By George Kalisa
It’s undeniable the motor-sport competitions are on the rise in Rwanda, but the dwindling number of car drivers currently turning up for the races is a blow to the future of the game in spite of its growing popularity.
Nyirangarama Rally whose second edition took place June11, 2022 nearly three months after the 2022 Sprint Rally All Star race justify the fact that stakeholders have a huge task ahead to attract as many participants (read car drivers) to the game.
Five drivers participated in the Nyirangarama Rally while seven in the 2022 Sprint Rally All Star race.
One constant factor for such a poor turn up is that motorsport is costly and conventionally supported by the corporate class. The second is that the corporate community is still struggling to jump out from the economic recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, a pinch that all felt as the plague was surging.
Nonetheless, members of Rwanda’s corporate community need to take a leaf from Dr. SINA GÉRARD who in 2019 decided to include the Nyirangarama Rally on the endless list of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities. He sponsors the motorsport race as a way of giving back to the communities of Rulindo, Shyorongi and neighbourhoods.
The Rwandan millionaire is passionately engaged in Agribusiness, Education and Sports and he’s the Founder and Managing Director (MD) of SINA GÉRARD ENTREPRISE URWIBUTSO and COLLÈGE FONDATION/SINA GERARD (CFSG) all headquartered at Nyirangarama.
On June 11, SINA hosted a one-day motorsport event for the second time and the second local motorsport competition this year that was graced by five car drivers.
Olivier Frietzer rode the lead motorcycle that opened the route for rally cars.
Legendary car driver, Gakwaya Jean Claude and co-driver Mugabo Jean Claude won the race in 55: 15 seconds, riding a Subaru Impreza.
The distance was divided into two – starting with 9.7 Kms between Nyirangarama Township to the top of Mount Tare plus 16.3 in the Shyorongi area. The drivers had to race Shyorongi distance twice before heading to the finishing line
The 2nd place was scooped by Nyiridandi Yoto Fabrice and co-driver Miss Queen Kalimpinya of Team Akagera Motors in Subaru Impreza in 1:05:35 while the 3rd position was won by Murengenzi Brayan (first-time rally driver) and Mujiji Kevin (Co-driver) of Dukes Rally Team in 1:13:16.
The remaining two cars never finished due to challenges including violation of route rules.
The Subaru Impreza driven by Adolphe Dady and Ngabo Olivier never finished the first section as it did not reach the top of Mount Tare as planned, but cut off on the way. After leaving the mountain, the competitors headed to Shyorongi where they played two 16.3-kilometer race twice. The Toyota Celica by Mutuga Janvier with Elder Hassan, who dropped out of the race before completion.
Rutabingwa Fernand representing Rwanda Racing and Motorcycle Association (RAC) said that although all the cars were not playing due to other races being prepared, they were happy that the people of Rulindo already loved the sport.
“It simply came to our notice then. All nine Rwandan cars have been registered, but due to the preparations for the African and World Championships, there is a way they have decided not to play today. ”
He added that “Rally” is not just a RAC event because it also organizes other competitions including “Karting” which is held monthly at BK Arena and ‘Play-seat’ games.
SINA GÉRARD, who sponsored the Nyirangarama Rally, said he would continue to support the competition as well as other sports because it is all about helping the community.
“I will continue to do my best in partnership with the government. The residents and the government are two inseparable entities.”
Following public demand SINA said SINA GÉRARD ENTREPRISE URWIBUTSO will have a car in the next Nyirangarama Rally and he will drive it himself.
“I will participate in the next rally”
The first edition of the Nyirangarama Rally (2019) was won by Giancarlo Davite who was with Yan Demester in the Mitsubishi EVO X.
The Memorial Gakwaya race, known as the ‘Huye Rally’, is scheduled to take place in August, followed by the ‘Rwanda Mountain Gorilla Rally’ on the African Car Racing Championship.
Apart from the Nyirangarama Rally, the national Motorsport calendar includes; the 2022 Sprint Rally All Star race, Rallye des 1000 Collines, Memorial Gakwaya also known as Huye Rally and Rwanda Mountain Rally among others.