Buoyed by the unexpected victory in last weekend's Mbarara Challenge Rally, Ponsiano Lwakataka says acquiring a new car is the only way to accomplish his mission of capturing the national championship (NRC) this year, writes Moses Mugalu.
Lwakataka, who cruised his Subaru N8 to the number one podium position (in one hour forty-four minutes and twenty-eight seconds), acknowledges he partly benefitted from the numerous exits that befell his main competitors in the race.
Rwanda's veteran driver Christakis Fiditis and Duncan 'Kikankane' Mubiru followed Lwakataka in second and third positions respectively
"I'm lucky they dropped out but I definitely must acquire a stronger car in order to compete favourably against them," Lwakataka, the 2005 and 2007 national champion, said in reference to preventing favourites Jas Mangat and Ronald Ssebuguzi.
Going into the first NRC event of the season, Lwakataka carried the 'dark horse' tag with Mangat and Ssebuguzi widely tipped to win the Mbarara Rally. Apart from enjoying rich vein of form, Mangat and Ssebuguzi have superior machines in a Subaru N12 and Mitsubishu Evo9 respectively.
However, both drivers dropped out of the rally in the closing stages on Sunday. Mangat crashed out after his N12 stalled due to mechanical problems while Ssebuguzi was involved in an accident Lwakataka contends his rivals' misfortune was partly because of 'too much pressure as stakes were high in this rally.'
In an interview on Monday, the former champion reiterated that although winning the NRC series opener gives him an early lead in the title race, he remains an outsider because his car is 'old.' To live his dream, Lwakataka needs up to Shs 220 million to buy the Subaru N12.
Apparently, he raised Shs 80m through fundraising sprints and fans' contributions last year. He hopes to drive the new machine by July when the Pearl of Africa Rally flags off in Kampala.
But for some of his superstitious fans, Lwakataka's victory (which earned him 100 points) is good omen for their star in the quest for his third career national title triumph. Previous winners of the Mbarara rally have marched on to claim the NRC title in the last three seasons.
Nasser Mutebi, Susan Muwonge and Jas Mangat achieved similar feats and Lwakataka's fans strongly believe a repeat is likely this year. And, Lwakataka will certainly be the man to beat in the next NRC event, which is coincidently being organised by his Southern Motor Club (SMC).
The rally is slated for March 8-10 in Masaka and the surrounding districts, which largely form Lwakataka's home area.