What you need to know:
- A six-minute interview with the jovial Urshlla on Saturday put into context the family’s passion for rallying, revealing that they left behind their one-year-old child back in their native Zambia to compete in this weekend’s Africa Rally Championship Equator Rally.
- They have four children - aged between 13 and one - whom they left under the care of their parents to tackle the challenging Kenyan terrain.
Zambia’s racing couple Leroy and Urshlla Gomes personify motorsport enthusiasm.
Their love for speed, thrills and spills in motor racing is unmatched.
A six-minute interview with the jovial Urshlla on Saturday put into context the family’s passion for rallying, revealing that they left behind their one-year-old child back in their native Zambia to compete in this weekend’s Africa Rally Championship Equator Rally.
They have four children - aged between 13 and one - whom they left under the care of their parents to tackle the challenging Kenyan terrain.
“I left them (children) at home for the love of rallying…” said the smiling co-driver Urshlla.
Urshlla entered into motor racing by default.
Her brother was supposed to navigate her husband Leroy but had to sit for an examination, forcing the mother of four to hop into the co-driver’s seat.
“Back then, my husband was co-driven by my younger brother but there is one particular event where could not make it to compete, and that is when I jumped into the car and, since then, I have never jumped out,” she disclosed with a hearty smile.
The year was 2014. Since then, she has never looked back.
When they are racing, she calls the shots.
“Inside the car…I am the boss…always the boss,” said the genial Urshlla.
But it was not a smooth start for the couple as they eased off the pedal to rallying stardom.
“In our first experience, we had a very big fight. The first fight of our only fight in all the years. It was Zambian international rally and he had memorised the map given to us, which did not correspond with our road book,” she said.
“I was following the road book and he was arguing with me because he had internalised what was on the map which was wrong. That was our only argument and after that, he apologised and everything was super. We have never again fought in the car. The incident, to be precise, brought us a bit closer."
The two at times get into loggerheads when racing in the wild, with the co-driver citing an incident at the Sleeping Warrior stage when she missed the notes.
“He shouted at me, urging me to get back to the notes, calling me to be quick,” she said, bursting out in laughter.
She termed the event as exciting with unexpected rain at the dexterous Sleeping Warrior section that seems to have, literary “woken up” during the African Rally Championship being held in Naivasha.
However, the crews tackled the stage yesterday without incident, and no rain and, incidentally, the Gomes couple were the fastest through the 23.05-kilometre stage, clocking 16 minutes, 31.5 seconds in their Ford Fiesta Rally2 car, some 30.4 seconds faster than second placed Kenyans Jeremy Wahome co-driven by Victory Okundi in a slightly inferior Ford Fiesta Rally3 car.
The two developed interest in rallying three years after their marriage, largely inspired by Leroy’s elder brother.
“He started before me, about two three rallies before I joined him as co-driver,” she disclosed.
Their first born aged 13-years, Seth Gomez, seems to be following in the family’s footstep and three weeks ago, he took part in the first championship during Zambia junior rallying event, driving a Mitsubishi Evolution 9.
“He has good mentors and belongs to the next generation of drivers. He is a very good driver and is coming up well,” said the proud mother.
Since she took up the challenge of motor racing, she has never navigated any other rally driver and strongly believes in the ability of her husband’s driving skills.
“We have never heard any heart stopping moment. My husband is a very skilled driver who is very careful on the road. I am comfortable inside his rally car,” added the co-driver.
She described her spouse as person who does not “take unnecessary risks" with no nervy moment in their eight years of racing together.
Watching the couple ease off the scene is a memorable moment with the gas pedal firmly on the road to motor racing prominence.
Word has it that they may tackle the Kenya National Rally Championship next season…