10th October 1999

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MRA - Clear vision for Motor Sports

Richard de Zoysa, the legendary rally wizard who recently with the dedicated efforts of a few racing drivers founded the Motor Racing Association of Sri Lanka speaks exclusively to The Sunday Times of what the future holds for motor sports in Sri Lanka.

De Zoysa, Local Rally Champion in 95/96 has rallied in Kenya and was privileged to be invited to participate in the 555 Safari Rally and the Caltex Equator Rally.

Gone were the days that the neighbouring countries treated Sri Lanka as a venue to pit their wits on the track amongst the local two wheelers and four wheelers.

Since, vast strides have been taken by India and in more recent times in Malaysia to have racing tracks of their own, made to international standards. India has a fascinating race track, Malaysia is hosting a Formula I Grand Prix next weekend while Sri Lanka is staggering behind going around in circles at Katukurunda without taking meaningful steps to unite the administrators of the sports, gather all their resources and make decisive steps to lay out an international standard track; thus paving the way for Sri Lanka being a racing destination in the Asian region.

In the recent past, the atmosphere revolved around bickering amongst the clubs, constant dissent against the governing body of the sport, leaving the Minister of Sports no alternative but to dissolve the SLAMS (Sri Lanka Association of Motor Sports) and forming an Interim Body to administer this scintillating sport. This was also the time that De Zoysa and a few key racing personalities decided to found the Motor Racing Association of Sri Lanka.

In this short period of time a dynamic committee presided by ace driver Bri Ponnambalam has signed up with Caltex Lubricants to sponsor an All-Island Gokart and Prokart Championship which resurrected the sport after a lapse of many years. It is of interest to mention that top racing drivers develop their talent by first competing in Gokarts. BRI has Ravi Iddamalgoda as the hard working Secretary and Noel Selvanayagam with his commercial flair as Treasurer together with a closely-knit working committee. They have projected a calendar of events until December 2000.

November 13th and 14th will see the fastest and incredibly challenging hill climb; the St. James Hill Climb being revived at Bandarawela after 45 years. The first race meet for the new millennium will be held at Katukurunda. On the 29th and 30th January to be run on a novel format. A rally plotted to FIA standard will be scheduled in August 2000. Richard is confident that this rally will be amongst the most demanding events in world rallying as Sri Lanka has diverse terrain which can be run in separate competitive stages.12 rounds of Gokarting and Prokarting are listed together with a Supercross at Thalduwa.

The MRA intends changing the entire concept of organising events by delegating the marketing and publicity aspects to professionals.

De Zoysa is firmly of the opinion that the motor sports received a shot in the arm after the Interim Body took to progressing the sport with top calibre meets organised by SLARDAR at Anuradhapura and a Mihintale road race organised by a dynamic Anuradhapura Motor Sports Club and Upcountry Motor Sports Club. Incidentally, this was a meet that was not given approval by the former SLAMS. The Interim Body has displayed top administrative skills by utilising dormant funds allotted by the Ministry of Sports and also taken the initiative to inspire top performing racing drivers with the bonus of being issued with duty free permits to bring down their Race or Rally vehicles with accessories.

There is absolutely no doubt that motor sport is being steered in the correct direction and it is hoped that the foundation is laid to have our own racing track. This can be easily achieved by the Finance Ministry giving a tax exemption on contributions by leading private sector companies and with the assistance of the Ministry of Sports. The racing destination can easily be situated out of Colombo where spectator participation is phenomenal as in comparsion to a poorly attended meet at Katukurunda. Richard is overwhelmed by the confidence shown by the general membership of the MRA and the unstinted support received by Caltex Lubricants Limited which will no doubt escalate the sport towards new frontiers and he also fervently hopes that initiatives taken by the association will nuture greater understanding and unity amongst all the clubs.

Rover pinpoints ....

Taking stock

The Minister of Youth Affairs and Sports was quoted about Sri Lanka's debacle at the 8th SAF Games except in athletics. "Officials only get elected to world bodies but no progess has been made in certain sports".

His remedy was to dissolve such bodies and appoint Interim Boards hopefully with his favourites and yes men. What a wonderful idea indeed. Less trouble for him.

Promote Matara?

Leading cricketers of repute who had done the country proud were of the opinion that more Test matches should be played at the Uyanwatta Stadium and not at Galle. Reasons being, that the Galle Stadium is at sea level and not at road level - hence play has a tendency to be restricted due to heavy rain and winds. How true is this?

Believe this?

A leading sports body is being queried by the Sports Ministry about the alleged mishandling of their accounts - especially the one lakh used as expenses in conducting just a single tournament which many past stalwarts say would have been in the region of rupees twenty-five to thirty thousand the most?

Shame, Shame

A groundboy of a leading club in Colombo was overlooked from offering his services to the Australian cricketers. Steve Waugh was told about this and the Australian skipper was shocked how people could stoop so low. Rover understands that two people are responsible for this. Even a groundboy is not spared by them! How sad!

Not Done

A certan official of a leading sports body has made a request that he should be paid for being a referee as well as chairman for a tournament held by a hotel. He has made this requst on the letter head of the Association. This official has even sent a letter, with the Associations letter head, requesting for a Airways Tee shirt, to be added to his collection.

Brain-washing reporters

An official of the Cricket Board, known for his cussedness towards the media, had this time wanted to brain-wash the Australian media into making them believe that the present set of administrators are not suitable to run the affairs of the game. But what he never realised was that although some "pocket journalists" in Sri Lanka plug him, reporters from the Australian media were not the kind ready to believe his "bullshit". For one of them inquired from a highly regarded local journalist on the credentials of this Board official. The Australian media was then enlightened in the end. One of them had a hearty laugh.

This is basketball

Sri Lanka Basketball Federation sent their national team to Malaysia on a pleasure trip and play in a tournament with club teams from Far Eastern Countries.

Believe it on not, our national team lost all matches except one against a club team from a remote area from China. If our national team cannot win matches against club teams - what is our standard in Asia? Is it worth sending teams on foreign trips? What was the total cost of the tour? Who contributed the money for this tour?

Rugby in Sri Lanka

Are we on the correct path?

By Bernie Wijesekera

The Chairman of the Selection Committee, National coach and the Rugby Union have patted themselves on the backs after our recent victories over newcomers to rugby China and N.E. Territories from Darwin. Well, considering the poor quality of the opposition - China being the weakest team in Asia, having played international rugby for only two years our administrators seem to have set a very low standards for themselves for the team.

Last year, Sri Lanka beat N.E. Territories by over 40 points in Darwin, lost to Singapore, a few weeks later to S'pore in the Asiad.

Since Singapore has withdrawn from the Quadrangular, to be held in Malaysia, next week. Sri Lanka look assured of retaining the title. The other two teams, Thailand and Malaysia, considered to be minnows of Asian rugby, being placed seventh and eighth, at the last Asiad. The hierarchy is bound to make a lot of noise - boasting of, how good our rugby standard is, no doubt we should be happy about although it may sound rather awkward for people in some quarters. The truth is that we will be still rated as 6th in Asia (out of nine teams). Facts are stubborn!

If the Union, is quite serious about improving our rugby level apart from implementing a comprehensive development programme which will provide results in four to five years - then our team must be exposed to better opposition.

That, too to confront them on a regular basis, play against Taiwan, S. Korea and Hong Kong, etc. We should not be afraid to lose. If you don't lose then you don't know how to win. This is the candid opinion among some diehard and knowledgeable students of the game.

This is the only way that our rugby could reach higher echelons in the Asian league. Past is memory, but it did happen during the period - 1985 to '91, the Lankan team, regularly played against Taiwan, and Hong Kong and against top teams such as Papua New Guinea, Lautoka (provincial champions of Fiji) and Warringah (the top club team, in New South Wales at that time). This gave our players stiff opposition to toughen themselves, unlike at present.

The administration at that time set high standards for the local team. The team still performed creditably, at the 1990 Asiad when we beat Taiwan and lost narrowly to H.K. (15-21) and the ultimate champs S. Korea (16-21). This atrributes to our playing against top teams.

Sri Lanka has not beaten Taiwan since then and have lost to H.K. S. Korea by over 80-90 points in the recent past. The team selected for next week's tournament in Malaysia, probably a weak team to represent the country. According to knowledgeable circles, it was picked probably by a very weak selection committee, where the majority of them have no clue of modern day rugby and do not seem to have a knowledge about the current players. What is worse, that they do not possess any logic or principles, they added. According to these sources that good players do not necessarily mean that they are good coaches, or selectors. However a good coach could turn out to be a knowledgeable selector. It is time that the selection committee is pruned down to three, with the National coach being one of them. Whilst the other two being coaches of proven track records. It's not difficult to find them, the same source added. For some reasons or other, due to injuries or otherwise, some of our past rugby players are not representing our country at the moment. Viraj Prasantha, H. Gabriel, Shanitha Fernando, Charya de Saram, Duminda de Silva, Kapila Silva, N. Wijegunawardena, Champika Nishantha, A. Rodrigo, K. Musafer, Anura Dhammika, (all from CR and FC), Indrajit Bandaranayake, Nalaka Weerakkody, Haris Omar - Kandy's best three players, who contributed much for their success story, Jude Dimithri, Nazim Mohamed (CH and FC), Army's Kapila Knowlton are certainly better than some of those picked for the tour. No one is indispensable. Apparently something is going wrong with the system!Certainly this beautiful game called rugby it seems, is not on the right track, but being typical Sri Lankans, who cares?

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