanatics are no strangers to this adrenaline-rising engagement.

Invented in the 1940s in Monte Carlo, France, Motor rally sport fanaticism was traditionally a reserve of the rich and middle class. However, overtime, it found its place in the hearts of the ordinary folk, too. 

Over the years, too, the sport spread across the globe, and obviously Rwanda and Africa at large weren’t spared. Rwanda hosts at least one motor rallying event every year, most notably the KCB Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally.

The first time I watched a motor rally was in Uganda – the 2012 Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally, which took place in Entebbe, about 40 kilometers out of Kampala. Oh, and what a breathtaking experience it was!

The starting point at the circuit was lined with a collection of roaring sedans, subarus and Volvos. The air was filled with the smell of engine oil and lubricants. And the atmosphere was like that of an open air garage. It was a perfect distraction from the scorching Saturday afternoon sun.

People from all walks of life turned up in big numbers – the young and old, the famous and ordinary, warts and all.

As the engines rumbled, bracing for a sprint, huge clouds of black smoke snaked into the sky. The pack of spectators sang in excitement every time one of the drivers pressed against the accelerator pedal. I paced from one end of the track to the other, as sudden chills ran down my spine in excitement.

After hours of repeated engine roarings and multiple checks by respective drivers and navigators to confirm their speed machines were in stable condition, I raced for the nearest raised ground next to the track to catch a better glimpse. Suddenly, a man standing on the sidelines, wielding a white flag, made a single, sharp wave.

The speed monsters set off at lightning speed, leaving only clouds of dust in their wake.  For the first 10 minutes, all we could make-out were engine bellows, thanks to the blinding dust.

Given the numerous corners around the circuit, coupled with the breathtaking car sprints at some point, one would think that they would end up plunging into a bunch of excited spectators.

After two hours of nerve wrecking cruises, the drivers were flagged to the finish line and they all came in at breakneck speed. The first to arrive was a blue Subaru Imprezza N6 driven by Ponsiano  Lwakataka, then a white Subaru Imprezza N3 driven by Julius Ssemakula and in third was a silver Subaru Evo, driven by the youngest participant  on the track, team Kobil’s Ronald Alyel. 

The rest of the cars came in one at a time until the last one, a Subaru Evo N6, driven by Sebastian Loki. A couple of drivers had lost time from damaged axles, puncture tires and overheated engines.

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