Just over 90 days after closing down the 2018 season, a new season is upon us and zooms off in Bushenyi with the Lato Milk Mbarara Rally today.
The 2019 season promises to be the most open and entertaining but don’t rule out controversies.
Top drivers are all gearing to make a perfect start. But history has primarily proved that the winner of this event has gone on to clinch the National Rally Championship (NRC) title.
Six national champions Jas Mangat, Ronald Ssebugizi, Susan ‘Super Lady’ Muwonge, Christakis Fitidis, Arthur Blick Jr and Dr Ashraf Ahmed are among the 38 drivers set to battle out in dusty terrains of Bushenyi and Mbarara districts over two days. However, all eyes will be on reigning national champion Super Lady who will hit the route first in a Subaru N12B with her regular navigator Edmond Kyeyune.
One step at a time
She will be all out to win from the onset as she bids to win back-to-back national titles.
In modern era, only legend Charlie Lubega (2000-2002) and Jas Mangat (2012-13) have retained their titles.
But Super Lady is not focusing at the title now as the season is just beginning. “I won’t change my strategy which has brought me two titles (2011 and 2018). I will only focus on one event at a time and bringing the car back home,” Muwonge told SCORE.
True to her words the Super Lady finished every round during her two championship years.
Excitement is also brewing in Team Blick after the return of Unisan Bakunda in the cockpit along with Arthur Blick Jr with whom they won the 2015 national title in a Subaru N10.
“Unisan (Bakunda) decided to have a break from driving this season and we are going to have another crack at the title,” said Blick Jr, who will drive Evo X sponsored by Shell Helix.
They last posted a podium finish in Mbarara 2015 when they came third.
The event has a total of 298.09km of which 145km is competitive spread over nine sections.
Drivers speak out ahead of season opener
The defending champion says that she is ready, as always and she is going to drive a cat and mouse race where she will not take risks. “The pressure is on my rivals and not me,” she said. Muwonge finished third last year behind Jas Mangat and Christakis Fitidis.
Since dropping out last year in season-ending event in Mbale, Ssebuguzi says that they more than ready this season and for the Mbarara Rally in particular. The three-time national champion hopes the event will offer good competition and that he will record good times.
He is hoping to grab victory so that he can set pace for the season. His co-driver Joseph Kamya said that they are going to try and set up good times on day one. Mangat last took part in local event during the Kabalega Rally last year.
Arthur Blick Jr
( Evo X)
He is a shoo-in to be one of the favourites when the season reaches the business bend especially after reuniting with Unisan Bakunda. The pair won the NRC in 2015 and now boast of a powerful Evo X.
Duncan Mubiru is the fans’ favourite and will rightly so be the most cheered speedster. He won the event in 2014-15.He says he has worked on his Subaru and is ready.
Hassan Alwi is one of the upcoming drivers and on his day he is unbeatable. Could Mbarara Rally be one of those days? However he has a new co-driver Siraje Kyambadde.