By Malik Gunatilleke
EZY Racing’s international driver Dinesh Deheragoda was ranked second in Asia at the Asia Cup Rally, a part of this year’s Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC). Both EZY Racing and Deheragoda were competing in their first complete season in an FIA Championship.
After dominating the domestic rally circuits, EZY Racing, earlier this year decided to venture into international racing. Bringing together two of the country’s best drivers – 15-time Sri Lankan Champion Dinesh Deheragoda and Shafraz Junaid, EZY was able to set up a team to compete in races held in Malaysia, Japan and China.
Speaking at a press event held on Wednesday in Colombo, Deheragoda stated that the conditions and standards he faced on these foreign circuits were very different to Sri Lanka and that it was not easy to adjust to it initially.
In Malaysia, Deheragoda only managed to finish in sixth position after battling mechanical and physical problems. Extreme weather conditions in Japan also proved to be a stern test for the driver while his ailing car ensured that he only managed fifth place.
The EZY team was also up against seasoned teams and drivers. Deheragoda explained that the other teams had an abundance of data having run these circuits each year for decades. His initial objective was merely to finish the race.
“In Malaysia, we weren’t sure what to expect. For us, it was tough because we had to run blindly with the attitude of learning on the drive,” he stated.
The team were however able to learn from their mistakes and were better prepared for the race in China.
“The first couple of races were tough but through it all we gained invaluable experience which helped us prepare for the next race. The amount of experience and knowledge we gathered during these races was unbelievable,” he said.
Coming into the race in China with all this knowledge, Deheragoda was able to secure his first podium finish, catapulting himself from fifth place in the ranking up to rank two among the eight Asia Cup drivers. Junaid also finished the season as the second-ranked co-driver in Asia. With the race in Thailand being cancelled, Deheragoda was able to wrap up a very successful first season in international racing.
“It was a fabulous feeling to take part. Finishing second was a little more than I expected. We will strive to do better next time and hopefully I’ll be here next year celebrating a championship win,” he added.
Founder and CEO of EZY Corporation and Team Principal of EZY Racing Shafraz Hamzadeen was excited by his team’s performance in its inaugural attempt at international racing. Mapping the road to this achievement, he claimed that the team’s vision and dedication was rewarded in China as they strive to be the most consistent team in the championship.
“As a team we were united. With only 5-10% of the budget that other teams had we managed to achieve great things. We also learnt a tremendous amount during this time. Our initial objective was to finish all the races, but to be ranked second is unbelievable,” he stated.
Hamzadeen went on to explain that most other teams had enough funds to replace their vehicles after each race while the EZY team had to be careful not to burden the vehicle too much. This meant that Deheragoda had to constantly measure his pace in order to keep the car in decent competitive condition for the next race.
Also speaking at the event, FIA Coordinator – Asian Zone Niroshan Pereira stated that EZY has made its mark overseas as a force to be reckoned with while he also pledged his support to the EZY team in its future endeavours.
EZY Racing and Deheragoda have set their sights on an even better performance in next year’s chapter of the championship with dreams of emerging as champions in only their second attempt.
Pix by Sameera Wijesinghe