In less than a week, engines will roar at the annual 2016 Mountain Gorilla Rally slated for August 12-14 at Amahoro stadium for the competitive stage before the rally moves to Gako, Nyamata in Bugesera district.
Like in all rally competitions, ensuring an appropriate level of safety is always a challenge for all those involved.
In Rwanda, the motor sport event brings back memories of accidents like the 2015 Rallye des Mille Collines, which was canceled after a fatal accident that led to the death of Claude Kwizera’s navigator, Christopher Duquesne.
Kwizera broke his arm and Duquesne, who got trapped in his seat, suffered chest injuries, and was rushed to Gahini Hospital where he was pronounced dead. The rally was immediately called off and since then it was re-named after Duquesne by Rwanda Automobile Club (RAC).
After two-years, Kwizera, who miraculously survived the accident, is now the vice president of RCA as well as the president of Ivumbi Motorsport Club.
He knows that for the drivers, it’s all about full speed to win the race but on the other hand, he cautions the fans to step away from the routes besides removing any obstacle like cows from the roads.
Kwizera notes that: “Safety is the key if we are to redeem the sport especially during the Mt Gorilla rally, which attracts foreign drivers from across the African continent. Drivers need to have well equipped cars on top of skills and techniques to ensure safety.”
Surely on a couple of occasions, drivers like Olivier Costa, Edson Mungyereza, Felekeni Mayaka, Olivier Gakwaya to mention but a few, have crashed out of the previous edition of the Rwanda Mt. Gorilla rally.
Last year, the then reigning national champion Davite Giancarlo, dropped out of the rally after knocking a cow.
Even though such accidents always cause a shockwave amongst the fans and drivers, it cannot be denied that the high peril characteristic of motor sport is part of its attractiveness.
As drivers continue to live treacherously while entertaining the fans as well as vying for points, for RAC safety is a priority.
This year, the organizers have once again put safety at the forefront of the three-day rally, according to RAC spokesperson, Francois Cyatangabo.
“We have a trained safety team of marshals, who will be stationed at different strategic locations to oversee and ensure appropriate guidelines are followed for all those involved,” he told Times Sport.
He added: “This is the reason why we chose Gako forest, because, the routs are non-residential areas, and of course, signs will be stationed at different points for drivers to be cautious.”