Enthralling racing despite bad weather
Pradeep, Ravi, Nalin and Rohana dominate at Arena Cross, Embilipitiya
By M. Shamil Amit
Pradeep Jayawardena and Ravi Mayadunne in the motor car category and Nalin Perera and Rohana Jayaratne in the motor cycle category excelled in the the first ever Army Arena Cross 2003 organized by the Sri Lanka Army Sports Committee and conducted by the Motor Racing Association that was held at the newly laid motor track in Embilipitiya last Sunday.

The new track at Embilipitiya has been built on a land owned by the Army and had taken them a period of nearly four months to clean the massive shrub jungle and build the race track which was designed by Richard de Zoysa, Mahen Hurulle and Lt Col Ravi Mayadunne. The track, paddocks and the spectators enclosure is laid on a 40 acre plot. The track in whole is 2.8 kilometres in length with a straight run of 500 metres and 80 foot width.

The earthwork of this beautiful track was done by the trainee plant operators of the Sri Lanka School of Military Engineering in Embilipitiya. The new track gives the drivers plenty of opportunites in overtaking their challengers and in time to come it will be one of the best tracks for racing in Sri Lanka. This is the third track of this sort that belongs to the Army, the other two being the Foxhill track in Diyatalawa and the Saliyapura (Gajaba) track in Anuradhapura.

With rain hampering the trials the previous day conditions underfoot were not possible to get the motor races being held on schedule. Rains again in mid afternoon made things more difficult for the organizers. The ground was sticky which was one of the reasons that delayed the motor car events for almost an hour.

But the spectators never moved or did want to be denied of watching some top class racing which were scheduled to be held. Come rain or sun they were under their umbrellas waiting to see the top drivers in action. A chance they had got for the first time in their home town. The motor cycle events which were held prior to this saw former champion Ananda Wedisinghe bid adieu to motor racing in style.

Before the commencement of the only event he was participating in, which was for Racing Bikes Upto 125cc he had announced his retirement from full time racing and what a way to end the career which had spanned nearly one and a half decades. He won the event in style with another up and coming rider Gayan Sandaruwan who later met with a mishap in another race coming second and another champion Nalin Perera in third place.

But motor cross specialist Nalin Perera who in fact had a fall in the previous event made amends when he had a double for the day winning the Racing Upto 250cc and the Racing Open event. Nalin had returned from Dubai having participated in the Asian motor races a few days back.

The Street Trail events were white washed by Rohana Jayaratne when he won all the three events 125cc, 250cc and the Street Trail Open giving him a triple. The event for Racing Upto 80cc (Under 16 years) was won by Pasindu Peiris while Rehan Buultjens won the open category for 80cc. L/Cpl Ranjith Samaraweera won the special event for Army. There was a race for the kids between 6-8 years which was won by Shanuka Jayana followed by Shammi Perera and Tharindu Gamage.

In the motor car events three drivers Upulwan Serasinghe, Lt Col Ravi Mayadunne and Pradeep Jayawardena had a successful day winning two races each. But the most impressive of the three was the double by Pradeep Jayawardena in his Mitsubishi V. He has become a cool customer as he picks and choses his events and wins his races with ease.

He first won the event for cars 1600cc to 3500cc with Nalin D. Perera in second and Dinesh Deheragoda in third. Dinesh had the disadvantage of being placed last in the grid, as he had not taken part in the trials that were held the previous day.

Dinesh said that he was unable to participate in the trials as the computer wires gave way and it took the mechanics almost five to six hours to repair the shortcomings. But he gave a fight in the open event for cars putting his experience to full use when he came second from nowhere.

In this event Pradeep won the MRA Challenge trophy which was on offer. Ace driver Aravinda Premadasa was unfortunate as his car met with a mishap and had to bow out. The most happiest participant of the day is none other than Lt Col Ravi Mayadunne one of the individuals responsible in designing and building the track.

He won both his events with little fuss winning the petrol and diesel open class event and the event for Group 'A' upto 1600c. Another driver to win a double was Upulwan Serasinghe winning the Group 'N' Diesel Cars pto 2000cc and the Mazda/Laser upto 1500cc. Veteran driver Rohan de Silva too impressed winning the Group 'A' over 1150cc upto 2000cc.

The others to win were Sasitha Gunawardena winning the Mini car event. Nihal Weerasinghe the Group 'N' upto 1150cc. Mahesh Parakrama winning the Armed Forces upto 1600cc. Dinesh Senanayake the Unmodified Petrol upto 2000cc.Rohan Priyantha Ratnayake took the Unmodified Diesel upto 3500cc. Indu Samarakoon won the Armed Formed Jeep and Truck event.

Samantha Gunawardena the Group 'A' upto 1150cc event. Ishraq Wahab the Group 'A' over 1150cc. Wasantha Madola the Jeep and Truck event. Duminda Wedisinghe the Group 'M' 1150cc upto 1400cc event. Javed Wahab the Group 'N' Honda 1600cc event and Nalin D. Perera the Group 'N' over 1600cc upto 2000cc event.

Big day for Wanderers
India take on Australia in 8th World cup final
The picturesque Wanderers Cricket Stadium, one of the most beautiful venues in the world is set to stage the eighth World Cup final today when India take on the reigning champions Australia.

It is one of the greatest happenings in the history of South Africa cricket. Hosting the World Cup in SA is the result of an united effort on the part of so many people. Of course the legendary Nelson Mandela, set the ball rolling giving all support and encouragement.

It was a project for a life-time, SA took up the challenge after their re-admission to international cricket - the membership of world community in 1992 after Apartheid.
The Wanderers Stadium prepared years ahead had the markings for staging this epoch making final. Rumours of attempts to sabotage the holding of the final had spread among the organisers.

But Ali Bacher, the executive Director of the 2003 cricket World Cup, when interviewed by The Sunday Times during Sri Lanka's tour there in December 2002, said that everything will go smoothly without let or hindrance.

Over 3000 volunteers have been drafted. The government is backing us to the hilt. All security measures have been taken and it is in the hands of Ron Strydon, director Security of Nelson Mandela's personal security team.

The whole country and people from all walks of life is supporting it. The entire Johannesburg is under surveillance for the final. At the ground the M.3000 security system is in attendance. Everyone has to go through it. No special treatment will be given for anybody.

Having been to the venue all arrangements at this venue was noted. Dr. Bacher the former SA cricket captain and UCBSA chairman means business. "People may doubt what he says, but they will believe what you do," Ali, a man of few words, but adhere to this saying. If SA cricket is something today during this short span of ten years, thanks to his total commitment and support given by all cricket lovers.

He never took the credit for himself, but said that several hands worked for the right reasons. The Wanderers Stadium has got a new face-lift for the final. It could accommodate 32,000 fans. Tickets were sold out in July 2002. No crash landing whatsoever.

Even a rehearsal was held at the Wanderers during one of the overs games against Sri Lanka. The entire area was being barricaded. The S African team thrashed Sri Lanka 4-1 in the one dayers and the strong Pakistan team too suffered a similar debacle against the Proteas, which preceded the WC. They had high hopes of coming to the last four, but surprisingly their aspirations were shattered.

It proved that cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Imagine neighbours Kenya - a non Test playing nation being among the last four. Lanasia, virtually is an Indian colony where Mahatma Gandhi spent most of his time whilst in SA. It is predominantly a rich Indian business colony. They will be there in their numbers to support them.

The Aussies, a hardened team sans some key players due to injury problems are a professional outfit who have been playing to a plan. They have the batting depth and bowlers who bowl skillfully.

India, with maestro batsman Sachin Tendulkar is a blend of youth and experience. They have the courage and young talent to match their opponents. They have planned well ahead. The youth have been given that much needed exposure. The likes of M. Kaif, Yuvraj Singh, Nehra, Harbajhan Singh, Zaheer Khan have proved their mettle under pressure.

No doubt the Wanderers is one of the fastest pitches tailor made for fast bowlers. But the Indians are quite adapted to the conditions-led by Sachin Tendulkar, Sehwag, Dravid and Ganguly. They could make it really hard for the Aussies.
For Bacher and for the 40 designated WC staffers it will be a project for a lifetime to be remembered despite trials and tribulations. Even an electronic scoreboard is installed there and a big screen near the venue for those who could not enter the ground to watch the final. -BW

Sri Lanka team eyes the Bowl again at HK sevens
By Bernie Wijesekera
For Last year's Commonwealth Games rugby sevens tournament Sri Lanka fielded a virtual schoolboy team due to various factors. For the forthcoming Hong Kong Sevens to be held there from March 28 to 30. The Lankan team has prepared well in advance with the future in mind, said team manager Chaminda Rupasinghe in an interview with the Sunday Times.

The squad was practicing at Longden Place under coach Asanga Seneviratne. Both Rupasinghe and Seneviratne have been handling this Sevens squad since year 2000 after the Singer-SriLankan Airlines Inter-Clubs Sevens organised by Kandy SC.
The team is skipper by Nalaka Weerakkody and has been training hard for over a month and is in full trim. A lot of hard work has been done to this effect. Weerakkody as captain has trimmed his frills and is fully fit and is leading by example.

The team is pitched in a tough Group E - along with S. Africa, Argentina and S. Korea. "Our main objective is to at least win one match. Both Asanga and I have instilled on the players the pride to play for the right reasons and give of their best and take the game up to the surface," said Rupasinghe.

Presently the game has hit a new low. Sri Lanka has made a name in the shorter game and was held in high esteem in the past. Sri Lanka won the Bowl at the Hong Kong Sevens in 1984 under the able leadership of Hisham Abdeen.
Expenses for the tournament are all found by the International Rugby Board-including air fares.

Last year England won the Cup. "This will be the last assignment with the Rugby Union as officials for Seneviratne and Rupasinghe. They will relinquish office once they return," added Rupasinghe. When asked for the reasons for leaving the Union after the Hong Kong Sevens tournament Rupasinghe said that it's time to spend some time with their families. Further Rupasinghe has been appointed 'Director of Rugby' at S. Thomas' by Warden David Ponniah since January 2003.

"I have to give something back to the school which helped me to go places in life", said Rupasinghe. About the Sri Lanka Sevens team Rupasinghe said the team has been motivated. They have abundant Sevens knowledge and they have some strongly built, hard runners. The likes of Indrajit Bandaranayake, Radhika Hettiarachchi, Sajith Mallikarachchi, skipper Nalaka Weerakkody and Asanga Rodrigo who could breach any defence with their zig-zag running.

It is a blend of youth and experience. There is a schoolboy from St. Anthony's Kandy in Mahes Liyanage. Hopefully, if the team shows application and commitment Sri Lanka will be striving to be concerned in the Bowl competition and break the 18-year-old drought. A good performance is long overdue.

In 1984 the team had players like Saman Jayasinghe, Shan Perera, Nalin de Silva (the present Secretary of SLRFU), Chula Dharmadasa, Chandana Abeygunawardena, Hubert Ryan, Len Silva, Rohantha Peiris, and was coached by Jeff Ratnam. They created rugby history at the Hong Kong Sevens for the first time.

'Sevens' in Asia is assured to be staged more often. Quite a number of international Sevens tournaments are staged in the region. Before long there may be another addition - The Singer-SriLankan Airlines Club Sevens tournament to be orgaised by Kandy SC, which is quite popular since its inception.

The tour party: Nalaka Weerakkody, I. Bandaranayake, R. Hettiarachchi, D. Pushpakumara, C. Withanage, Mahes Liyanage , Lakala Perera, Lalindra Rodrigo, Sithara Fernando, Sumith Jayasinghe and Asanga Rodgiro. The team leaves for Hong Kong on March 25.

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