Africa-Press – Rwanda. Renowned rally driver Giancarlo Davite in June represented Rwanda at the Safari Rally in Mombasa, Kenya.
The Kenyan Rally is one of the 13 races listed by the International Automobile Federation (FIA) on the World Rally Championship (WRC) calendar this year.
The veteran, who is regarded as one of the pioneers of Rwanda’s motorsport, spoke to Times Sport on his experience about the race, the ups and downs of the local sport and his take on its future in Rwanda.
You represented Rwanda in the Safari Rally in Kenya. How was the experience?
It was nice. At least we participated in one of the world’s rally championships, unfortunately, we lost the clutch at the end of the rally because there were 19 stages and we missed three…so, we couldn’t continue. It was very tough but very nice as well.
What are you going to do to improve your performance when you participate in the next edition?
When I finished that Rally, I said ‘okay, I’ve done it no more,’ but now…we’ll see. I need another car because the one we have is quite old now and, today, there are new cars which are very competitive. We’ll see whether we can manage something for next year.
A rally driver races in a past competition. Motorsport has taken a nose drive in the last few years with very few competitions in the country. Photo: File.
You’ve been involved in motorsport in Rwanda for some time. What is your impression of the sport?
Unfortunately, motorsport in Rwanda is not at a good point because there is not a lot of interest from the drivers. We don’t have a lot of drivers and when they bring a rally here, there are just five or six cars.
It’s sad because Rwanda had a good tradition of rallying, we were a lot of people, with like 15 cars sometimes. I remember when we had 43 entrants in the Mountain Gorilla Rally and this is what today you see in Uganda. Uganda is now a big success with a lot of guys rallying, different categories, different budgets.
But here apparently, they all want to be the first, the winner, they want the best cars but to have the best car you need money.
Guys in Kenya race with smaller but well-prepared cars. You don’t need to have the biggest car when you are not well prepared because if you go to a rally with a car that is not in good condition, it will break down.
So the best way is to pick a small car and prepare it well.
What do you think the motorsport body and stakeholders can do to improve the sport?
I don’t know, frankly I don’t know. Because we have spoken about it many times. Organisers say to have a rally we need drivers and rally cars, yet we don’t have enough of them. Then the drivers say that to do a rally, we need good organisers!
But for sure, what you need first, you need competitors. If you see in Kenya, they are still doing rallies but they actually went through a period of crisis with just 15 cars competing, which I had never seen before.
I have never seen Kenya with very few cars like this. The rally used to have 40 to 50 cars, today there are 15 cars. They are good cars of good level but not many cars.
Do you think there is a chance that Rwanda could one day be a country that can compete at the international level?
You know the story is up and down. Today we are down, tomorrow we will be up. It will come back, in one way or another it will come back.
It’s only a matter of patience.
I am asking this because you have been in the sport for quite some time…
Yeah, I have been in the sport for over 20 years and in those 20 years we have been up and down.
Unfortunately, now we are many years down, but let’s see. There are few young Rwandese that are into motorsport.
You know… before, rallying was considered a muzungu’s sport and those who were into the sport were mostly whites. Today, I am the last one and there are more Rwandese drivers than whites.
The competitors are there but they need more preparations and more skills for this sport.
Is the environment in Rwanda conducive for motorsport?
That is another problem. Because in Rwanda, there are a lot of people everywhere. There is plenty of space in Kenya and Tanzania where you can go and drive with no one to interrupt you.
But here, it’s complicated unless you go to Bugesera which has long streets but is not fun to drive in. There are also good roads in Huye, Musanze, Base that we have been using for the past ten years.
Rwanda is a fantastic country for rally with these hilly and mountain roads which are really beautiful. But you have people, and now you have bikes everywhere, so it’s very difficult to stop all these people and race.