By Mwambazi Lawrence

In the exhilarating world of rally driving, where speed meets strategy, Uganda has produced some of the finest talents to grace the sport. While raw pace is a crucial element, it takes more than just speed to conquer the challenging terrains and emerge victorious. Here, we delve into the tales of Uganda’s rally legends who not only pushed the pedal to the metal but also captivated audiences with their remarkable skill and determination.

CHIPPER ADAMS: Master of the Corners

Chipper Adams proved that a superior car is not always a prerequisite for success in rallying. Behind the wheel of his trusty Toyota Supra, Adams earned the moniker “the corner specialist” for his unmatched ability to navigate even the tightest hairpin bends. Though he never clinched a National Rally Championship during his active years, his triumph alongside co-driver Justin Bayendeza in the Pearl of Africa Rally 1997 showcased his prowess. Piloting the Supra, affectionately dubbed the “hissing cobra,” Adams challenged bigger, more powerful cars, leaving fans wondering what could have been had he possessed a faster machine. His legacy was cemented further with a historic victory in the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally 1999, the first time the event joined the Africa Rally Championship circuit.

RIYAZ KURJI (RIP): Beyond the Podium


The late Riyaz Kurji and co-driver late Sayed Kadri driving a Subaru Impreza N10 drive past spectators in Athi river March 11 2007 during the last leg of the country’s Safari Rally.(PHOTO BY SIMON MAINA)

Riyaz Kurji’s name resonates beyond mere rally victories; he embodied the true essence of sportsmanship in every sense of the word and integrity. Despite being hailed as one of Africa’s fastest drivers, Kurji’s decision to abstain from the final event of the 2005 season, following the tragic passing of Charlie Lubega’s co-driver Abed Musa, spoke volumes about his character. Introduced to motorsport by Dipu Ruparalia, Kurji’s remarkable talent earned him triumphs in prestigious events like the Pearl Rally in 2005, 2006, and 2009, not to mention numerous accolades across the border in Kenya.

PONSIANO LWAKATAKA: The Man of Action

speeding through the curves, Ponsiano Lwakataka dominates in his subaru N8 during its early days

Ponsiano Lwakataka, famously known as Mafu Mafu, let his driving do the talking. Transitioning from two wheels to four, Lwakataka showcased his dominance by clinching the Uganda National Rally Championship twice, in 2005 and 2007, driving Subaru N4 and Subaru N8 vehicles respectively. His debut in 2004 sent shockwaves through the established order, signaling his arrival as a force to be reckoned with on the rally scene. Now armed with a powerful Subaru Impreza N12b and still terrorising the race track.

KARIM HIRJI: The Unpredictable Champion

Karim Hirji conquring the mud in one of the safari rallies

During the golden era of the 90s, Karim Hirji stood out as a driver who thrived on unpredictability. Piloting the Toyota Celica ST, Hirji clinched three consecutive National Championships from 1993 to 1995, adding an element of surprise to every event. Paired with navigator David Mayanja initially, and later with Frank Nekusa, Hirji’s triumph in the inaugural Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally in 1996 elevated his status. Amidst the backdrop of Kenya’s Safari Rally’s dominance, Hirji’s consistent top-ten finishes underscored his skill and versatility.

EMMA KATTO: The Comeback King

Emma Katto curving up the road in his sleek Toyota Celica in one of the local rallies back in the day

Emma Katto, affectionately known as EMKa, experienced a brief stint in rallying in 1984 before making a triumphant return eleven years later. Breaking Hirji’s stranglehold on the national title, Katto clinched the coveted championship in 1996 driving a Toyota Celica. His consecutive victories in 1996 and 1997 showcased his resilience and determination. Teaming up with Moses Matovu, Katto ventured into the Africa Rally Championship armed with a groundbreaking Subaru Impreza n14, setting new standards in African rallying.

CHARLES MUHANGI: A Trailblazer’s Legacy

Charles Muhangi taking on the heights in the subaru impreza 555

Charles Muhangi left an indelible mark on Ugandan motorsport with his graceful yet commanding presence behind the wheel. Renowned for his abilities in the Subaru Impreza 555, aptly named “Ekitaguriro,” Muhangi’s breakthrough came with his National Rally Championship triumph in 1998, followed by a historic victory in the Africa Rally Championship in 1999. His achievements as the first Ugandan and the first black African to claim the title remain unparalleled.

CHARLIE LUBEGA: The Maestro of Speed

Charlie Lubega powers his mitsubishi Evo4 in Jinja sugar Plantations.

Charlie Lubega, also known as Macarena, dominated the rally circuit with three triumphs in the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally and an impressive four consecutive National Rally Championships. His record-breaking average speed of 176km/h in the Africa Rally Championship highlighted his unmatched skill and determination.

MOSES LUMALA: A Dual Threat

Promising a come back , Moses Lumala cruises his Evox in Festino cite sprint

Moses Lumala’s legacy extends beyond rally tracks,Rising to prominence in the late 90s, Lumala’s victories, including his National Rally Championship win in 1999, showcased his versatility and determination. Despite retiring in 2004, Lumala’s sporadic appearances as a guest driver ensured he bid adieu to the sport on his own terms.

These rallying stalwarts embody the spirit of Ugandan motorsport, leaving an enduring legacy that continues to inspire generations of aspiring drivers. Stay tuned for Part 2 as we delve deeper into the thrilling narratives of Uganda’s rally heroes.

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1 thought on “Uganda Rally Titans That Won The Hearts Of Fans. Part1

  1. Thanks very much,on addition on Ema Katto, used to be navigated by the late James Opoka with whom they clinked the nrc and also the complition of the safari rally in 1997 when they finished in 7th position.Okay he was with Moses Matovu I hope for a few further more Karim Hirji I think he used to be navigated by David Sebyala who is abroad,after then Nekusa took over.So I was requesting you to give us the history of Hassan Alwi senior.In case of any supplements for the rallies from 80,s onwards if at all I can recall I can always help you.I started watching rallies at a tender age since 1974.

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