Rio Smith Credit: Innocent Mutaawe

It was not so long ago that the name Smith was a trademark name on the regional rally championship.

In 2016, Kenya’s Don Smith took on all the Africa rally championship rounds and eventually claimed the ARC title.

This time, it is another Smith. Rio Smith, the son of Don Smith will be following in his father’s footsteps.

He is however taking it in its stride by exploring the regional championship under the Junior Africa rally championship. 

The 20-year-old Smith will embark on a new adventure with the Ugandan ARC round; the Pearl of Africa Rally this weekend. It will be his first race in Uganda.

The Pearl rally is the third round of the Africa Rally Championship kicking off on Friday, 5th May in Jinja district.

Rio Smith testing the Subaru GVB prior to the weekend challenge Credit: Innocent Mutaawe

The Kenyan rookie will score in the ARC as well as in the Junior ARC category given his age bracket. 

“We are still undecided on a full ARC season yet. But we are here in an attempt to gain more experience and get a good finish. As long as I get to the end, I will be very proud and then decide what next,” said Smith. 

Smith faced the Kenya Equator rally challenge early this year. He, unfortunately, did not complete the race when his car suffered mechanical problems.

Ahead of the Uganda round, Smith is aware of the wet routes following persistent downpours in recent days. 

“I am told it is raining. I am expecting a lot of mud, and quite slippery surfaces. But I still think it will be a fast race and also the crowds are something to look out for because I am told they come in large numbers,” he added.

Smith and co-driver Riyaz Ismail will be driving the Subaru GVB owned by Yasin Nasser instead of the Ford Fiesta, a two-wheel version he drives in the Kenya events. 

“We thought our car would not be good for the conditions. And we opted for the Subaru. The car is very good, the set-up is so perfect and has a lot more power than I expected. And in these conditions, it is power one needs to get you through the rough roads,” he explained. 

Rio in Busiika on Monday Credit: Innocent Mutaawe

Rio Smith started his rallying journey at seven years; doing karting and later autocross. He later jumped into rallying at the age of 18 when he competed in the 2021 WRC Kenya Safari rally. 

With the Pearl Rally, he will be registering his seventh career event. 

“I believe I am still young and with a lot of time to rally. At the moment, I am gaining a lot of sit time and maybe by next year I will be ready for serious competition,” he added.

Rio Smith (R) and his father Don Smith | Credit: Innocent Mutaawe

His father, a former African rally champion is not out of the picture as he plays the role on the team. 

“My dad has a lot of influence. He is helping a lot in terms of strategy. And the fact that he loved this race, I am definitely going to take his advice on what to do.”

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