As the 2014 FIA African Rally Championships season gets underway this weekend in Ivory Coast, Rwandan driver Davite Giancarlo will be seeking to break the Rallye du Bandama jinx.
The Rallye du Bandama is the first event on the FIA ARC calendar, which takes on a distinctly international flavor with more than 44 entries from across the continent and guest drivers from the United Kingdom.
Davite is among elite African drivers primed to the podium in the season opening round, which will be flagged off today in Yamoussoukro.
Twenty one foreign drivers and seven Ivorians are competing in the 507.05km of competition divided into 11 competitive sections.
Davite’s navigator Sylvia Vindevogel wrote on her facebook page on Thursday night after climaxing the reccing of Bandama rally that, “The stages are fast with nice technical portions on smooth surfaces.”
“There are two bad bridges and rough parts that are a bit shattered, which will bring lots of surprises, however there are beautiful stages with good landscapes and amazing to look if you don’t want to miss the next corner,” she noted.
Davite and Vindevogel will be aiming at avoiding a repeat of last season when they were denied podium as their Mistubishu Evo X developed engine failure with just 800m to the finish line.
With a re-serviced Subaru Impreza N12 known as ‘Umuleti’ to their fans, Davite believes nothing will stop their quest of winning the 2014 ARC title.
However, he will expect stiff competition from a host of African and British drivers, among them Ugandan legend Charles Muhangi, the 1999 ARC champion, who has ended his two-year absence to return to motorsport.
The ageing rally driver has been struggling with his health of recent but confirms he will compete alongside navigator Bashir Mbogo.
Two more Ugandans (Abdul Ssempebwa, Shafick Ssemujju) registered to compete in African Rally Championship this year but confirmed they will skip Cote D’Ivoire event.
Jassy Singh, the reigning ARC champion and last year’s first runner-up Jas Mangati have not yet registered to compete this year.
Jaspreet Singh (Evo 10) will lead Kenya’s mantle while Lebanese Ziad Karanouh arrives with his Peugeot 206 looking for new exploits after his success on the circuit of Jordan, Syria, Dubai and Lebanon.
Other big names lined up for the rally include reigning Ivorian Coast Rally Earth champion Gary Chaynes and Soumahoro Moriféré Faded Bakary.