The highlights from Concours d’Elegance 2023


Dr Saio at the Concours.

Photo credit: John Fox | Nation Media Group

It was the 51st running of the Africa Concours d’Elegance. As usual, it was at the Ngong Road Racecourse. As usual, it had a full house of 70 competing cars and 40 competing motorcycles.

As usual, it was also a huge social gathering – about 10,000 spectators come through the gates these years to enjoy the variety of competing cars, the classic car and motorcycle sale, the auto expo and the heritage collection.

Last week, I wrote about Bob Dewar, the Event Director, who has been a key figure in the Concours since its beginning at the Spread Eagle Hotel, when it was only a small group of members of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club. Last year, he wasn’t able to attend because of illness. He is still on the road to recovery, but he was determined to put in an appearance, and it was a pleasure to hear his familiar voice again as a commentator, alongside Phillip and Bill Coulson.

It is a tribute to the officials of the Alfa Romeo Owners Club and many volunteers that, like last year, they were able to organise the event without Bob Dewar’s constant oversight, and also without a main sponsor.

However, this year, a number of organisations gave their support, including the Italian Embassy, Geminia Insurance, SGA Security and Homeboyz Radio.

On my morning walkabout, I chatted with a few of the competitors. First, there was Dr Mauro Saio with his open-top Peugeot 304. He certainly wasn’t first in the competition last year. It was his first Concours, and he came last in his class. I could see that his car had been better prepared. ‘But when I’m competing,‘ he said. ‘I like to be first or last. But, honestly, I am very fond of this car; it was my first classic car.’

Riding with a purpose

I met Dominique Antoine , a regular competitor, who was entering three of his motorcycles; one of them was the oldest vehicle in this year’s Concours – a Triumph 550 SD. ‘I have had an interest in classic and vintage cars and bikes since I was a boy,’ he said. ‘I guess it’s in my blood.’

Among the motorcycle competitors, I sought out members of the Pearl Bikers Africa that, like members of the Uganda Bikers Association, had ridden their bikes from Kampala. I talked with Leonard Were. He told me that they had been touring for a week. They had ridden through Bogoria, Timau and Nakuru.

For him and his colleagues, the motivation for coming to the Concours was more than the pleasure of riding a powerful bike and enjoying a tour with friends. ‘Our slogan is Riding with a purpose,’ he said. ‘We aim to raise awareness of issues to do with health, children’s welfare, road safety and environmental conservation.’  For example, he told me that on this trip they had supported an old people’s home in Kasarani. I asked him if winning the competition was important, too. I think you will like his answer: ‘Just being here is winning’.

I met also a friend, Moses, who has been a spectator for a number of times. I asked him why the Concours has become such a popular event. ‘It’s a better way of spending a Sunday,’ he said.

However, for some of the competitors, the competition is important. And perhaps a few of them would appreciate the statement that used to be pinned on Shekhar Mehta’s office wall: ‘Winning isn’t the thing. It is the only thing’.

The overall winner of the cars was Kevit Desai’s elegant 1968 Jaguar 420. And what about the competitors I talked with? Dominique Antoine was the overall winner of the motorcycles with his 1925 Triumph 550 SD. Dr Saio failed in his ambition to be first or last. His Peugeot 304 was second in its class; the Piaggio Vespa he also entered was fourth. Leonard’s winning was just being there.

John Fox is Chairman of iDC Email: [email protected]