Jonas Kansiime and Sharifah Nmagoba
With Jonas Kasiime in a Mitsubishi during an Autocross at Zion estate(photo by:John Batanudde)

I joined Motorsports (probably one of the most interesting sports in the world) as a mere spectator.

A few years later, I advanced to sports reporting; specifically covering Motorsports.

A word of warning – this is a rather long article. Read on at your own risk.

Having joined Kawowo Sports, I stood a chance to get closer to the competitors; got to know a bit of what they go through prior, during and after the races.

With a bit of experience around competitors especially co-drivers, the bold person in me received some signals- and my mind was taken up with some thoughts. Why not try out co-driving?

I barely knew where to start. But the thoughts and passion grew stronger. I talked to a number of competitors and everyone was really in agreement with me to start. But the question remained; how?

Being a co-driver, you must know how to make and read notes, good at math (especially addition and subtraction), must own full rally attires and a good stopwatch. And there I was, with nothing apart from the idea of math and probably a pen and book that can help me write notes.  

It took me a year before I could realise my dream. 

Eventually an opportunity came with the introduction of Autocross championship in 2015; a category race that would nature new drivers and co-drivers into the mainstream rallying.

Before the event, I hustled to find out the probable competitors. Luckily, Eddie Mukiibi had entered with his Toyota Vitz. Mukiibi, being like a brother, did not hesitate to give me the opportunity. 

“Ofcourse, we can drive together. Just look for a rally suit,” he said the day I called him.  Those words threw my heart into ecstasy.

My first time in a cockpit with Eddie Mukiibi in a Toyota.

Come the day and I was full of hot air. I had to let everyone know I am co-driving and we are surely winning. But honestly, I didn’t know what was going to happen without any knowledge at the pace notes. 

What I did, I requested for the roadbook on time. Went to the competitors around to take me through the symbols. I later started singing the symbols in a way of cramming; and it helped. 

Time for reconnaissance reached. At the moment, the grin had become static on my face. 

Mukiibi rescued me from the panic of writing notes. He said we shall just use the roadbook. The distance is quite short. 

An hour later, it was time for the real race. And yes, the novice in me truly showed.

Before we even moved 100 metres, I had already finished the first page and got Mukiibi confused as well. 

You could probably be thinking of what happened next. Yes, we got lost.

We somehow missed a turn, and it took us some time to sort the notes.

“Now, this is how we are going to do it. You read a distance as it’s indicated on the road book and which side its taking us. Once I cover that distance. I will say next,” said Mukiibi after we finally got back on the track. 

For the second run, I was better at the notes.

But somehow, the car stopped. Mukiibi moved out.

I stayed comfortably seated not until he called me out. Good enough, I was taught how to unbuckle. It can be something of a difficulty.

“You have to push the car,” Mukiibi said. 

That moment in a competition you believe anything is possible. I started pushing the Vitz but I did not do any impact at all. Guess I was not strong enough. 

In no time the villagers had come to our rescue, pushed us and there we left. 

I don’t remember calling the notes again from that point.

Mukiibi drove on sight till the finish. 

Don’t mind the position we finished. But all I know we were among the pioneers of the autocross championship in Uganda. 

After that time, I wouldn’t say I could now tick one box off the bucket list.

Unfortunately, I felt I should do it again for me to clear that away. 

My need to co-drive just went a gear higher.

A year later, I managed to buy myself a rally suit and shoes.

These things are quite expensive, but I was determined.

However, the work commitment and news reporting somehow faded my need for co-driving even after securing the attire. 

I still did not stop learning. Occasionally, I would go for reconnaissance with some drivers.

A trip to Kabale with the KG Rally team of  Musa Kabega and Rogers Sirwomu during the Gorillas in the Mist Kabale Rally was one such opportunity. And that was another experience in the hills; scary at one point.

Still something kept pushing me.

The 2019 autocross championship was around the corner and I desperately want to rekindle my previous experience.

Certainly, I was keen on a more exciting drive.

I tried a number of drivers but all in vein. 

But, in life; if you really want something, you have to do everything to get it.

I reached out to Julius Mugambwa; the former 4×4 champion for an interview prior to the season opener event.

He has driven a couple of races. He told me it was his wife driving this time around.

Not so bad, if I drive with her; I thought to myself.

Although this was just 4×4 which provides totally different technicalities and adrenaline than rally, I knew it would soothe my desire. 

After securing a second position in the 4×4 challenge with sandra Mugambwa(photo by: John Batanudde)

With Sandra Mugambwa in Suzuki Vitara, we gracefully maneuvered through the gates and jumps.

That was another amazing experience.

We finished second overall despite an aborted run. 

This was going to be my day, it seemed to feel.

A good friend, Jonas Kansiime whom I had told  about my wish to navigate threw me the opportunity of a life time.

I was excited to have debuted my rally suit after three years since I bought it. (Photo by: John Batanudde)

It took me less than two minutes to have my rally suit on; when he told me I was going to navigate him in the final day’s circuit drive. 

His co-driver Ivan Tushabe helped me have the helmet on and buckling me up. 

I don’t know how many pictures I took from that moment alone. 

We started going to the circuit. Jonas told me you don’t need notes.

We shall drive the circuit as it is. Just enjoy. 

Of course, there was a big difference between Mukiibi’s cockpit and Jonas’s Mitsubishi.

It was a double circuit. We took on the first run. I really wanted to call notes but there was none. I could only remind him of the corners. 

We lost the first run to Jackson Serwanga when Jonas over shot a corner and lost some time. 

The second run was more exciting. We convincingly won it and I helped Jonas assert his day’s victory with fastest times from the circuit. 

By the way, whoever won the circuit was winning the cow that was pledged by the Zion Estate boss. And Jonas did go away with the cow.

But after that day, I have decided not to sell my rally suit.

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