After months of hard preparations, the sequel to the Sagamu Auto Rally, the Akure Auto Rally/Road Race took place over the weekend.
Once the Governor and Government of the State bought into the project by a non-financial endorsement, things took on a fevered pitch as several days to the event, the whole city of Akure felt the impending event through the loads of adverts through every conceivable medium, especially as the Government also advised her citizens on the impending road closure (for the selected roads) for the event. The major hotels in the city equally experienced 100% occupancy for the first time that even the Governor couldn’t get spaces for his guests who came in for a different event the same weekend. On the other hand, Air Peace that normally ran a once a day scheduled flight from Lagos ran twice daily flights from Lagos to Akure as people started trooping into Akure for the first of its kind event in Nigeria.
It is noteworthy to state here that the motorsports event was packaged juxtaposed the Wuraola Memorial Golf Tournament which also took place at the Smoking Hills Golf Course, also the venue of the Auto Rally.
The motorsports event, packaged by Work and Play, a company dedicated to the growth of organized motorsports events in Nigeria started off on Friday with car stunts driving at the Elizade University Ilara Mokin, Ondo State. Lebannese born driver, Antonnio Sandouk and Nigerian born Olumiyiwa Akintola driving their V10 powered BMW M6 and self-assembled Rage race machine (a very mad one-emphasis mine. I wish I can affix a smiley emoji here) respectively scintillated the crowds with various figure-8 powersliding and burnouts. Soon enough Peter Makris and Antonnio took turns behind the wheels of the equally crazy Tiger Avon race car to do some crazy but controlled driving to the delight of the crowds.
Unfortunately while this part was going on, my wife and I alongside another convoy of 5 other cars that left Lagos late for Akure were dodging bullets from armed criminals on the highway around Ekiti State on our way to the event. But my reliable eyes on the ground fed me the details on a per-second basis. Lol.
This was just after the whole party congregated at the aristocratic and impressive villa of the automobile colossus, Chief Michael Adeojo, the founder of Elizade Motors, Elizade University among other numerous grade A companies and a native of Ilara Mokin for a sumptuous meal which also provided the opportunity for post travelling decompressing and pre-event bonding.
The raceday proper turned out a blessed one as the weather was very clement that day with the rains sparing us the trauma rather the sun was bright and beautiful…..well, also scorching.
The cars for the off-road rally soon had their decals on including their race identifications and lined up at the take-off point at the entrance of the Smoking Hills Golf Resort at Ilara Mokin.
After 2 laps of different of stages of a gruelling off-road race that saw a truck flip over to its side, two other cars lose tires, another developed electrical faults, and another bending its front arms making the car limp home, the winners emerged.
The 1st prize went to Olumiyiwa Akintola and co-driver Leye Binuyo driving the Rage race car.
The 2nd prize went to Kingsley Uwatse driving the Jeep Wrangler.
The 3rd prize went to Peter Awojirin driving the Toyota Hilux from the Volvo racing team.
It is pertinent to state here that off-road rallies test the strength of man and machine and provided the rules of the game are adhered to and the necessary safety tools and measures are followed, everyone will be fine. Men of the fire service were on standby with a 4×4 Toyota Hilux following the racers incase of any incident. Men of the Federal Road Safety Corps regular marshals and the Celebrity Special Marshals were also on ground, in addition to healthcare and emergency rescue personnel and men of the Nigeria Police. Also representatives of the Automobile and Touring Club of Nigeria (ATCN) the Nigerian affiliate of the FIA were also on ground to ensure safety of all is guaranteed.
Soon the whole party moved to Akure town for the road race.
As we drove in, one could feel the excitement on the residents of the town who had waited patiently for the arrival of the racers who came to ‘shake-down’ Akure.
All the safety personnel on the ground went round the course several times with the men of the Fire Service to ensure the coast was still clear for the impending race. The course blocked off by men of the Nigeria Police and men of the Vehicle Inspection Services (VIS) was certified ok before the race began.
The Secretary to the State Government, Hon. Ifedayo Abegunde in the company of several other top government functionaries represented the Governor who had gone to another event but to join us later, flagged off the event.
As the flag came down, the air was rent with massive blast of different engines in perfect synchrony as the different drivers took-off trying to find the perfect spot to out-manoeuver the other driver.
Soon, the formation took place as the Stingray V10 BMW M6 took the lead, followed by Team Rage, then Babatunde Ojosipe (Autojosh) driving a red Mercedes Benz C300 4Matic, then Habeeb Nagode driving a BMW 3 Series E 36 and Abiola Awosika driving a BMW 5 Series took the lead.
After another gruelling 3 laps race, Team Rage lost their tires and didn’t complete the race. The winners emerged as the first to cross the finishing flag as follows;
1st prize went to The Stingray Team of Antonio Sandouk and Dossy Sandouk
2nd prize went to Babatunde Ojosipe of Autojosh Blog
3rd prize went to Habeeb Nagode
The two Most Valuable Players (MVPs) of the car race were an 80s Toyota Corolla with a very old-looking body and a Chinese built JAC sedan that both participated in the race and gave other much more powerful cars a great run for their money….pound for pound. And they both finished the race without breaking a sweat. Both proved that being old or built by the Chinese doesn’t mean they don’t have what it takes to also play with the ‘men’ when push comes to shove.
The locals were not left behind as a segment for riders of commercial motorcycles popularly called Okada riders also had a race segment.
At the end of which the winners emerged in the following order;
1st prize went to Olayemi Olarenwaju
2nd prize went to Ayuba
3rd prize went to Adeleke Lekan
The Executive Governor, His Excellency, Arakunrin Rotimi Akeredolu (SAN) later came back and did the presentation of the prizes to the winners of the event. His wife also made a cameo and savoured the cars on display.
In his words while doing the presentation, he was full of praises to the organizers; Work and Play for using this platform to showcase the rich potentials of motorsports and his State, Akure to Nigerians and the world.
He also was surprised that unlike many others seeking for governments participation in an event, the organizers didn’t seek for nor got any single Kobo as financial involvement from the Government yet pulled off the massively successful event. He prayed that the event became more successful and even becomes an annual event. He was happy that the people of Akure, especially businesses in the State benefitted immensely from the event in one way or the other. On the other hand, on a lighter note, he lamented that a whole him, the Executive Governor of the state couldn’t get hotels for his guests (who came for another event) in his own State as all the rooms had been taken over for the event.
Among other side attractions were musical performances and dancing competitions. Later in the night, the Golfers and the Auto Racers all congregated at the Smoking Hills Golf Resort for a Galanight.
All in all, both the visitors and the locals all had massive fun and are all looking forward to subsequent editions so Work and Play over to you as you have more work to do.
Welldone Mr Ade Ojuoko, Mr Peter Makris, Ms Kome Brown, every other member of the Work and Play team and Mr Ishaku Bamaiyi and Mr Edward Osakwe; the consultants for the rally and the race for a great job.
Miss Gabrielle Osakwe and Master Alain Sandouk having a blast with the Tiger. Grooming future racers of Nigeria.
More pictures below…