These are the words of Hellen Kagendo Shiri, 42, on why she decided to venture into this male-dominated sport.
A native of Kiirua town in Meru, she was named the first indigenous Kenyan to finish an international rally outside Kenya in an all-ladies crew, the jovial Mrs Shiri says how she got into rallying and why she is not leaving just yet.
The thrill of high speed on the road saw her take to rallying about five years ago. First as a navigator from 2010 for about two years.
“A friend introduced me to a leading rally navigator legend, Mr Abdul Sidi, who conducts navigation classes in Nairobi for free. I joined the classes which marked the beginning of my rallying in 2010,” Mrs Shiri told the Sunday Nation.
It was like a dream-come- true for her when she was asked to navigate in the team “Warembo bila Make-up” (Beauties without Make-up) immediately after finishing her free navigation lessons.
In 2013, the mother of one acquired her own car. This time she was ready to battle it out with the men for the top slots in rallying. “When I ventured into rallying, I did not expect to get favours from men for being among the few ladies in the sport. I made it clear that I was in it to win,” said Mrs Shiri.
“Rallying is the only sport that does not favour or have different championships for ladies aside or gents aside. In rallying we are in an equal level playground and there is no special treatment for the ladies. It is a competitive sport and the best wins. In other sports, ladies are normally given their own tournaments and don’t compete against their male counterparts in the same sport.”
Her secret to staying in the sport is to train with the top and faster drivers.
From them she learns and acquires skills she uses for her own driving. She dreams of having a professional trainer to sharpen her skills, but the cost will just be too overbearing for the woman who runs a family business.
“I train alone at the Portland cement quarries in Nairobi but whenever a top driver is training, I join them to get more driving tips,” said Mrs Shiri.
Perseverance and constant training has seen her do a total of four rallies as a driver with 50 per cent finish for the third year now.
“My greatest achievement was during the Pearl of Africa rally in Uganda 2013 where I managed to finish in position 18 overall. I was crowned the first indigenous Kenyan to finish an international rally outside Kenya in an all-ladies crew”.
Despite being a tough lady, rallying has not spared her its set of challenges. Balancing between family, work and rigorous training has not been a walk in the park. “I have to be a good wife to my husband, the best mother my son could ever have and ensure my business generates income for us.”
Source: Daily Nation