The all-Kenyan crew of Don Smith and Bob Kaugi savoured clinching their maiden FIA African Rally Championship (ARC) title over the weekend as the Pearl of Uganda 2016 came to a dramatic end in Kampala.
Don and Bob- who are also the 2012 Kenya National Rally Division Two champions- racked up the drivers and navigators championship titles after finishing seventh overall in the season- closing Ugandan round. The Kenyan crew only needed to finish the crowd-pulling Pearl Rally but their celebrations began much earlier when Zambian Muna Singh Junior retired with a leaking fuel tank.
They take over the continental glory from Jassi Chatthe of Kenya and Craig Thorlay of Britain who won it last year in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X
With the ARC title proving elusive in 2016, the Zambian speed merchant (Muna) is taking it all in his stride and this what he had to say in an interview: ‘Well, we went to Uganda just for the experience. Our main aim was to finish and gain as much experience as we could. Don Smith was too far ahead of us.”
Don navigator Bob said: “The strategy has been maintaining podiums on the continental front. Uganda just needed a finish and we approached it with a levelheaded mind.”
Muna was hoping that Don drops out, adding: “That would have been the cherry on top of the cake for us, but there is always a next time.”
Hassan Alwi Jnr of Uganda won the Ugandan tour outright followed by motocross rider and reigning Ugandan rally champion Arthur Blick Jnr.
The Pearl success went down as Kenya’s fourth ever ARC drivers title victory as well as the country’s first ever feat by an indigenous African navigator.
Don’s calm and assured drive to the FIA ARC podium belied the excitement that was bubbling underneath but at exactly 3pm Ugandan time, this exploded into a solid stream of joy when he received his trophy for the finish. The Kenyan crew will now travel to the FIA awards gala ceremony to officially receive their prizes for the season alongside the world’s best in WRC and Formula 1.
In clinching the coveted title, Don joined the list of three Kenyans who previously called the shots on the continental arena. Don’s navigator Bob also become the fourth Kenyan codriver to deliver the title after Mike Doughty, Dave Williamson and Surinder Thatthi.
Shekhar Mehta, David Horsey and Jassi Chatthr are the other drivers from Kenya to have laid their hands on the title. Surinder is the only Kenyan to have won the coveted continental series title more than once after guiding the legendary Satwant Singh of Zambia to four titles, in 1989 including three in succession from 1996 to 1998.
Meanwhile, Zambia’s former ARC multiple champion Dave Sihoka has congratulated youngster Muna for a good showing in the continental series. Sihoka navigated his father Muna Singh Senior to two ARC championship titles.
“Sorry my boy, but good experience attained for next year. Thanks to the whole team and thank God for the safe rally. We pray for his mercies as you travel back home. We’re proud of you for flying our flag through out the year..God bless!” Sihoka said.
Past champions from Kenya are:
1. Shekhar Mehta (champ in 81)
2. David Horsey (champ in 84)
3. Jaspreet Chatthe (2015 champion)
1. Surinder Thathi navigated legendary Satwant Singh to victory in 1989, 96, 97 & 98
2. Dave Williamson guided David Horsey to the memorable 84 championship feat
3.Mike Doughty navigate the late Shekahr Mehta to victory in the 1981 edition.
1. Hassan Alwi Jnr (UGANDA) 2h41m03s
2. Arthur Blick Jnr (UGANDA) 2h41m53s
3. Christakis Fitidis (UGANDA) 2h48m58s
4. Omar Mayanja (UGANDA) 2h55m18s
5. Ismail Shermohamed (ZAMBIA) 2h56m18s
6. Kepha W. (UGANDA) 3h04m49s
7. Don Smith (KENYA) 3h10m30s