By Lawrence Mwambazi

Eric Bengi (left) with Tuta Mionki at Nakuru Athletics club during the Top Fry Nakuru rally 2018. photo credit Motor sport world Kenya

Meet Tuta Mionki, a vivacious navigator with a passion for rally racing that runs in her blood. Born on the 21st of April to Phillip Mionki and the late Jane Nyaruiru (Wambui) Mionki, Tuta spent her childhood in Thika, a town where the roar of rally cars was a familiar melody. Her journey from a rally spectator to becoming the first woman rally codriver in the Kenya National Rally Championship (KNRC) Premier Class is nothing short of inspiring.

Growing up in Thika, Tuta’s father, a devoted rally fan, introduced her to the thrilling world of rally racing. However, when the WRC Safari Rally left the calendar, Tuta’s rally adventures took a pause as she focused on her studies. It wasn’t until she met Charles Hinga, a family friend and rally enthusiast, that her passion reignited. With Hinga’s guidance, she found herself at the Abdul Sidi Rally Academy, where she honed her navigation skills.

Tuta’s rally journey officially began in 2011 when she teamed up with driver Eric Bengi. Their partnership led to the creation of a rally raid car, and together they entered the rally raid championship. In 2012, Tuta joined forces with Victor Okudi, marking the first-ever appearance of a Vitz in Kenyan rallying. Their notable achievements include finishing third in the 2WD category and winning the meritorious award.

Eric Benji and Tuta Mionki negotiate a sharp corner in one of their outings

The highlight of Tuta’s career came in 2013 when she finished 13th in the Safari Rally with driver Steve Gacheru. Despite a last-minute pairing, they showcased their skills and were comfortably in the top 10 before a puncture in the last stage dropped them to 14th. Tuta’s international rallying experience took her to Uganda for the Pearl of Africa Rally in 2013, creating lasting memories of the vibrant atmosphere and warm hospitality.

Tuta continued her rally journey with various drivers, including Muragi Waigwa and Eric Bengi, achieving significant milestones. In 2015, she secured the Div 3 codriver champion title, and in 2016, alongside Eric Bengi, they clinched the 2WD championship. The year 2018 marked a pinnacle in Tuta’s career as she not only won the Div 1 and Group N but also earned the prestigious Sports Personality of the Year award.

Tuta Mionki (R) receives the 2019 KMSF Motor Personality of the Year Award from KCB Director of marketing and communication Angela Mwirigi

The outbreak of COVID-19 brought an unexpected break in rallying in Kenya, impacting Tuta’s racing schedule. Despite the challenges, she joined forces with Waita Nzioka in 2021 and finished 11th overall in the Equator Rally. The WRC Safari Rally in 2022 posed a gearbox problem, preventing them from finishing. In 2023, Tuta’s busy schedule limited her participation to the ARC.

Confident co-driver ‘Tuta’ giving a thumbs up

Reflecting on her rallying journey, Tuta expressed concern about the declining number of entries, attributing it to the impact of COVID-19 and reduced sponsorship. Through it all, Tuta Mionki remains a beacon of inspiration, reminding aspiring female navigators that they don’t need a roadmap; they need a rally queen attitude. So, here’s to Tuta Mionki, the unapologetic trailblazing rally queen, proving that speed, precision, and a touch of humor can conquer any racecourse.

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