Rio Sminth and Riyaz Ismail |
Credit: John Batanudde

Kenya’s Rio Smith came to Uganda for an adventure but he heads back home a winner. 

The Pearl Rally held on the weekend was the first Ugandan outing for the prospective Kenyan driver. 

After a gruesome three days, the 20-year-old secured a second position in the Africa Rally Championship (ARC) classification. He also earned victory in the ARC Junior and ARC2 categories.

Smith and co-driver Riyaz Ismail started the event with caution but would eventually put in a fight for top spot on ARC. 

Rio Smith | Credit: John Batanudde

Driving under the Moil Rally Team, Smith was the only ARC driver that survived leg one trouble and finished the day while the rest of the crews retired.

“I really had a fun weekend, it was such an amazing scene on the stages. The fans and the stages all came together perfectly.

“Our target was to finish the event. We planned to be calm since everything was a new experience, from the roads and the car. All we hoped for was a finish and attain some experience,” said Smith.

Pearl Rally ARC podium | Credit: John Batanudde

However, the rookie found themselves in a fight to protect the second position heading into the final loop of the event on Sunday. 

They remarkably elevated on their pace in the two runs to edge Uganda’s Jas Mangat who was determined to salvage times.  Smith won the battle by three seconds. 

“We had to push as hard as we could and try to get the results. I didn’t want to lose that position. And having realized that we could make a Moil rally team 1-2 finish, I had to make it happen and it felt good that I made it,” said Smith. 

Rio Smith | Credit: John Batanudde

The Pearl Rally was Smith’s eighth career event and he cruised Subaru GVB owned by Uganda’s Yasin Nasser.

“Yasin is really amazing. He has been part of this experience. He not only gave us the car but also gave me a lot of knowledge and wisdom about the event and the car since we got here. I cannot thank Moil Team enough. We are really grateful,” said Smith.

Rio Smith (2nd L) co-driver Riyaz Ismail (2nd R) and Rio’s parents | Credit: John Batanudde

Just like his father, Don Smith, the 2016 Africa rally champion, Smith leaves Uganda with unforgettable memories.

“I can never forget the experience of racing here. Uganda has a different kind of ambience altogether. There is so much passion out here.”

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