He picked the first ticket for the preliminary contest staged recently at Coscharis 4×4 Test Track in Lagos. He is Ugochukwu Onuiri, one of three candidates representing Nigeria at this year’s Ford Ranger Odyssey Contest holding in Southern Africa. Ugochukwu is a car lover and a freak. He is passionate about motoring. Indeed, he was so much in a hurry to start driving that, twice, he damaged the clutch of his father’s car. At a time, he received a ruthless beating from his father for driving his car without permission.
He has a tall ambition concerning motoring. If his dream becomes a reality, he could become Nigeria’s own Lewis Hamilton.In this exclusive interview with Motoring World, Onuiri, aged 30, bared his mind on his planned journey into car racing and his ambition to be the best.
Motoring World: What were you thinking when you decided to participate in Ford Ranger Odyssey? Did you think you were going to win?
Ugochukwu: I didn’t come for winning, I only hoped. I actually came to just have fun and it turned out that I won. I am very excited.
Motoring World: How long have you been driving?
Ugochukwu: For fourteen… em..fifteen years now.
Motoring World: How did you learn driving?
Ugochukwu: Frankly I learnt on my own, and I had to burn my father’s clutch many times to learn on my own.
Motoring World: What brand of car was your father driving?
Ugochukwu: It was a Peugeot 505 and then he had a Datsun Bluebird. That was way back in the nineties.
Motoring World: Can you tell me, what happens that first day you burnt your father’s clutch?
Ugochukwu: My father was a disciplinarian, he flogged a hell out of me and the next time, I took the key again and burnt the clutch the second time and then he looked at me and said, ‘what will I do with you? Get into the car’. He then took me for a test drive and saw I could drive and trusted me with the car subsequently.
Motoring World: Tell me precisely what you did to burn your father’s clutch?
Ugochukwu: I drove on gear one all through.
Motoring World: You must have seen your dad driving. Or how did you know what to do?
Ugochukwu: He started by teaching me how to start the car and warm the car everyday. Out of curiosity, I started to drive the car.
Motoring World: You are saying after burning the clutch twice, he decided to teach you how to drive?
Ugochukwu: Yes, as at then I had gotten use to driving. But he wanted to be sure that I could handle the car, so that he wouldn’t have to get angry with me. He took me out and said, ‘let me see what you can do.’ I ended up driving, and he subsequently trusted me with the car.
Motoring World: Have you ever bought a car on your own?
Motoring World: Which car did you buy first and why did you go for that?
Ugochukwu: I bought a bus, and it was for a business purpose. It was a Volkswagen. I don’t know what model but it was a Danfo.
Motoring World: Did you buy a car?
Ugochukwu: Not on my own, but the company I work for.
Motoring World: Do you love cars?
Ugochukwu: I love cars. One of my ambitions is to be a car race driver. This is the first time towards achieving that. I love to drive, driving is like a hobby.
Motoring World: What does a car mean to you?
Ugochukwu: A car to me is like a friend. A car to me is like a companion. Sometimes, out of boredom, I could just say lets go for a spin and we just go around and when I come back I am happy. I don’t have to talk; its like the engine just tells me ‘I am by your side’, and you just feel it. A car really means a lot to me.
Motoring World: Do you have a car you are dreaming of?
Ugochukwu: Ford Escape?
Motoring World: Why?
Ugochukwu: I have once driven that car and the experience was second to none.
Motoring World: That is the strange. One would have expected you to name Rolls-Royce or , as some would say, a car that can fly?
Ugochukwu: Like I said earlier, a car is like a companion. If you can understand your car and know what you want to do and achieve with the car, it does not really matter what car you drive.
Motoring World: Now you are going to South Africa, what are you looking forward to over there?
Ugochukwu: I am expecting to have a tougher competition and hopefully win, because I know that some people whom I will meet there have more experience with 4×4 and the competition is about brain and brawn. But I know that by God’s grace I will win.
Motoring World: Fantastic, Assuming a child ask you to explain what you mean by 4×4, how do you teach that child?
Ugochukwu: Four by four are exceptional cars, they are built tough both for on or off road capabilities. Of course the child will not understand but then I will tell the child when you get to a place where the road looks bad and you are driving a 4×4,just be sure you will come out of it.
[box type=”info” align=”alignleft” ]”A car to me is like a friend. A car to me is like a companion. Sometimes, out of boredom, I could just say lets go for a spin and we just go around and when I come back I am happy. I don’t have to talk; its like the engine just tells me ‘I am by your side’, and you just feel it. A car really means a lot to me”.- Ugochukwu[/box]