Katto recalls Pearl of Africa Rally crash

Winning crew. Katto and Opoka receiving news of their victory in the Pirelli Eldoret Rally at Sirikwa Hotel in July 1997. FILE PHOTO

What you need to know:

  • Motorsport. 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 the fourth article of a 10-part series, Hussein Waheed Muk takes you back 10 years

Katto appeared to be in good position to contest the Africa Rally Championship that season. He had acquired a powerful Subaru N14, partnered with ever reliable co-driver Moses Matovu and the Africa championship season started in East Africa so he stood a chance to score maximum points on familiar turf in his region.

Fast forward, the Pearl of Africa Rally -- as usual he entertained his fans in the super special stage at Lubiri. In the second leg in Mityana, at some point he took a 59-second lead over Riyaz Kurji (RIP) but lost the lead due to mechanical failure.

He quickly recovered to narrow the gap on Kurji and as just he pressed hard to ‘chew’ the sixth competitive section of day Katto crashed out of the race.

Co-driver Matovu had just reminded him to be focused Africa championship having scored decent Africa championship points in Tanzania.

Katto recounts accident:
“It was another painful one. It was our maiden event in the Subaru N14 in Uganda. We were lying second behind the late Kurji.

Going into the last stage of the day my navigator Moses told me that we should take it easy as Riyaz was not part of the ARC (Africa Rally Championship) and we were mainly chasing maximum points for the Africa Rally championship.

We had suffered overheating problems on the morning of the event but these were solved in the afternoon and we were making up time hand over fist in the subsequent stages and by the last one we were mere seconds behind Kurji.

Moses told me to slow down but by that time I had smelled blood and had gone back to maximum attack mode. We came over a brow flat out and took off and unfortunately the impact of the landing broke the rear suspension arm and the car spun into some farmer’s cattle enclosure and we were unable to continue.

Such was the speed of the whole event that I actually thought that we had rolled. It actually turned out that we had spun five or six times! Moses never forgave me for that error of judgment! I look forward to narrating more of our exploits in the next installment of the flashback series.”