What is the key to motor rally success, is it the driver, car, navigator or luck?

Jejje Muhinde

At its core, the sport is about the unknown, as fans we go to races like the Mountain Gorilla or the annual Huye Rally, we see and cheer the drivers, and we can see the cars sliding sideways, as engines roar in dust and muddy roads in the hope of finishing first on the podium.

As fans, what we see from the beautiful sport of motor racing is what we get, Rally is glorious, a lovely sport like other disciplines.

For drivers, the task is race to win, all of this is done to the limit of your talent and the cars ability to go quickly, however, the mystery is unfamiliar, I question I put to some of the drivers and crews what is the key to success in motorsport racing, is it the driver, navigator or a bit of luck?

Well, Rwandan driver, Claude Kwizera believes the key to success is simply humility and perseverance hopefully coupled with a sense of humor.

Manvir Baryan is surely the African Rally Champion after winning Rally of Rwanda (Mt. Gorilla Rally) with navigator Drew.

Kwizera who retired after losing his friend and navigator late Christophe Dusquene in an accident during the 31st edition of the Rally des Mille Collines in 2014, says “It’s a long, very complex road to the top and there will many failures along the way.”

In his view, he thinks the key is to learn as much as possible, from each and always keep moving forward. The best rally drivers usually blame themselves for any troubles or failure at a race, because that’s how they learn and improve.

Another Rwandan navigator Jean Claude Mugabo who at the moment is leading the national championship thinks that having all three elements is very crucial.

“If you have a good conditioned car like a Subaru N14, a good navigator but without required skills, experience to negotiate the corners to a high-speed Gonzalez you cannot become a champion,” He said

The 2017 African Rally Championship closes the chapter with the Zambia International Rally this weekend; Zambia’s Kleevan Gomes will be raring to go as he seeks to consolidate the third spot in the Africa Rally Championship (ARC).

Kleevan, who is going to compete in his home event, is in the fight to finish the championship in third place along with Uganda’s Christakis Fitidis (UG) and Giancarlo Davite (BEL).

The Zambian at present holds the position with 38 points; two more than Fitidis and five points ahead of Davite.

Interestingly, Gomes whose navigator is unexpectedly his wife Urshlla Gomes thinks for one to be a champion you need a combination of all (Car, skills and good navigator).

“It’s the chemistry of your navigator; it’s your car, as well as your driving skills, a lot goes down with your experience, like flying a plane, the more you drive the better you become” But he maintains that top drivers battle for seconds.

“If your car is good, you have to sharpen all the skills, Skoda or Ford Focus are two beautify cars in theory, but then during the 2016 Safari Kenyan rally, champions like Tapio Laukannen can prove you wrong.”

Manvir during the 2017 Mountain Gorilla Rally in Rwanda an event he won after regestering the fastest times in all competitive stages during the two-day event. Courtesy.

Gomes adds “Kenyan driver Tapio was able to drive fast a Subaru and made faster times than other guys with their superior Skado, Ford Focus or Mitsubishi Evo X cars in this year’s Safari Kenya Rally in March.”

Female navigator Sylvia Vindevogel thinks that mental preparedness, courage, passion with a certain amount of optimism plays a role but further ascertains that, navigators are the ones driving not the man behind the steering wheels.

Renowned motor racing sports expert, a former driver, navigator and now an FIA stewed as well as the founder of East Africa’s only real driving schools, Abdul Sidi gives a curious opinion, Sidi believes all the three elements are not enough if you don’t have a bit of some luck.

He argues that the engine alone cannot win the race without a good navigator neither can the good driver reach the podium if they don’t have the luck.

To sum up all these views, all three elements play a role for one to be a champion in motor racing but we should not rule out the tremendous job underpinned by the sports marshals and volunteers who are essential to the events safety and effective running.

Perhaps, the only way we can come close to finding the real answer is by putting two experienced and skilled drivers in two separate cars all roughly of equal weights and abilities regardless of the body types.


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Elias Hakizimana

Elias Hakizimana, CEO&Founder of The Inspirer Ltd,(www.rwandainspirer.com) is a professional Rwandan Journalist with Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and Communication, received from University of Rwanda’s College of Arts and Social Sciences (CASS) in 2014. He served various media houses in Rwanda including Rwanda Broadcasting Agency (RBA) in 2013 and became passionate with English Online and Print Media Publications where he exercised his talent as a Freelance News Reporter for The New Times, The Independent, The Rwanda Focus, Panorama and more before he became a Self-Entrepreneur as the CEO and Founder of The Inspirer Limited in early 2017.

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