Uganda’s best at the Pearl of Africa Rally

April 21, 2023 Posted by Patrick In Uncategorized

Ugandan winners

1- Chipper Adams/Justin Beyendeza (1997, 1999)

2- Charles Muhangi/Steven Byaruhanga (1998)

3- Charlie Lubega/Abed Musa (2000, 2003, 2004)

4- Riyaz Kurji/Sayed Kadri (2005)

5- Ponsiano Lwakataka/Musa Nsubuga (2011)

6- Jas Mangat (2013, 2022)

7- Hassan Alwi/Enock Olinga (2016)

The Pearl of Africa Uganda (POAUR) Rally is the blue ribbon event on the Federation of Motorsport Clubs of Uganda (FMU) calendar.

High-profile drivers all look forward to participating in the competition because it is listed and scores points for the Africa Rally Championship (ARC).

The first edition of the Pearl of Africa Rally was held in 1997 as an ARC candidate event.

This followed the successful organisation of Burundi’s Great Lakes Rally held in Uganda the previous year.

The Great Lakes Rally was moved to Uganda due to political instability in Burundi.

And as Uganda prepares to host yet another edition of the event 5th -7th May 2023, we look at Ugandan drivers who have had the honour of not only taking part in the Pearl Rally but going all the way to win it before massive home crowds.


chipper Adams and his navigator Justine Babyendeza

Chipper Adams

He made history by becoming the first-ever driver to win the Pearl of Africa Rally.In its inception in 1997, Adams teamed up with Justin Beyendeza to write their names in the history books of the event.The crew cruised in a Toyota Supra and doubled their tally in 1999.
In between the two Chipper victories, another legend of the sport, Charles Muhangi (RIP), who, alongside navigator Steven Byaruhanga, raced to the title in 1998.





Horizon Rally team boss Charles Muhangi pushes his Kitagulo at Garuga double circuit.
Photo by Eddie chicco

Charles Muhangi

In 1999, Muhangi in Subaru Impreza, nicknamed ‘Ekitaaguriiro’ by his fans, to conquer the continent.Muhangi was building on a splendid 1998 season in which he became the second Ugandan to win the Pearl of Africa Rally.Winning the 1998 National Championship, which encouraged Muhangi to gun for the continental gong, had come as a surprise and an upset against Emma Katto, Karim Hirji, and Chipper, among the giants of motorsport.

In 2003, Muhangi retired from the sport but would later bounce back in 2013 with minor impact.

The Ugandan motorsport world woke up to the unfortunate news of the passing of the rally legend in 2018, but his legacy lives on.


Consistent CharlieThe end of Adams’ dominance at the top announced the arrival of Charlie Lubega.

Alongside Abed Musa, Lubega drove his Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 4 to victory in 2000.

The crew did a back-to-back in 2003, and 2004 after Kenyan driver Johnny Gemmel claimed the honours in 2002.

With the three victories, Lubega ranks high up with the best and remains a household name in Ugandan motorsport.


Unique Kurji

Before his unfortunate demise, Riyaz Kurji had won the two Pearl Rally events on two different licences.

First, he teamed up with Sayed Kadri to race their Subaru Impreza N10 to victory in 2005.

The crew then switched to drive under a Kenyan licence the following year and still managed to cruise to victory in a Subaru Impreza N8.

Sadly, on May 2, 2009, while leading Uganda’s most prestigious rally on day two, Kurji died moments after crashing his 2005 pro-drive Subaru Impreza N8. His co-driver, Kadri, survived without any significant injuries.

Consequently, he was declared the winner, becoming the first posthumous winner of an Africa Rally Championship days after he was laid to rest on May 5.

Hirji had also won the Great Lakes Rally, the event that inspired Uganda’s journey to apply for an ARC event.


Ponsiano Lwakataka
Popularly known as ‘Mafu Mafu’ won his only Pearl Rally in a thrilling 2011 campaign.In his Subaru Impreza N8, Lwakataka beat off competition from the continent’s best drivers to win the event.Zimbabwean Jimmy Whyte and a host of top local stars, including Ronald Ssebuguzi, Jas Mangat and Dr Ashraf Ahmed, are some of the drivers Lwakataka beat to the title.Ssebuguzi, Mangat and Whyte crashed out in the late stages, and Lwakataka bagged maximum points to help in his push for the National Rally Championship.But with Susan Muwonge finishing fourth overall and second amongst the NRC drivers, she garnered 105 points that were eventually massive in helping her beat the rest of the field to the NRC title.It turned out to be a year of mixed emotions for Lwakataka, who won the Pearl Rally but failed to land the NRC title.


Jas Mangat

Jas Mangat is arguably the best driver in Uganda. And every time he takes part in an event, his impact will be felt.Having won his first Pearl Rally in 2013, alongside Kenyan navigator Gihan de Silva in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evo X. The Pili Pili driver co-driven by Joseph Kamya in same car made it two in 2022.

He overcame top drivers like Zambia’s Leroy Gomez and Kenya’s Karan Patel to win.

Mangat’s victory ended Uganda’s three-year wait for success in the event.

The crew of Hassan Alwi and Enock Olinga had been the last local crew to win in 2016.

Kenya’s Manvir Baryan dominated the following years, winning a three-peat between 2017 and 2019.

The only other Ugandan crew to win the prestigious event is that of Ponsiano Lwakataka and Musa Nsubuga in a Subaru Impreza N8 in 2011.

Hassan Alwi The crew of Hassan Alwi and Enoch Olinga won the 20th edition of the Pearl of Africa Rally that was held in Busiika and Mubende in 2016.Alwi won three stages to post the fastest time of 1 hour, 27 minutes and 17 seconds, racing to victory in his Subaru Impreza N14.

Alwi had just graduated into the national championship (NRC) class that year after making a successful debut in the 2015 club man championship.

He beat off stiff competition in the two-day event, which attracted some of Africa’s top drivers, including 2016 continental champion Don Smith of Kenya.

The driver has, however, blown hot and cold since.

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