Katto, navigator Gitau recall crash

Toyota Celica era. The crew of Katto and Gitau being flagged off for the Safari Rally in Nairobi in the 1990s. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Ugandan motor rally legend Emmanuel Katto without doubt enjoyed the biggest and most passionate fan base in East Africa.
  • The 1996 and 1997 national champion is one of a few drivers to have won the Uganda National Championship back to back. The others being Sam Sali (1989, 90, 91, 92), Karim Hirji (1993, 94, 95) and Charlie Lubega (2000, 2001 and 2002).
  • The legendary driver has taken occasional breaks from the sport over the years due to business commitments across various continents but he is not done with the sport.
  • In a 10-part series dubbed ‘Emmanuel Katto Flash Back’ that will be published every week, Hussein Waheed Muk takes you back to the good old days.

Part 1 rewinds the clock 19 years back. Emmanuel Katto and co-driver Frank Gitau still recount the UMOSPOC Rally crash which occured in the opening race of the National Rally Championship then.
Katto, navigated by Kenyan Gitau in a Toyota Celica ST185 plunged into a ditch, spectacularly flew so high and the impact on landing left the bonnet, door, suspension and tyres detached from the car.
Katto and Gitau, who surprisingly emerged from the wreckage without any injury, recount the accident that many spectators will never forget.

Frank Gitau recollects:
“A local road construction company had dug a ditch two feet deep and 10 feet wide across the road after recce a week before.
We must have been 10 metres or 15 feet in the air, then hit the right hand side bank and started the roll another 150 meters. The car came to rest on its belly with no front tyres and suspension, no door on right hand side. The engine was still running and Emka engaged first gear and we moved another 20 feet or so.
That’s when it appeared we were not going anywhere. No scratches, just whip lash. I was still holding the current pace note page which I still have to date”.

Emmanuel Katto:
“I am not an engineer but you can’t convince me that an Impreza was safer than a Toyota Celica 185.
The 185 was one of the toughest cars ever built for the safari. We were doing over 200 km per hour and came out without a scratch. The chassis was 100% straight.
That’s what I call a car. My accident in a pro-drive N10 was half the speed and the chassis was completely bent. You cannot even begin to compare the two cars”.