Minister for Sports and Culture, Julienne Uwacu, officially flagged-off the itinerary of the 2017 Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally on Thursday afternoon at Kigali Convention Centre.
Rwanda Mt. Gorilla Rally is organized by the Rwanda Automobile Club as a National Rally Championship and also the sixth round on the African Rally Championship calendar.
This year’s edition has attracted 19 drivers from different countries including; Rwanda, Kenya, Uganda Zambia and Burundi, and it has a number of corporate sponsors such as Bank of Kigali, Akagera Aviation, Akagera Business Group, Radisson Blu, Ministry of Sports and Culture.
In his speech during the official flag-off ceremony, Rwanda Automobile Club (RAC) president, Christian Gakwaya, expressed his gratitude to the government, the sponsors, drivers as well as presidents of rally federations in the region, FIA and rally enthusiasts for the continued support.
“We acknowledge the sponsors for their support in developing rally, without you, we wouldn’t make this event and we also appreciate the guidance of the Federation of International Automobile (FIA),” he said.
Minister Uwacu, who was guest of honor at the ceremonial, said she was happy to get encouraging reports from FIA officials praising Rwanda’s effectiveness in organizing the annual Rwanda Mountain Gorilla rally.
In 2016, Rwanda was ranked third in the African Rally Championship events after South Africa and Zambia, and this year, RAC are trying to improve on that position.
Burundi has the biggest number of participants with six crews, including last year’s winner, Valery Bukera as well as Rudy Cantanhede, who has won the rally three times in 2004, 2008 and 2010.
Hosts, Rwanda are being represented by; Gakuba Diotis Tassos and Kayitankore Lionel (Toyota Corolla), Jean Claude Gakwaya and Jean Claude Mugabo (Subaru Impreza), Christopher Nizette (Subaru Impreza), Regis Karingirwa and Fabrice Nyiridandi (Toyota Celica).
Meanwhile, Giancarlo Davite, winner of the rally in 2013, will not race under the Rwanda flag but instead under the Belgian license in a Mitsubishi Evo X, Uganda has only 3 crews.
Zambia has two crews, including ARC title contender Leroy Gomes and Gomes Klaveen where Kenya also has two, Piero Cannobio and title race leader Manvir Baryan as well and Drew Sturrock from Scotland.
On Friday, the drivers will battle in the two stages, starting from Kigali Convention Centre to the dusty routes of Rugende in the morning before returning to Kigali for the Super Stage at Amahoro National Stadium in the afternoon.
Action will resume on Saturday, in Bugesera with the crews racing through the competitive stages of; Nyamizi – Gashora (19.69kms), Gaharwa – Nemba (11.56kms), Gako-Gasenyi (14.41kms) and Gasenyi-Nemba (22.22kms).