It goes without saying that many of those travelling to Naivasha this weekend will be there for a little more than the Safari Rally. The memes say it all.
But beyond the comic debate and jokes involving couples, beyond the excitement of witnessing the first rally event on Kenyan soil in 18 years, the three women who dared to enter this year’s competition deserve all our applause.
The Yengs, I’m told, is how the all-female team sponsored by Betika chose to call themselves. We shall have an opportunity to discuss that choice of name later, but big salute to Maxine Wahome, the only female driver in this weekend’s event and her co-driver Chantel Young.
Kudos also to navigator Linet Ayuko who will be calling the pace notes for Hussein Malik. Linet will be controlling a man here, but let’s not focus on that.
The trio failed a last minute scruteneering test on Thursday and will therefore not be eligible for WRC race points but as they line up on the grid to compete under KNRC, the women will be embarking on their individual journeys of a lifetime, and could inspire the next generation of local female rally drivers.
It was always a good thing for Kenya to get back to the World Rally Championship calendar, but more than that, it is superbly encouraging to witness the creation of a new platform in this male dominated discipline where the daring, talented women among us can showcase their talent.
The KNRC together with Ministry of Sports lauded the bravery of the female drivers who signed up for the competition, but more needs to be done to encourage other women who have found their equilibrium behind the wheel to excel.
Prior to Thursday’s disappointment, Maxine, who discovered her passion for the rally driving while watching her father Jimmy Wahome, was to be the only female driver competing in this weekend’s WRC event.
Linet and Chantel were the two navigators who were ready to drive change in the competition. Linet has been involved in rallying for more than a decade, having graduated from the lower classes and navigated for several drivers, both men and women.
What a delight it will be to watch the two co-drivers continuing from where their predecessor, Tuta Mionki, left.
Mionki won the Kenya Motor Sports Federation Awards for the best co-driver of the season in 2015, and has over the years received massive props, including being the first woman ever to win the Kenya Motorsport Federation Sports Personality of the Year award in 2018.
Now that the pressure to win is off their backs, I wish the three women great speed, good timings and a thoroughly enjoyable race. Next time, ladies. Next time you shall race and win the World Rally Championship.
Massive props goes to Betika for incorporating women on their Sh80 million sponsorship deal for the event. For holding the women’s hands and recognisng their abilities, you have proven that your mission to nurture Kenyan sportsmen and help them achieve their goals is genuine. The Kenyan sports fraternity certainly needs more corporates like you.