To many, Charles Muhangi is the pride of Kabale. Muhangi remains the only Ugandan to win the Africa Rally Championship (ARC), a feat he achieved in 1999. Nineteen years later, another driver with Kabale blood, youthful Petrelli Asiimwe, 23, believes he can fill the void left by Muhangi.
Asiimwe, who recently bought the powerful Subaru N10 Pro-Drive from Arthur Blick Jr, believes that last weekend’s outing at Garuga gave him a clear picture of what lies in wait. Asiimwe, who was driving a Left-Hand drive (LHD) car for the very first time, finished in 12th position.
“It was a shocker to me and the crowd. I drove like an experienced driver. I still watch the videos and they make me lose my breath. Many experienced drivers commended me for a rally well raced. Had it not been for the puncture, I would have finished way up the charts,” says Asiimwe, with a wide grin.
Having an experienced navigator like George Ssemakula also helped Asiimwe to punch beyond his weight. “Ssemakula helped me a lot. He gave me the confidence and our partnership in the cockpit synched pretty well,” he adds.
Asiimwe’s first sight of rally cars was during his senior six vacation in 2014. Drivers from all over the country descended on Kabale and literally left the whole place choking on dust. For Asiimwe and his contemporaries, this was just the beginning.
He promised to follow the motorsport action wherever it went. Eventually, he started watching YouTube for rallying tips. His first feel of the podium came in Fort Portal in June, as a route opener, driving a Subaru GC8. Next on the menu was the Enduro, where he finished 11th in a Toyota Vitz. His passion for the sport was shooting through the roof. He knew he had to get a powerful car. Coincidentally, Blick Jr. put his on the market and Asiimwe pounced.
“Within a short time in this sport, I am already having awards to show for my sweat,” Asiimwe says, proudly pointing to three diadems in his office at BMK House.
Nicknamed Engaji (Rukiga for Gorilla), Asiimwe is now targeting gaining more experience during the forthcoming Pearl of Africa Rally. “I wont be competing for points. That will help me gauge myself. But I want you to take my word; my future in this sport is bright,” he said.