Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally: 37 crews off to thrill fans in Buikwe

Ponsiano Lwakataka and Paul Musazi negotiating a turn. PHOTOS/JOHN BATANUDDE 

What you need to know:

Over 30 the crews ignited their engines on Thursday for the six-kilometre qualifying race from Wairaka to Wairasa in Jinja.

Since the return of the Shell V-Power Pearl of Africa Rally in May 2022 after a three-year hiatus, the message has been “Safety, safety and safety”.

The same message has run this week in the build-up to this year’s Africa Rally Championship that climaxes on Sunday in Buikwe. 

Over 30 the crews ignited their engines on Thursday for the six-kilometre qualifying race from Wairaka to Wairasa in Jinja.

On Friday, the rally spectacle shifted to the roaring Bujjagali Falls for the super special stage (shakedown), where drivers raced for a sh13m prize worth of fuel.

But the competition starts proper this morning as all action shifts to the thick sugarcane plantations in Lugazi.

 “We’re basing in Jinja but the actual rally is in the plantations of Buikwe [district],” Omar Mayanja, the clerk of course for this event explained.

“We selected these closed routes after reviewing the 2022 and 2023 reports and prioritizing the safety of both the crews and the fans.” The fans will watch the action from Kisasi.

Nevertheless, Mayanja has promised a thrilling experience for the fans.

“We’ve enhanced the experience by providing viewing spots with a better and longer view of the cars. The stages are strategically positioned so that fans won’t have to move venues but the cars come to them,” Mayanja, who finished fifth in the 2013 and 2014 editions, adds.

The first car will set off at 8.07 am in Kitigoma for a 25.44km race to Kidusu in the section codenamed Macarena.

This section, the longest of the four, will be repeated twice from 11.38 am and tomorrow at 10.08 am in the fourth and tenth super stages.

Lwakataka loves being the underdog. 

From Macarena, the crews will traverse through Tadooba from 9 am. Tadooba, named after the famous local lamp fueled by paraffin, is the shortest of the four stages, running for 8.85 km around Nakawungu. It will be repeated later at 12.31 am in stage five.

Super stages three and six will commence at Kizigo Village, stretching for 18.96km to Kidusu. This stage is dubbed Katushya in honour of the rally drivers from the 70s and early 80s who witnessed the Katyusha, a famous Russian rocket launcher that was used in the Liberation War between 1978 and 79 to oust Idi Amin’s government.

The last stage of the day, SS8, will start at Wakisi Village to Namwezi at 4.27 pm, covering 22.55km and will be repeated tomorrow at 11.20 am, marking the climax of the Ugandan leg of the Africa Rally Championship. The stage has been named to honour the sponsor of the event, V-Power Stage.