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INTERVIEW: Rajiv Speaks Out On His Love For Motorsport, Dream To Win Africa Rally Championship

New rally ace, Rajiv Ruparelia, son to property mogul Sudhir Ruparelia has revealed that he is not into motorsport just for fun, but he is determined to win the National Rally Championship (NRC) and the Africa Rally Championship (ARC).

In an interview with Sanyu FM on Saturday, Rajiv, who is the Managing Director of the multi-billion Ruparelia Group of Companies, also revealed his love for the sport, noting that while he has been a fan of motorsport since childhood, he had to convince his dad, Sudhir and mum, Jyotsna Ruparelia to start rallying.

He says motorsport is all about passion and not money.

“We have to stop looking at it this way ‘he has money, so he can do this’. No! Just come with your innovation.  Look at the likes of Kalule’s fan base, it’s amazing and look at the car he’s driving; he doesn’t do it because he makes money from it, he doesn’t do it because he is spending millions of dollars on rallies. It is because he loves the sport; people don’t realize that money is secondary to the passion of having something,” Rajiv says.

He adds that with passion, you can do something even when you don’t have money.

“Look at the billionaires of this world; how many came from a very good middle class family and how many actually came from down at the bottom; there are people who came from the bottom of society; they were innovative and created things; they never listened to negative people. They wanted to make a difference to the world and the passion to make a difference is what drove them to become rich,” he says.

Rajiv during the interview in Sanyu FM Studios

Rajiv is known as ‘Double Trouble’ by his rally team and fans.

Asked why whether he coined this catchword himself, Rajiv answered in affirmative.

And on why he chose it, he said “because we wanted to come in and cause some trouble in the scene. So we sought about the name Ugandans would love to shout. It was about the fans, what will they remember, what will stick in them. How do we become a household brand? So next time we go to rally, they will remember Double Trouble. We didn’t like a complicated name.”

Time invested in rallying

When asked how much time he is investing in to get better as a rally driver, Rajiv said: “It is about the systems I am putting in place and people I am putting in place to manage my team and them to meet my expectations. For example, we have a team manager, chief technical officer, three full time mechanics on the team, we have a PR person. The team is structured; some of them are volunteering while others are on a payroll to make sure things are done properly. At the end of the day, even if I spent 5000 dollars or 10-20m shillings running my rally team a month, it’s still way cheaper than me spending 10 days a month on my rally team because if I spent 10 days on my business, I can make way more than that.”

Racing outside Uganda

Rajiv, 30, a third generation Ugandan says he left a very good job opportunity in England to come and work in Uganda because his “heart bleeds for Uganda.”

He wonders why Kenya and South Africa keep winning the Africa Rally Championship and Uganda is no show.

He wants to change this narrative not only by winning National Rally Championship but also raising Uganda’s flag on the African continent and the world at large.

“That’s why I created this formidable team; the all star team and we are going for them; we are gonna go for those Kenyans, we are gonna go for those South Africans. There’s no reason why next year, we can’t.  This year again is about, learning, learning, learning,” he says.

He adds: “Next year, we are readying the car; I think we are gonna go for R5; I have been speaking to my dad about it and I told him we are going for Africa Rally Championship and we are going knowing we are going to win. There’s no point going for something knowing you’re not going to win. So we are going to hold that Ugandan flag high and we are going to try to make Uganda as proud as possible when we go and represent Uganda in the ARC (Africa Rally Championship).”

Balancing rallying and business

Asked on how he balances his time, he said: “I rally twice a week. I tend to do it on weekends. My phones are always available. In fact my coaches are always complaining; whenever we go out for a rally, the first thing (after the rally) is to be on phone for like 10 minutes because I have got to balance the two (rallying and business). I know what is funding what and I will never make rally become my priority because as soon as I do , I will let go my business and it’s my business that funds my hobbies. So as much as I love rallying, my business is my priority.”

Inspiration

Rajiv was also asked who inspires him.

“Many people (inspire him). I am inspired by many people at different places for different things. I don’t need to be inspired by one person. I can like the way someone dresses and he inspires me how I should dress. The more the role models I have, I find the better I can consult these amazing people,” he said, adding that: “We have just started a new project at Kabira Country Club. We are going to be build 269 apartments up there; upscale market apartments for selling to the middle class; we looking for a way  to acquire the land,” he said.

He added: “We are just waiting for the Cabinet to pass the Cannabis bill; we want to go into the medical cannabis industry;  we need to be fore thinking. I am proud of our Cabinet and Parliamentarians.  This is going to create millions of jobs to Ugandans. There are organizations that are fighting it but it’s unnecessary because at the end of the day, it’s about making our country better for our people. I am a very stronger believer of this programme (Cannabis growing) and I have already put in my application and I’m just hoping Cabinet can pass this bill on Monday because it’s going be a game changer for Uganda because it will bring it foreign currency and Uganda has the best environments for cannabis growing.”

Message to new FMU Executive

He concluded by wishing the new incoming FMU executive the best tenure.

“Always remember to do things in the name of the sport not in the interests of individuals. Raise it to the standard it should be at,” he said.

To his my fans, he said: “Come to Mbarara, come to every rally; we’ll have a blast; we are building a fan base; follow us on facebook, twitter, join Rajiv Ruparelia Rally Team. We have a data base of 30,000 people and it’s growing.”

Rajiv started his rallying journey in May 2019 and came second in his debut rally- the National Enduro Autocross Championship 2019 that took place at Zion Estate, Ssisa.

He drives a Volkswagen Polo R –a four-wheel car that comes with a five-speed sequential gearbox.

Rajiv joined the motorsport after undergoing rally-driving instruction in South Africa, under the mentorship of the country’s (even the whole of Africa’s) highest-rated rallying coach, Leone Botha.

The training took place at Botha’s Rally Star Motorsport Academy at the Sun Carousel, Johannesburg, which is also rated as the Number One motorsport academy in the whole of Africa.

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