Meet Tuta Mionki, Kenya’s first woman navigator to join KNRC Premier Class Motor rallying. Navigation is not for the faint-hearted, it calls for a lot of grit and focus and Tuta has mastered it.
“Most drivers in normal road cars are uncomfortable being driven by someone else. That discomfort is magnified when it’s in a high-speed car and event. You need to trust that the person on the other seat knows what they are doing for you as a navigator to give 100 per cent in reading the pace-notes,” says Tuta.
Although Tuta may not sit on the same table with the legends of pace-notes at this moment, she is not feeding on scraps. She is currently navigating Eric Bengi in the KNRC Premier Class in their Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution X.
She started her racing career in June 2011 as a navigator for Bengi in the Rally Raid. The two had initially met as spectators at a race in Ngong in 2008 through a mutual friend and spoke about getting into the sport.
“We felt that we were not getting the speed thrill from Raids and in February 2012, Victor Okundi, who was switching from the navigator’s seat to the driver’s, called me up to co-drive him and I got a very good foundation because he patiently taught me the ropes which was fun,” she adds.
“I started watching cars as a very young girl in Thika. My dad was a fan of the old type Safari. I vividly remember watching a night stage at Del Monte known as Kenya Canners back then. I have navigated six drivers, three in one-off events and the other in complete seasons,” says Tuta, a Human Resource consultant.
So how did her career in the cockpit move to desirable levels?
“I was guided by Charles Hinga (of Auto Movers) and Abdul Sidi Rally Academy (ASRA) in the art of reading and writing notes. From there, it was something I really craved more so from the breaks in November and December. Sadly, we didn’t have too many women in the sport and hopefully, we can get to the 18-plus women who used to rally in 2012 and 2013,” Tuta.
Tuta became the first ever woman competitor to win the Motor Sports Personality of the Year award in 2018 and also went on to become the first ever female driver in KNRC Premier Class, a preserve of the fastest 10 drivers in the series.
Winning the 2WD Championship with Bengi in a Toyota RunX was also a dream come true and a sign of better things to come.