Motorsport: Safety remains a key issue

Monday March 16 2020

IUEA drivers Hassan Alwi and Joseph Kamya

IUEA drivers Hassan Alwi and Joseph Kamya power the Subaru N14 to victory in Jinja. Photo by JB Ssenkubuge. 

By Editorial

The local motorsport season is running with two events already done. However, both the opening events in Mbarara last month and in Jinja 10 days ago have raised safety concerns which the Federation of Motor Sports Clubs of Uganda (FMU) and organising clubs must act on before it gets out of control.
The sprints, from which FMU and clubs generate income to run their activities, are the most dangerous as they are organised in places that are not very safe. These sprints attract a lot of fans because action is in one place unlike in the sections.
The one in Jinja was held in what looked like a soccer playing field. The place was small and crammed with a lot of people. Fans and cars in action were separated by a mere tape. It was no surprise that two cars skidded off the track and rammed into people, who scampered in all directions. Three people were injured including a safety marshal who broke a hand.
Credit must be given to the drivers who tried their best to save lives in that situation. The first incident should have been a warning to the organisers to try to move fans away from dangerous spots.
Running events go through a process which include the organising club designing a route, then seek approval from FMU through their technical wing. Events are given permits by Ministry of Works and Road Safety department after all the parties have approved the route.
For the Jinja event, unfortunately Kakindu Stadium which was inspected, the owners changed their mind two days before the start of the event. The organisers hired another venue and it is unlikely it was inspected. This is the danger facing the sport which FMU should address.
Safety of drivers and fans in Uganda has attracted the International Automobile Federation (FIA), the global body for the sport.
In the past two years we have had deaths in the sport and FIA last year sent officials to check on safety measures in place.
Also last year, the FIA placed a yellow card on the Pearl Rally, one of the events on the Africa Rally Championship (ARC) calendar after numerous concerns over safety.
Uganda has one of the largest motorsport fans in Africa but the federations has failed to tame and safeguard them.
The new FMU executive came into office last month, but it’s high time they walked the talk on safety. There should be no compromise. Otherwise the sponsors, drivers will walk away.

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