Despite all safety measures in place, the 2019 National Rally Championship season opener in Mbarara was cut short in the final section after leader, Jas Mangat hit and killed boda boda cyclist at a crest point on Sunday.
Mangat and Joseph Kamya in a Mitsubishi Evo X escaped the incident with no injuries but the rider unfortunately died on the spot.
Rwizi Region Traffic Officer Justin Opus confirmed the incident and attributed it to the cyclist’s negligence.
“There was even a police opener car prior to the start of every stage informing people the rally route was out of bounds. The rally driver had no problem,” he said.
The Mbarara Rally was well organised and all the necessary safety measures like prior warnings of the locals about the rally routes and the calls to pay due diligence towards their animals and young children. Plus the use of two safety cars (inclusive of a police vehicle) to warn locals and fans off the routes before the start of every competitive section.
With the incident occurring, the Clerk of Course decided to end the rally prematurely as the road was blocked off.
All crews who had made it to the time control of section seven were deemed to emerge as finishers.
On Saturday, the crew of Mangat, also last year’s winner again proved his intent from the start as they cruised into a 30 second lead over closest rival Arthur Blick in second as day one came to a close. Hassan Alwi was third, Duncan ‘Kikankane’ Mubiru fourth while Ronald Sebuguzi finished the day a distant fifth.
“It’s a very good rally for us everything is going on well and all the drivers have shown improved competition but we shall keep pushing to maintain our place because they are after us,” Mangat said ahead of Sunday
At the start of the second day, Mangat came out of the block fastest as he increased his overall lead to over two minutes winning the day’s opening section by over one minute and 40 seconds over second placed Blick.
But Blick was not taking this laying down. He replied by winning the next section in a drive that had more fans fall in love with the skills and pace of the 2015 national champion. The battle at the top was getting heated up but Mangat showed why his considered the top seed in Uganda winning section seven by 23 seconds. With one section to go, the battle seemed to be officially over unless otherwise.
Hassan Alwi was proving to be the main protagonist capable of over hauling the top two’s lead but as they shared section wins, he could only manage third overall a result which should awaken all those who still doubt his credentials as top tier.
Ssebuguzi and Leon Ssenyange have failed to put a mark on the Mbarara Rally and their troubles here continued as they looked off pace compared to the top runners but they managed to overturn an eight second overnight deficit to finish fourth.
Kikankane once again was beaten by arch rival Ssebuguzi despite both driver’s times being off pace. He finished nine seconds behind Ssebuguzi. 2017 champion Christakis Fitidis maintained his overnight position to finish sixth overall.
Hajji Omar Mayanja who won this rally two years back looked devoid of the inspired drive that year, but managed to jump from a disappointing 11th position overnight to finish 25 seconds off Fitidis in seventh. Yasin Nasser could not ask for more of his Subaru Impreza GVB which was making its debut in Uganda by finishing eighth.
Musa Kabega and Fred Kitaka Busuulwa managed to also over turn their day one disappointments and recover well to round off the top ten finishing 9th and 10th respectively. But the surprise of the rally came with defending Champion Susan Muwonge who struggled throughout both legs of the rally and could only manage 11th position.
It was disappointment for local boy Jonas Kansiime in the end as mechanical problems plagued him on the second leg and dropped from 7th to 17th by the end of the rally.
In the 2wd category, Dr Godfrey Nsereko inherited pole position from overnight leader Timothy Gawayya who unfortunately dropped out of the rally after his car broke down in the sixth section. Veteran Ismail Watendwa finished second with Charles Sansa rounding off the podium positions. Ismail Waliggo and Sadat Negomba finished 4th and 5th respectively.
Out of the 35 crews that started on Saturday, 25 managed to complete the rally.