Unlike other sports Motor Sport may have its following and be mightily popular, but at the same time it is a very expensive sport to be hooked on. With this little piece we are trying to understand their travails and ascertain as to how they cope with the hidden hurdles that loom around this pastime. [...]

The Sunday Times Sri Lanka

Is it just fast and furious?


Unlike other sports Motor Sport may have its following and be mightily popular, but at the same time it is a very expensive sport to be hooked on. With this little piece we are trying to understand their travails and ascertain as to how they cope with the hidden hurdles that loom around this pastime.

Ushan Perera
(Current Super Car champion)

I am pleased to state that I have already won over five Super Car Championships in Sri Lanka. I am also currently the number one driver in this category. I started my career in 2000 by competing in motorcycle events. But I shifted to Super Car in 2012. There is a history of nearly 40 years for motor sports in Sri Lanka. But sadly what I feel is that the sport is still in its infancy. There are three popular sports currently in Sri Lanka. The number one is cricket, number two is rugby and the number three is motor sports. But unfortunately motor sports does not receive the same treatment from the state sector. I think if this sport is given more priority there is a big chance that it will reach international standards. I see only the private sector supporting motor sports in the country. Even the private sector sponsorship is handed only to a selected number of individuals. I need at least Rs. 300,000 to Rs. 400,000 to compete in one Super Car event. I have to change the entire set of tyres after the completion of one event. These Super Car tyres are imported from Japan and Malaysia. The Indian manufactured tyes are of low quality. One tyre will cost me approximately Rs. 75,000 (tax only). In addition I need to pump high top ten petrol for my Super Car. One litre will cost me Rs. 397. I need about 75-100 litres to complete one race. As a Super Car driver I am requesting from the government to lift the duty on the import of Super Car tyres. Most of the Super Car drivers do have their own sponsors. But the drivers who compete in the low category car events do not have that many sponsors. The main reason is because the focus is less on these events. Also the drivers who compete in these events are virtually newcomers to the scene. They are forced to utilise their own funds to participate in these events. We have three Super Car drivers who are involved in international events. They are Ashan Silva, Dinesh Deheragoda and Dilantha Malagamuwa. I am hoping to compete in some of the Asian meets from next year. We have about 10-15 motor sports events in Sri Lanka. This is a very good sign. This is because the involvement of Sri Lanka Army and Sri Lanka Air Force in conducting a number of motor sports events. As a result motor sports has become a popular sport in the country. We see a lot of motor sports fans participating in these events. Even the events conducted out of Colombo does attract a large number of spectators. The significant feature is that even the common man uses to make it to the venue. There is a strong feeling among the general public that motor sports is damaging the Sri Lankan culture. But I totally disagree with this.

Nilanka Abeywickrema
(Senior Executive Private Bank, Colombo)

I have no direct links with any of the sports events conducted in Sri Lanka. But I have a good following on all the sports events conducted at home and overseas in addition to the performances of these sportsmen and sportswomen. I was born in the rural area, studied in Colombo and currently employed in Colombo. I have a good understanding about the sports events conducted in the rural areas as well as the events conducted in the metropolis. I feel only a handful of individuals are currently involved in motor sports in Sri Lanka. I think the participation in both motor cars and motor cycles is less than 500. I see motor sports as a modelling game competing among the high class society in this country. We see the same spectators participating in these events throughout the country. I doubt whether we get the same international recognition for motor sports in Sri Lanka similar to some of the other sports events. We know in cricket, T20 matches and one day internationals are more popular unlike Test cricket. We cannot see any spectators coming to witness Test matches. Malaysia has withdrawn from Formula One due to the lack of spectator interest in the country. There is a feeling that motor sports is a costly event conducted in Sri Lanka among a selected number of individuals. I feel the organisers are wasting a lot of funds in conducting these events in Sri Lanka. This sport is not entirely suited for a country like Sri Lanka. I can remember some time back there were night races conducted in Colombo and several main roads were closed for a few days. However, there was a huge dislike for this from many individuals and many political and civil organisations. Also there were many who disliked the night races conducted in Kandy as it was a huge damage for the Sri Lankan culture. This a clear indication that the general public is not very much in favour of motor sports in Sri Lanka. We have some talented drivers and riders in the country but there are only a couple of individuals who could compete in international events. There are other sports that need the attention of the state sector. But I think the government funding on motor sports is a real wastage. I would agree with this if the government would be able to earn profit on allocating funds for motor sports. There are other sports in Sri Lanka which need financial backing from the state sector. The government should look into these sports and provide the support. I doubt whether a person involved in a sport will be able to earn the same amount that a cricketer is paid. Motor sports is a modelling sport conducted in Sri Lanka to entertain a select number of individuals at a high cost. This sport has become a little popular in the past because the Sri Lanka Army and Sri Lanka Air Force have come forward to organise few events to support their projects. There is no National Body for motor sports in Sri Lanka. I think there is no point in promoting a sport of this nature.

Mahesh Gammanpila
(President Sri Lanka Association of
Racing Drivers and Riders – SLARDAR)

Among the sports events in Sri Lanka, Motor sports has a long history of over 80 years. The Ceylon Motor Sports Club (CMSC) was established in 1934. The first event of the CMSC was the Mahagastota Hill Climb which was held on September 28, 1934. The second event of the CMSC was the Leangawella Hill Climb which was held on December 23, 1934. I think the sport has maintained its consistency and remained on top from the inception. I can remember U. D. Jinadasa winning the Malaysian Grand Prix event and there were several international drivers who represented the country in the past. We have nine clubs associated with SLARDAR and there are over 300 to 350 members as well. The current standard of motor sports in Sri Lanka is very high. Our motor cross events are almost on par with the internationally recognised rally cross events. We have about 20 major events conducted by the SLARDAR. A majority of these events are conducted by Sri Lanka Army and Sri Lanka Air Force. We do not see many events conducted at club level. We need a huge amount to conduct a motor sports event. A sponsorship is mandatory because the state sector cannot afford to fund such a big amount. Even the riders and drivers need to have their own private sponsors. The private sector has come forward to sponsor these motor racing teams. The night race is a good initiative. This may be new to Sri Lanka but in other countries it is very popular. In fact the Singapore Government has provided part of the sponsorship for their night races. The former Sri Lankan Government and the private sector also backed the night races which were held in Colombo.

Sangeeth Suriyage
(Current Super Motard champion)

As any other young lad just out of school from St. Joseph’s College, Colombo at the age of 18, I wanted to pursue the craze I always had from my childhood to be in an adventure sport and chose motor racing. After testing my skills in go-carting, formula car and motor cycling, I realised my dream sport is Super Motored Racing. Though I started early in my life could not have my first podium win in racing until I reached the age of 22, mainly because my motorcycle was outdated and underperforming. Even now I still use a Honda made in 2006 modified to allowed parameters to maximise the performance of the bike. I have won most of the national events conducted during 2016, and currently I am holding the National record for best timing at the Pannala International Race Track. Like many of the riders in Sri Lanka, I have reached my peak in motor racing by riding a vintage bike. Perhaps due to this I could not perform to the best of my ability. However, I have no doubt that given the right equipment our riders have the skills to show supremacy at international championships particularly in the East Asian block.

Countries like India, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Indonesia have raised their standards in motor racing not by sheer coincidence but by formulating a National Policy, recognising the rider as the main link and empowering him with provisions to perform. It is time that the state shift its direction and make the player the king maker and produce many of the likes of Dilantha Malagamuwa who can bring glory to Sri Lanka.

Major handicap for racing riders is their inability to buy a racing bike in the market with open transfer papers as 99 per cent of machines are imported without legal documents. This is a hot topic in the racing arena. National riders are lamenting that Sport Ministry should take appropriate action to give them duty free permits, so they can source the best bike either modified to their requirement used or new without having to play hide and seek with the authorities and also going behind bars if caught for having in possession bikes without valid documents. It is sad that a rider who has come to the rank of elite national and who can bring fame to Sri Lanka, locally and internationally has to still undergo this misfortune of running behind machines imported in parts and putting together to make it a bike, good for competition. When Members of Parliament and even LG Members are given duty free permits to import fancy luxury vehicles who in return has not brought any glory to the country other than enjoying privileges compared to riders who are in a do-or-die battle it when comes to motor racing are in fact risking their life for the sport they love. The Minister of Sports whose positive approach on burning issues have made it clear to his staff that all sports must be supported by harnessing proper equipment and it is clearly spelled out in the Sports Act such equipment can be imported to the country duty free, if the allied sport federation has recommended such equipment required for the sport person to excel. The racing bikes of repute, are very expensive and duty paid price is in the range of Rs. 3 million (used) to Rs. 6 million (new) and the poor riders have to go from pillar to post which is another huge task for them as hardly sponsors come forward to sponsor riders but pump millions to sponsor events. As a sportsman are we recognised enough and to be given the basic needs to sustain the sport, leaving aside the monetary benefits. We spend big amount to compete in an event, and eventually have to be content with a trophy and a certificate as prize money. The National Body is doing their bit to uplift the sport of motor racing. Let there be a more liberal approach on the sourcing of sports goods especially for elite sportsmen and women in this country. The hue and cry to develop sports in this country is going to be a day dream if these sports are not provided with professional equipment. I appeal to the Minister of Sports to harness our promising sportsmen and women with proper sports gear and the state has a duty and responsibility to do so.


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