Ronald Ssebuguzi has won the previous two rally season opening sprints at Lubiri but ended the season without the championship. Can he do better this time? Moses Mugalu examines......
Former National rally champion (NRC) Ronald Ssebuguzi drew first blood in the 2013 rally season when he won the season opening CBS Premier Sprint last Sunday. He says he is unstoppable and has vowed to drive away with this year's title.
Ssebuguzi's last title was in 2009 and as he and his navigator Frank Buzabo, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 9, accelerated to post the fastest time on the dusty Lubiri double circuit track, he showed the rally fans, who were present in numbers, what to expect from him this year.
"This year I am not going to relax till I win the NRC and sprint championship," Ssebuguzi said after beating 20 drivers to win the Premier Sprint.
Having won the 2006 and 2009 NRC, Ssebuguzi, couldn't hide his anxiety about the Mbarara Pine Ridge event on February 8. "My fans should expect nothing short of this kind of success; I'm ready to go all the way," he said.
However, there is no guarantee that results would be the same for Ssebuguzi in the forthcoming Mbarara rally, which is widely expected to be more competitive than last Sunday's sprint. Being the first major NRC calendar event, the three-day Mbarara rally will certainly attract all the top drivers who didn't compete at Lubiri.
Defending champion Jas Mangat, Rwandan ace Fitidis, Dr Ashraf Ahmed, Nasser Mutebi and Susan 'Super Lady' Muwonge are some of the top competitors who skipped the sprint but have already confirmed they will drive in the Mbarara event. That said, Ssebuguzi's sprint victory cannot be downplayed because he put to bed the likes of Ponsiano Lwakataka, his archrival, youngster Shafiq Ssemujju and veteran driver Wycliffe Bukenya.
Lwakataka, who for the third successive time was humiliated by Ssebuguzi in sprint events, blamed it on his Subaru N8.
In regard to his sixth place finish, Lwakataka said: "I don't expect anything like good results this year because my car is weak."
The 2005 and 2007 national champion appealed to his supporters to fulfil their pledges towards buying him a new car (Subaru N12) so that he can match his fellow competitors' superior machines. Meanwhile, local motorsport ruling body, FMU, has been blamed for the poor competitor turnout in the CBS sprint.
Only 21 of 30 drivers who registered for the sprint showed up and the rest shunned the event after organisers refused to give as much fuel as expected from organisers. But FMU spokesman Hajj Juma Nkambwe insisted that some drivers decided to concentrate on their preps for the forthcoming Mbarara rally.
Top positions at the sprint
R. Ssebuguzi 6:16:69
S. Ssemujju 6:21:08
D. Mubiru 6:31:00
W. Bukenya 6:39: 72
J. Consta 6:46:79
P. Lwakataka 6:40:90