Culture & Lifestyle

Racers’ Passion Fuels Ethiopian Motor Sport

Ermias is too much obsessed with welding extra space at the back of his Fiat 600 car at a local garage to accommodate the Fiat 128 engine he assembled for a car race on the next day he is taking part- The 2nd Addis Ababa City Circuit of Ethiopian Motor Sports Association. This is part of his technical tuning up of his old Fiat 600 to make it fit for the race. The car is comprised of parts from various vehicles old and new: engine from Fiat, Gearbox from Volkswagen…and the like, to come up with a racing car of 1116 CC, 82 hp with a maximum speed of 240 km/h.

Ermias holding the trophy after the race Photo by Sisay Guzay

Ermias holding the trophy after the race
Photo by Sisay Guzay

Jingo Kalungi, a Ugandan journalist experienced in covering east African rally events such as Pearl of Africa Rally Championship and Safari Rally Kenya 555, compliments Ermias’ efforts in surprise, “If these guys could get the powerful cars and race accessories even available in the African races, I tell you they could have shown us miracles.”

One of the sports at odd with the Ethiopian sports fan happens to be Motor Sports. Attributed to the sports connection to technically high profile cars and the lack of the sports culture, engaging in the sport as a competitor and even organizer is obviously challenging.

Having a history of 58 years since its inception in 1958, the motor sports existence has mainly been maintained by motor sport enthusiasts. Among the sports enthusiasts, Italians and half-cast Italians are the notable ones in being an active participant and supporter in the Ethiopian motor sport. However, with the eventual growth of the sport and spectators’ awareness, Ethiopian races have begun to emerge in the motor sport platform taking active participation and improving their scores.

Albeit the racers passion and the Ethiopian Motor Sports Association’s (EMSA) efforts, the challenges of obtaining race cars, racing venue and financial support stand as a major hindrances checking the growth of the sport and its qualification in the international motor sports.

Nevertheless, the Association and the racers haven’t totally despaired over their inadequacies. They maintained to keep up the spirit of competition and satisfy the passion they have with whatever they have on hand: tuning up old cars, using city streets and managing the money they could solicit from enthusiastic supporters and companies.
Ermias wasn’t even sure in his participation in the race just before a week. He only had his Fiat 600 which needed further adjustments. He should have a new battery, money for readjusting the engine, buy oil and gas, and even register for the race. Things were possible with a support of some money from companies around him. Leading a middle class life as a mechanic, he wouldn’t have enough money he could spare for the race expenses. The sole energy driving Ermias to take part in the race is his burning passion for driving and car race. Since he was member of EMSA seven years ago, the only reason he pursues racing is his vigorous enthusiasm for racing and speed. Not that there is any notable prize or high recognition.

“My efforts in striving to make my car with lots of expenses and work relentlessly for the race becomes meaningless for outside observers, since there only few aware of car races in Ethiopia. They even throw discouraging comments to which I give no feedback in oblivion, because I don’t want to lose my passion recognizing their comments or despairing in their disregard. I just keep on pushing the possible limit to make this dream come true.” Ermias explains desperately.

Against all odds, Ermias could finally make it to the finish line ‘second’, being a winner of a Silver medal and trophy in his category. “This time I’m energized that I should work early before race calendars approach. I see victories in African international rallies. I know it will happen,” he confidently remarks.

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