Jas Mangat might quickly turn this year’s National Rally Championship (NRC) into a procession but remains hungry for more in a season that is still in its infant stages.
The three-time national champion made it two wins in two NRC events yesterday, coasting to a wire-to-wire victory in the FMU Jinja Challenge Rally.
You might have thought that the early exit of Ronald Ssebuguzi, also a three-time national champion, on the final day should have compelled Mangat to take it slow. It didn’t.
The heavy morning rains delayed the start of the event, forcing organisers to trim the two-day event from 11 to nine sections in all with one being done on Saturday.
“We went off the road 2km into the first section called KG. The car off the road and we hit a road. We were first on the road and it was very slippery,” Leon Ssenyange, Ssebuguzi’s co-driver, said.
Mangat pulled away to finish 10 minutes ahead of the crew Kepher Walubi and Anthony Mugambwa in the 289.98 km event, of which 179.38km was initially spread over 11 competitive sections.
Two good wins
“Two wins is good. We look forward to the next round. We try our best again,” a visibly happy Mangat said in a post-event interview as he seeks to reclaim the crown he last won in 2016.
Rain made for testing conditions for all including Mangat’s Mistubishi Evo. X, the same car driven Walubi, to clock one hour and 37 minutes. “It was very difficult to keep the car on the road. It was very slippery, challenging and hard work was required,” Mangat, now on the maximum 200 points, said.
Adding; “When it rains, the competition changes. It’s very difficult to judge. There were two sections that were extremely impassable. We went very slowly just not to get out.”
Unisan Bakunda and Umar Kakande ensured that the podium was a sweep for Mitsubishi while reigning champion Christakis Fitidis only finished seventh.
In the lead up to the event, Duncan Mubiru, Ponsiano Lwakataka and Ambrose Byona opted not to race for varying reasons, reducing the event to a Mangat-Ssebuguzi affair.
This never materialized as Ssebuguzi’s second straight failure to finish a rally this season dented his title bid in the seven-race NRC competition.