KAMPALA- Don Smith was meant to literally get lost in the moment upon clinching his first Africa Rally Championship (ARC) title in September.
In a classic case that confirms the phrase that ‘not all that glitters is gold’, Kenyan Smith quit after winning the season-ending Shell V-Power Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally.
His problem was the Shs160m he had spent. “No, I am not doing this (racing across Africa) again,” Smith told Daily Monitor.
“I have spent over US$50,000 (over Ssh167m then) for the entire season,” Smith, who drives a factory-built Subaru N16 and flies in a private jet, added.
Smith’s potential suitors to his throne know the minimum cost. Now, they even know the dates they need to fit into their calendars.
The seven-round 2017 ARC starts in Ivory Coast on the weekend of February 11-12 with round two set for Kenya.
The legendary KCB Kenya Safari Rally is slated for March 18-19 following a two-year absence.
Cars then head to South Africa in late April before round four, the Pearl Rally, is held here in July, two months earlier than the routine.
The final three events will be held across the border in Tanzania (August) and Rwanda (September) with the season in Zambia (October).
Perusing through the calendar emphasizes East Africa as the cornerstone of motorsport on this continent with four of the seven events set for this region. That also enhances Uganda’s chances of competing, let alone challenging for the African title last won by Charles Muhangi in 1999, as it would cost less to travel.
Though ARC hasn’t not yet confirmed the issuance of 2017 driver licenses, reigning National Rally Champion (NRC) Jas Mangat is likely to register.
Also three-time national champion Ronald Ssebuguzi has previously hinted on racing in the region more often in a bid to improve.
Often, ARC races affect the scheduling in various countries that have to run their own NRC events. Collisions and squeezing races within weeks is common too. Last year, only Smith and Zambian Muna Singh Junior, born into a rally family, were really competitive on the continent.
In fact, Smith’s emphasized the need to plan well as he didn’t win a race this season, especially in terms of sponsorship.
“To win the ARC, you have to plan everything from time to money to everything,” Kenya’s third African champion after David Horsey (1984) and Jaspreet Chatthe (2015) reasoned.