The Kenyan motorsport scene will never be the same again.
The status quo shifted today with the inaugural Lioness Rally taking place at the Super Spectator Stage (SSS) in Kasarani, Nairobi.
The women-only race attracted eight daring teams from across the country to compete for glory.
The daring drivers battled it out for dominance over rough terrain as they beat time over the grueling five laps of the 12km course.
Her adrenaline rush drew hundreds of residents of the surrounding estates of Mwiki, Kasarani, Dandora and Lucky Summer, who crowded their balconies and rooftops to catch a glimpse of the spectacle.
Other residents braved the chilly weather and suffocating dust by peering through their window panes to watch the hair-raising competition.
The battle between the women and the machines was not for the faint of heart as the riders led the fans through breathtaking moments with their twists, turns, drifts and skids through the twisting sections.
“Today is great evidence that sport is very attractive to women. There is hope that we will have our own championship in the near future,” Kanze Dena, Communication, Executive Office of the President, told Standard Sports.
Dena flanked the race along with Josephta Mukobe, the chief secretary of the State Department of Culture.
“Women have not been active in the game and today provide them with a platform to break through the bias,” Mukobe said.
For Faith Milkah, the competition provided the best opportunity to honor her late husband, Jonathan Toroitich Moi, who was a force to be reckoned with in football in the ’90s.
“It’s my first competitive race, my intention was to finish the event.
“I also wanted to win to honor my husband in a special way,” Milkah said.
The driver of the JT Drift Queens, who was navigated by Hellen Wambui, said they had planned Moi’s third memorial service on April 20 and she was looking at ways to pay special respects to her late husband.
“We miss Jonathan, I learned a lot from him, he taught me to drive, he’s the one who nurtured my love of motorsport.
“I’m lucky to have been a part of his life, he’s my hero, I’m doing this in his honor,” Milkah said.
For Pauline Shegu, the competition provided a rare opportunity to meet her family, who had traveled all the way from Taita Taveta County to watch her write her name in the history books.
Shegu is proud to be the first Kenyan woman to complete a national rally championship series in Kenya, having finished eighth overall in Group N in 2011.
“The track was a little slippery due to the early morning rain, it was a bit wet and tricky, but our prior knowledge of the notes and the route came in handy,” said Shegu.
Shegu’s sister-in-law, Caroline, marveled at her incredible speed as she watched and cheered on Shegu on the grueling track.
Shegu’s brother Abraham said he was at the venue to give their sister the moral support, motivation and inspiration she needed to compete.
“Women in this sport have proven beyond a doubt that they are ready to take the game to the next level,” said Abraham.
Shegu’s other sisters, Anna and Catherine, were all optimistic that the favorable weather would propel their heroine to the podium.
“I want Pauline to win, she’s always been a champion,” Catherine said to jubilation as she watched in awe as Shegu did her thing on the track.
Stella Macharia from Warembo Bila Make-Up Team felt that anyone can win the competition.
“We did our best, we wanted to have fun,” said Macharia.
“I have great faith in my navigator Peris Kiboi, we have trained enough before this competition,” she added.
As fate would have it, Macharia and Peris were unlucky when their Subaru Impreza hit the side of the tunnel inside the circuit and rolled them over on the final lap.
Medical staff and firefighters were immediately ready to rescue her from the accident.
Caroline Gatimu and her daughter Tinashe took the opportunity to strengthen their family bonds.
They were cheered on by Caroline’s husband Mindo, who was navigating for Eric Bengi at the recently held East African Classic Rally.
Some spectators took the opportunity as a family outing to get acquainted with motorsport and its basics.
Companies and sponsors used the event to make their brands visible.
Some revelers used the day to sample delicious food and drinks offered on-site.