Once again the UMC Fort Portal Challenge Rally ended in a dramatic way with Ronald Ssebuguzi and Leon Ssenyange winning it in the very last section.
The win opens up the battle for the National Rally Championship (NRC) title which is now up for grabs this season. Eighty-five points separate Jas Mangat the leader with 200 points after four events from eighth placed Dr. Ashraf Ahmed with 115.
Ssebuguzi powered his Shell and Centenary bank-sponsored Mitsubishi Evo X to maiden victory in Fort Portal over the weekend. The nature of the competition this season is that the 140 points available for the Pearl Rally winner next month will make him an NRC favourite.
While Ssebuguzi and navigator Leon Sssenyange were breaking the Fort Portal jinx, the crew of Christakis Fitidis and Eric Nzamwita in Oryx Energies-sponsored Evo X surrendered their proud record of finishing every event since Mountain of the Gorilla Rally Kabale in March 2016, the last they failed to finish.
The competitiveness was justified by the five different winners of the 10 competitive sections (CS) over the two days. Fitidis and Duncan ‘Kikankane’ Mubiru shared the Super Special Stage (SSS) glory on Day One but it was Ssebuguzi who won it all, in a time of 05:00.01, two seconds ahead of Fitidis after two runs. Day Two started with Umar Mayanja winning the opening section and ended the event with three section wins. When he rolled his Evo X in the last section (Mpanga), his chance of adding the Fort Portal win to the Mbarara one he recorded in last year evaporated. Kikankane won CS3 - Mabereeganyinawiru to go joint top with Ssebuguzi after two sections on day two. His fans went wild sensing victory but disaster struck in the very next section with suspension problem as he bowed out. Adam Rauf and George Sssemakula also won two sections but punctures in different sections ended their challenge and eventually finished seventh.
Ssebuguzi, the eventual winners, surprisingly won only two sections; seven and nine, which was the last one. But Ssebuguzi, a three-time national champion, said his main aim was to finish the event and stay with the leading drivers. “I have not had luck in the past two years, so was driving careful knowing that I was in control of the rally. I did not want to do something stupid,” he said.
All good thing come to an end. Fitidis run of finishing every single event ended in CS7- Mabereeganyinawiru (22.99km) when his right rear wheel came. “I knew the proud record will end at a certain stage but did not anticipate it would end with the wheel coming off,” the veteran driver said.
His run includes all NRC events as well six Africa Rally Championship (ARC) in that time. “It takes good preparations for both man and car and the service crew to achieve that. I am very proud of the feat.”
Finally, Susan ‘Super Lady’ Muwonge/ Edmond Kyeyune in Subaru N12B, the 2011 national champions, proved they still have what it takes to win another title. They finished third and are now fourth on NRC standings.
HOW THEY FINISHED IN F. PORTAL
Ronald Ssebuguzi 01:43.10
Kephar Walubi 01:46.03
Susan Muwonge 01:46.35
Fred Wampamba 01:49.39
Omar Mayanja 01:52.09
CS7 – Mabereeganyinawiru (22.99km) 0:15.01
CS9 - Mpanga (23.87km) 0:15.31
CS2 – Bukuku (8.07km) 06.33
CS6 – Bukuku (8.07km) 06.23
CS8 – Rwenzori (14.41km) 0:11.17
CS4 –Rwenzori (14.41km) 0:12.05
CS5 –Mpanga (23.87km) 0:15.25
SS1A - (2.12km) 0:30.09
CS3 - Mabereeganyinawiru (22.99km) 0:14.58
SS1b - (2.12km) 0:28.03
NRC standings - TOP FOUR
Jas Mangat 200 points
Unisan Bakunda 194
Kephar Walubi 180
Susan Muwonge 170