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The first lady to hold the National Rally Championship crown in motorsport, her success and passion has attracted more women to a sport that is traditionally a reserve for the men, probably owing to the countless risks that come with it, writes Darren Allan Kyeyune
When a woman beats men on their own turf, it cannot be classified as a small feat by any standards. When Susan Muwonge, who has been nicknamed ‘Super Lady’, joined motorsport, a male dominated sport, in 2005, only a few people believed in her.
A few years into the sport, she has shown that one does not have to be male to make it in racing of the cars. She has won titles to to prove this, in both the local and international competitions.
Showing the men how its done
Eleven months ago, Muwonge beat Ponsiano Lwakataka in the 300km Independence rally at the Festino City Race Circuit, making her the first lady to hold the National Rally Championship (NRC) crown.
Super Lady’s determination that saw her etch her name in the country’s history books opened a new chapter in Ugandan motorsport.
Her story has attracted more women to a sport that traditionally has countless risks. “When Susan Muwonge won the NRC last year, I got motivation that I could do it,” Mohammad Ramah, a 20-year-old navigator in the two-wheel drive class, told Saturday Monitor in July this year.
Though many have not entered the cockpit like Ramah, some have offered to work as safety marshals with Uganda Motorsport Safety Association (UMSA). Also notably, the motorsport fraternity also commands big numbers of lady fans compared to the days before Muwonge’s surge.
Defeating Lwakataka, a two-time NRC champion, left many in wonder, with mostly the men realising that finally, a lady had moved up in the sports ranks. “This lady is a lion-hearted driver who cannot get satisfied until she beats the men,” Edmond Kyeyune, her navigator told the media after her feat.
Noticed, appreciated and celebrated
Charles Muhangi, the 1998 African Rally Champion, observed: “She is a rare talent and it is only a matter of experience before she wins major titles.”
The victory was duly recognised and she won last October’s Uganda Sports Press Association (Uspa) accolade after garnering 475 votes. Her victory also earned her the Uspa Sports Personality of the Year award in January this year.
Muwonge became the second woman to take the award after 3000m steeplechase athlete Dorcus Inzikuru eight years ago.
Her success was celebrated in Parliament with support from the woman Member of Parliament (MP) for Sheema District, Rosemary Nyakikongoro, seconded by Bunya county MP, Iddi Isabirye.
Going after her dreams
“My dream is winning the African crown,” Muwonge said shortlybefore clinching last year’s NRC title. Inspired by lady drivers such as Rose Namayanja, Lwakataka’s wife Rose and Leila Mayanja, Muwonge started rallying during the Rakai Development Rally organised by Southern Motor Club in southern Uganda seven years back. Not even in her wildest dreams did she expect to become the fastest female driver on the continent.
“Motor rallying is associated with finances. It is my husband’s financial backbone that has enabled me compete favourably in the sport,” discloses the soft spoken Makerere University Business School graduate.