- While the drivers are lined up to compete and win the race, Ms Muhammad is here for other reasons.
- This had just come to her as thought and gesture to make it happen. Her family members were out rightly surprised
The busy pit stops; smell of the burning rubber; the explosive fiery-throttle from the racing engine create a tense unsettling atmosphere.
The venue, an airstrip closed for the racing weekend, straddles the border of Embu and Machakos Counties along Tana River.
The wild crowds along the race track and unrelenting sun of Masinga do not seem ease the situation at all.
Mrs Almas Muhammed however, does not seem bothered and is here to valiantly withstand the heat. Unknown to many, she has a personal goal to meet at the challenging race track.
While a lot in most occasions are bound to go well in a race, it’s a sport that can sometimes turn tragic. For Mrs Muhammad, the fear is just another pit stop to overlook for a greater cause.
A gentle soft spoken woman, we meet her after she completes circuit in the second timetrial of the day. She’s easy and subtle walking almost unnoticed past tents set up along the race track.
“How did I do?” She asks jovially as she meets us. Well, besides the tight corners, her speed was good and it helped that she drove an impressive car.
Muhammad says that she enjoys seating in her automobile and especially with the knowledge that she has a grandson to beat in male dominated competition.
Never mind that she is 72 years old and made the choice to subscribe to 20I7 Gymkhana TT racing held in Masinga at periphery of Machakos County- an event started by her son. Her vehicle of choice- the Nissan GTR a hot blood speed vehicle with an optimum speed of 320 km/h is a beauty to look at.
Although humbled by the grey colour, the hum and curvy details on a closer look will reveal the power of the Japanese car.
“I haven’t done any modification to it,” she says juxtaposing it to the tens of modified vehicles lined up for the race.
The drivers are lined up with their vehicles impatiently trembling for some adrenaline, but Ms Muhammad is calm and is here for other reasons.
“Well of course at the end I want to know whom I beat!” She exclaims, “They shouldn’t have it easy, because of my age!” She however says that winning wasn’t her priority really. She is here for a more passionate motive: The grandmother is here to commemorate her son who passed on in an accident.
”He loved racing, and it’s unfortunate that he got the accident,” Ms Almas recalls with visible difficulty.
She reveals that in an unfortunate turn of events the car the son was travelling in went up on flames in what she described as freak accident.
It was after the incident that Ms Muhammed vowed to keep up the son’s legacy and passion for the thrilling sport. “We are a small family, we would like to support him in all the ways we can.”
She discloses that she had never raced earlier in her life. “I never raced in my youth- not even in my marriage,”
This had just come to her as thought and gesture to make it happen. Her family members were out rightly surprised when she revealed her intent to participate in the race.
“I did not even train for this," She points out laughing, “I just came from the kitchen to the track!”
Her participation stirred the race as other track drivers commended her for her courage and resolve.
Speaking to women, Ms Muhammaed said that that times had changed and that more women should participate more in the sport. “If you have a car, you don’t have to modify it, just be there!” She encourages.
She adds that was rejuvenated when her daughter-in-law participated in the previous edition of the competition. “It showed me that we shouldn’t really shy away from this.”
George Betta race driver, who emerged second in the competition said he was inspired by what Ms Muhammad was doing. “I respect what she does for women,” he said. TTTo him it was an inspiration and honour to participate on a race that had attracted a 72 year old competitor.
Besides Ms Muhammad,the race attracted another female contestant from Tanzania called Neema, who was dubbed ‘Neema Sepetu’ by fans. She drove a hyped Subaru Imprezza manicured with baby pink colour and sported a baby pink t-shirt to match her auto.
“Times have changed,” Ms Muhammad finished thoughtfully challenging more women to join the sport as it would embolden women position in unchartered territories.