2014 Year in Review – Ssebuguzi Was Head and Shoulders Above the Rally Competition

The 2014 rally season was about Ronald Ssebuguzi, thanks to the absence of 2013 champion Jas Mangat, who inexplicably showed no interest in defending the title.

But also credit goes to newcomers Jonas Kansiime and Wilbert Pole Pole for putting up some commendable competition against the champion.

For some local rally fans, 2014 has not been as exciting in the routes and on sprint tracks due to lack of stiff competition anticipated in the pre-season.

This is after big-name drivers such as former champions Jas Mangat (2012 and 2013), Susan Muwonge (2011) and Ponsiano Lwakataka, the 2005 and 2007 NRC title winner.

With the aforesaid top drivers opting to watch from the sidelines, Ssebuguzi remained the only bull in the national championship (NRC) arena for 2014 in a watered-down title race.

Ssebuguzi’s third NRC title:

And Ssebuguzi, driving his powerful Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X, lived up to expectations as he put on a consistent show throughout the season to clinch his third NRC career title. His earlier NRC titles were in 2006 and 2009. In the 2014 season, Ssebuguzi won three out of the seven main NRC calendar events. The champion finished runner-up thrice and won one sprint event.

His victories included the Motorsport Promo Uganda (MPU) Rally, Southern Motor Club (SMC) Rally and Motorsport Africa Club (MOSAC) Rally in May, July and November respectively. He finished in second position in the season opening Mbarara Challenge Rally in February, Source of Nile Eastern Challenge Rally in March and the Independence Rally in October.

In August, Ssebuguzi didn’t finish the Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally after a mechanical breakdown forced him to retire from the continental event with few sections left. He also picked up maximum (10) points from the Uganda Motorsport Safety Marshals Association (UMSMA) Sprint in September.

It was a smooth run to the title for Ssebuguzi all through the season. He did not face any serious challenge as his rivals, largely novices such as Wilbert Pole Pole and Jonas Kansiime, lacked the experience to march him in the cockpit.

For instance, Ssebuguzi enjoyed a 200-plus point lead in the title race between July and October despite not scoring any single point from Pearl Rally.

Such was his emphatic run to the title that in all his victories, he beat his closest challengers by time differences of over 30 minutes.

In the season opener, Duncan ‘Kikankane’ Mubiru beat Ssebuguzi and raised some hope for competition but he (Mubiru) made disappearing acts along the way to the disappointment of his fans.

Mubiru, whose fleet boasted of powerful Subarus N12 and N14, and a Mitsubishi 1X to match Ssebuguzi’s Evo X, inexplicably went missing in the NRC race as he took a misguided decision of concentrating on the Africa (ARC) championship title challenge.

After dropping out of the Eastern Motor Club (EMC) organized Source of Nile Eastern Challenge Rally in April, Mubiru switched focus to ARC events in Tanzania, Rwanda and Kenya. But that decision has only rendered him one of the biggest disappointments of the season because he did not get tangible results from them.

A mechanical breakdown forced him out Tanzania Rally finished runner-up and seventh in Rwanda and Kenya Safari rallies respectively. In the meantime Ssebuguzi ramped up his lead with back-to-back victories in MPU and SMC rallies in May and June respectively.

He went on to seal the NRC title with a runner-up finish in the Independence Rally in October. His November triumph in the MOSAC organised Oilibya Challenge Rally in Mbale was icing on the cake.

Ssebuguzi’s treble leaves him within one trophy of joining legendary Sam Sali and Charlie Lubega, who hold the record with four NRC titles apiece. It could be one of the catalysts for Ssebuguzi to go for his fourth title in 2015.

Lwakataka factor:

While Ssebuguzi feels good to have clinched the championship in such a causal approach, he admitted that it would have been sweeter had Lwakataka been among his challengers this season. Lwakataka endured a troubled 2014 and stayed away from the sport due to court cases related to fish smuggling and other ill-fated private business deals.

Over the last decade, he had created a fierce arch-rivalry with Ssebuguzi, winning the NRC title in 2005 and 2007. Indeed, the speed crazy driver, nicknamed ‘Mafu Mafu’ by his supporters, was dearly missed this season by both his rivals and fans.

This was confirmed recently when the motorsport fraternity (fans, drivers and officials) visited Lwakataka in prison to express solidarity and love to the jailed driver.

Event by event top finishers in the 2014 rally calendar:

Mbarara Challenge Rally, February 28- March 2

1. Duncan Mubiru

2. Ronald Ssebuguzi

3. Fred Wampamba

Source of Nile Eastern Challenge Rally March 21-23

1. Jonas Kansiime

2. Ronald Ssebuguzi

3. Wilbert Pole Pole

MPU Masaka Challenge Rally, May 2-4

1. Ronald Ssebuguzi

2. Duncan Mubiru

3. Wycliff Bukenya

Southern Motor Club (SMC) Challenge Rally, July 4-6

1. Ronald Ssebuguzi

2. Wilbert Pole Pole

3. Peter Kakaire

Pearl of Africa Uganda Rally, August 15-17

1. Rajbir Rai

2. Gary Chynes

3. Mohamed Essa

4. Omar Mayanja

5. Arthur Blick

UMOSPOC Independence Rally, October 3-5

1. Omar Mayanja

2. Ronald Ssebuguzi

3. Albert Ofwong

Mosac Oilibya Rally, November 28-30

1. Ronald Ssebuguzi

2. Musa Kabega

3. Jonas Kansiime

NRC Standings

1. Ronald Ssebuguzi – 536 points

2. Jonas Kansime – 322 pts

3. Omar Mayanja – 266 pts

4. Wilbert Pole Pole – 232 pts

5. Duncan Mubiru – 185 pts

6. Leila Mayanja – 171 pts

Source : The Observer

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