December 23, 2023 Posted by Jackson In Drivers,Rally News


Beyond the Checkered Flag

Frank Nekusa, a self-trained navigator, embarked on a remarkable journey in the world of motorsport that spanned 27 years. Despite initially pursuing a Bachelor of Commerce at Makerere University, fate led him to the exhilarating sport of fast cars.

In 1977, Nekusa’s life took an unexpected turn when he stepped in as a co-driver for Amos Mugisha, whose original co-driver withdrew due to the complexity of pace notes. This marked the beginning of Nekusa’s enduring contribution to rallying, a passion that would define his life until his unfortunate passing at the age of 65 due to COVID-19.

Known for his generosity and willingness to help fellow navigators, Nekusa played a crucial role in introducing the concept of pace notes to the racing scene. Despite not having motorsport as his initial love, he became a rallying icon, earning respect for his skill and jovial demeanor.

In 1985, after eight years of navigating, Nekusa transitioned to become a rally driver, teaming up with Jack Wavamunno. Together, they raced in Kenya, where they observed a Kenyan driver utilizing unfamiliar pace notes—an innovation they promptly adopted. This marked a turning point in rally team performance, with good pace notes becoming integral to success.

Nekusa’s collaboration with Karim Hirji, starting in 1988, brought about a series of victories, including multiple national championships from 1993 to 1995. Their triumph in the 1996 Pearl of Africa Rally driving a Toyota Celica ST185 showcased their prowess. The duo continued their success in the Safari Rally from 1996 to 1998.

However, tragedy struck in 1999 when a collision with a sugar cane tractor forced Hirji to retire from racing. Undeterred, Nekusa joined Charles Muhangi in the 2002 Kenya Safari Rally, competing against renowned drivers pursuing World Rally Championship points. Despite encountering mechanical issues and a premature exit, their performance was noteworthy.

Navigating the Subaru Impreza 555 named “Ekitaguriro,” a car celebrated for its 1995 WRC triumph, Nekusa reflected on it as the best car he ever raced in. This statement exemplifies the nature of navigators, often in the shadows, giving credit to the driver.

Frank Nekusa’s journey from a self-trained navigator to a respected rally driver left an indelible mark on the motorsport landscape. His legacy lives on, not just as a skilled racer but as a mentor and contributor to the evolution of rally racing in East Africa.

By Mwambazi Lawrence

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