Why Racing? What made you fall in love with the sport?
Actually when I was about 6 or 7 years old I could ride and drive, so I always had a passion for cars and bikes but never had an idea of racing. That was until at 14, I watched a Hollywood movie called Silver Dream Machine starring the famous singer David Essex. It was a movie about how a racing champion worked hard to become one but died soon after crossing the finish line. After watching this movie I thought that this was really cool and that I should become a racing driver and world champion. This movie was my inspiration.
When did you first start racing?
I started racing when I was 16. It was a motorcycle race, which I won. Actually my parents were against it and didn’t know I was racing, so after I won my first race, my two sisters who were my best supporters convinced my father to buy me the best bike available in Sri Lanka at the time, which was a TZ350. This was the bike I used in my next race in Kurunegala, and was a big step for me going from a 50cc to 350cc bike. In the first race at Kurunegala I finished third, beating many champions. Back then you had to push the bike to start it, and I was very thin at the time, so in the second race I was unable to start the bike until everyone else had already completed about half a lap. Despite starting last I fought my way up to second and was about to overtake the first guy in a corner, but it was too fast and I fell and broke my leg. Then my father said ‘No more Racing’.
How did you get your first break in the international circuit?
I ignored my father’s ban and continued to sneak out to fix my bike and race here and there. Then in 1983, when I was 19, I saw an advertisement in the papers inviting riders from all over the world for an event in India, so I applied to the local federation in Sri Lanka, who refused me. I then sent my request direct to the Madras Motorsports Club who said as they have only invited two riders from Sri Lanka who had already been appointed by the local governing body, I could come at my own expense as a private entry, which I did. Unfortunately the Sri Lankan officials at the meet refused to allow me to race as a private entry. I was in tears when Mr. Amarisiri who is the father of ‘Duminda Bodyworks’ told me not to worry and took me to the next race in Calcutta a week later. This was my first international race and I finished in sixth place.
Do you see potential in any young Sri Lankan drivers to reach the top? If so who?
Of course, there are some very good drivers in Sri Lanka. One of the best drivers is Ashan (Silva). Recently I have seen some young drivers like Kyle Crosland and David Pieris’ son who are very good. You know there are many but the problem is they give up halfway through. They have to live with it, let racing be everything in their life as that is the only way they will reach the top. There are many with talent but few with the required determination.
Is there infrastructure in place for a Sri Lankan with the required skill and talent to reach the very top of Motorsports while based in Sri Lanka?
No. No way, you have to leave the country. The standard of racing here is far from what is required at the international level. When coming from Sri Lanka it will take a driver 4-5 years of racing abroad to reach international standards. The problem here is all the top drivers are in their comfort zone, winning all the races they enter. They need to step out of that comfort zone and spend a lot of time, money and effort if they want to succeed.
How would you re-structure the current system to help skilled drivers achieve the success their talent deserves?
Firstly we need to have a proper circuit and proper racing events. I always tell them that you have to run at least 30 lap races, not the 5 or 6 laps that they do now. Even if it’s in lower classes, this is important, as when your tyres start to run out you learn to control it while building up endurance levels.
It fills all Sri Lankans with pride when we watch you driving your Lamborghini with our National Flag as a decal on your car. You are also regularly seen waving the national flag after a victory. What is it that you love so much about Sri Lanka?
Everything! Most Sri Lankans are very patriotic and passionate people, and I have received immense support from my Sri Lankan fan base, they constantly express their pride whenever I do well. This support makes me want to do better and bring more glory to my country.