As Uganda celebrates Yasin Nasser and Ali Katumba's 2023 national rally championship win, the focus has already shifted. The ARC chase is on, and if their recent performances are any indication, the Moil Rally Team is more than up for the challenge.
With the Ugandan National Rally Championship title now under his belt, Yasin Nasser isn't resting on his laurels.
Instead, he will be lining up his indomitable Ford Fiesta R5 at the Burundi International Rally this weekend [August 18-20], with the spotlight is now intensely focused on the African Rally Championship (ARC) as he aims for another milestone.
Leading the ARC leaderboard with 54 points, Nasser's recent conquests have put him and his co-driver Katumba in prime position to achieve a remarkable hattrick.
The MOIL Rally team crew are chasing an unprecedented treble of rally championships, which include both the Uganda and Tanzania national rally championships.
"Honestly, I did not anticipate being in the position I am in now,” Nasser told media after winning the Masaka Rally which confirmed his second Ugandan rally title.
“Sealing the championship this early was never imagined by the second round.”
“But I am thankful to the whole Moil Team for their efforts and also for the car that has responded to our calls,” revealed an elated Yasin.
The competition, however, is not far behind. Trailing them on the ARC leaderboard are Jas Mangat and Joseph Kamya, sitting comfortably in the second spot with 42 points.
Karan Patel follows closely, holding the third spot with 30 points – though the Kenyan might not be pushing through for the championship.
That leaves Nasser with one less opponent to worry about. Mangat will be his main challenger in Burundi over the weekend, with the two rekindling their battle from the Pearl of Africa Rally in May.
Mangat has entered the rally with his Mistubishi Evo X, as his newly acquired Hyundai i20 R5 waits its competitive debut, which might give Nasser a bit more confidence of prevailing in the battle.
The Burundi International Rally will be making its first appearance on the ARC calendar this year, the rally's addition comes after a successful stint as a candidate event last year, taking over from Rally South Africa.
While the ARC awaits, memories of the SMC Masaka Rally remain fresh. Nasser's victory at the Masaka Rally ensured four wins out of five National Rally Championship events this season.
Talking about the rally, Nasser remarked, “Winning Masaka Rally is a big relief for the whole team.”
“This position is what exactly we calculated with the team given the tight schedule ahead.” Recounting a nerve-wracking moment, he added.
“That moment we had in the last stage could have brought heart attacks to the team if we hadn’t survived it. I thought the lead had gone or even worse. But thank God, we survived it.”
The weekend in Masaka was thrilling, with Nasser and Katumba proving their mettle. Despite an ambitious goal to finish among the top three, fate had grander plans.
Duncan Mubiru's retirement on day one created an unexpected path for Nasser, allowing him a clear shot at the title.
However, it wasn't without its challenges. Ponsiano Lwakataka, the local hero, led day one by 16 seconds.
But Nasser, embodying the spirit of a true champion, retaliated on Sunday, eventually maintaining a 45-second lead over Lwakataka. Even a last-minute spin on the slippery roads couldn't deter his quest for victory.