With the most popular sport, that’s football, showing very little sign of improvement despite the abundance of resources, motor sport in this country seem to be on the rise in spite of lacking enough publicity.
Because they don’t have as much resources at their disposal and following as football does, the local motor sport governing body, Rwanda Automobile Club (RAC) has struggled to get enough publicity despite the positives things going on within the local motor sport fraternity.
And because they don’t get enough media hype, they fail to attract the big time sponsors for their activities. The most vivid example is the decision by the Federation of International Automobile-Africa to cancel this year’s edition of Rwanda Mt. Gorilla Rally off the continental calendar because local organizers didn’t have ready sponsors available.
What does this mean and where do we go from here?
Over the years, the guys at Rwanda Automobile Club have managed to carry out their activities slow, silent but consistent and sure until the unthinkable happened. In the last seven or eight years, the event, because of it’s meaning on the Africa Rally Championship annual calendar, has attracted some of the best drivers on the continent and beyond.
But further still, because the people at RAC prefer to do their things quietly, we can not say how but at least they’ve been able to bring big sponsors on board, that’s why the grueling event has survived on the continental calendar for so long.
So, what went wrong? Has the event lost its original pull? Why have sponsors run away all of a sudden? What, what, what etcetera…, the list of queries is endless.
Dismas Kayibanda has been elected and re-elected as president of Rwanda Automobile Club for five two-year terms since 1999 which means next year, he’ll make a decade at the helm of local motor sport.
Since 1999, Rwanda Mountain Gorilla international rally, the toughest, longest, most prestigious event in Rwanda, has been a regular fixture on the continental calendar, until this year when things went really bad for the organizers.
In the past seven or so years, a weekend like this we would have seen five or more of the best rally drivers on continent and their respective crews in our country not only to participate in the rally but spending (in foreign currencies) for the week or so they spend here, which adds to the government foreign exchange earning.
This year, five foreign drivers including Uganda’s Jas Mangat in a Subaru Impreza, Burundi’s Valery Bukera in another Subaru Impreza, Dethise Alain also driving Subaru Impreza, Belgium’s Mark Verdin and one only identified as Demare in a Subaru Impreza have graced the event.
However, apart from Mangat, the rest are not continental name as we used to have the likes of the young Zimbabwean sensational Conrad Rautenbach, who won last year’s title, current ARC leader Munah Singah, Patrick 2006 African champion Emontspool Belgium, Uganda’s Riyaz Kurji as well as Japanese Hideaki Miyoshi.
Local boys aim to upstage expatriates
Besides what happened and or whatever will happen to the prestigious rally event after the unfortunate happenings of this year, there are a number of positives to note about local motor sport.
Among those positives is the formation of a rally team called Unity Rally Team by a group of local rally fanatics. After years of seeing the sport being dominated by mostly white expatriates, who drive on Rwandan licenses, a group of 30 rally fans decided to form their own team with the aim of developing promising local drivers.
Unity Rally Team (URT) was formed last September with John Murengezi and Ange Francios Cyatangabo becoming the first driver and co-driver and beneficially of the idea. They made their debut the same month in the Huye rally in which they finished sixth out of 13 cars and this weekend’s Mt. Gorilla rally is their fourth event.
Driving a lesser powerful Mitsubishi Evo III against opponents in more powerful Subaru Imprezas and Mitsubishi Evo 6s, the youthful pair is hoping to take only the positives and learn from the experience until they one day get a better car.
Like any venture, business or pleasure, it starts small then grows big—so is the story of URT whose 30 members pay $10 as monthly membership fee, something they are more than happy to do and are willing to increase to a more reasonable figure.
It’s this money that maintains the car and plans have started to purchase a better machine but that doesn’t mean the old one would have to be sold off. Over the last couple of years, local motor sport has been dominated by white expatriates including; Rudy Cantanhede, Tony Seagerman, Davite Giancarlo, Fitidis Christakis, Mitraros Elefester, Paganin Paolo among others.
And the only locals who have tried but failed to break into that dominant bracket are Edmond Kazungu, Claude Kwizera, Olivier Costa and recently John Murengezi and Feleken Mayaka.
The idea of URT is to build a strong team, which means more cars and drivers will be added as the local boys aim to upstage their richer and more experienced rivals.
In URT, they say the sky is the limit and lets hope their coming will open the gates for other Rwandans to pull their little resources together and form more rally teams a is the case in countries like Uganda and Kenya where motor sport is more developed than here.
With such good initiatives in motor sport and the lack of it or them in football, which is the most popular sport in the country, I could be tempted to turn to the former because of initiatives like URT rather than waste time with the later. Have you ever fought a loosing battle?
‘Strippers’ charm Italy’s Euro 2008 preps!
With just seven days left before the start of this year’s European championship in Austria and Switzerland, all 16 teams have stepped up their preparations.
Last Sunday, an unexpected show of ‘strippers’ livened things up for the Azzurri during their first day of training session.
It was reported in various international online papers that two girls took to the training ground and started stripping off their clothes, with one of them even managing to hug and kiss one of the Azzurri players.
After a moment of surprise, security caught up with the two girls and escorted the ‘strippers’ off the pitch as the surprised Italian players enjoyed the ‘show’.
Not a really bad way to start their campaign for Europe’s biggest football tournament. Go for it my Azzurri and emulate France as champions of the World and Europe in the same period.