Rizvi Farouk and Shafraz Junaid provided a packed crowd of racing enthusiasts in Kantale a spectacular display of Rally driving as the team mates battled it all the way till the end to help EZY Racing dominate undoubtedly the toughest rally to date, organised by the rally specialists Ceylon Motor Sports Club (CMSC) along with the MRA.
Experienced Farouk, co-driven by 21-year-old Jamal Hussain (who flew from Malaysia especially for the rally) were made to fight hard after conceding close to a two minute lead to championship contender, rally leader and team mate Shafraz Junaid at the completion of the first three stages on day one.
The dawn of day two saw a hungry and aggressive Rizvi Farouk in full throttle, driving superbly to win all four stages held. Rizvi flew through the Kantale roads to shave 45 seconds per stage in three consecutive stages to take the lead in his EZY Subaru STI 8 over the then rally leader Shafraz Junaid in his EZY Subaru WRX.
“It is great to get back into the winning ways. At Pelwatte (first Rally in February) I was disappointed that I had to retire from the rally after winning the first stage. So on the first day over here I didn’t want to push the car and put ourselves in a situation similar to what we faced before. Although we were placed third on the first day, we knew our car was working very well and that we could push it further on day two. I should say we didn’t expect to win all the stages though and this wouldn’t have been a possibility without the outstanding navigation of Jamal,” said a jubilant Rizvi after the rally.
After the race, Rizvi dedicated the result to the team: “I want to thank the whole team for all their hard work. This result is the start of the reward for our efforts. It’s a fantastic result to not only win the Rally but have a 1,2 finish for the team. It’s a great feeling to be back up on the championship hunt again and this is a great end to a strong weekend for us. We’re not quite where we want to be yet, we need to do some necessary upgrades in order to push on but I’m confident that we’ll get there soon. However, we had a perfect weekend with both me and Shafraz (Junaid) finishing first and second and the team getting a maximum of 18 points to extend our lead by 16 points from our competitors.”
Although Rizvi was assured of winning the race at the start of the final stage with a 40 second lead over Junaid, he was given a close battle by Junaid all the way till the end. Shafraz Junaid, co driven by namesake Shafraz Hamadeen, undoubtedly drove one of his best rally racer’s in his career and was leading the pack at the end of day one with a blistering run through the Soggy Kantale tracks in fading light, on stage 3.
“Both Shafraz and I were quite determined to have a strong start to the rally, and winning the first stage provided us the perfect platform for our championship challenge. Unfortunately, a herd cows on the road and some circumspect driving in stage two put us way down to eighth place. The third stage was the best I have driven so far. I was pushed beyond limits by Shafraz (Hamzadeen) that at one point I thought the car would actually take off. We were so fast that we were almost two minutes ahead of anyone else in that stage and it helped us regain the lead at the end of day one,” commented Junaid on his first day’s performance
“Starting the final day, I knew the route suited the other cars much better primarily because our car had much less power compared to the rest. We did our best and we are extremely happy about the result we have. We are currently leading the championship with two more rallies to go and I believe we are on the right track in competing strongly for the championship. I am very happy for the team and specially for Rizvi (Farouk) for that outstanding come back to win the rally on day two .He drove fantastically and richly deserves the victory,” said Shafraz on the outcome of the rally.
Sri Lanka’s only computer manufacturer EZY, which decided to enter motor racing in 2009, formed a professional motor racing company early this year in a five-year bid to make EZY Motor Racing Corporation the leading motor racing company Sri Lanka. Ever since the launch of its brand EZY Racing, the team has without doubt been the most successful team in the current Sri Lankan racing arena.
Commenting on his team’s performance CEO, EZY Holdings, Shafraz Hamzadeen (who also is the co-driver for Shafraz Junaid), stated: “Today is the true result of all the hard work our team has underdone for the last few months. In the past we have always fought it out to make the best out of the circumstances that were presented to us and our drivers have always overcome those challenges successfully.”
“Today, we lead the rally from the front, we had a strategy, the team stuck to it and most importantly both our driver were successful in taking the cars home without breaking them down in spite of the tough most conditions that were presented. The fact that EZY Racing won six out of the seven stages that were held and the fact the only four cars were able to complete this grueling rally and ours were two of them, is a true indication of how strong we are as a team.”
Hamzadeen further said: “We knew we would have a strong rally if were able to get a decent start. The modern day rallying needs much more than engine power. It needs brains, strategy, support and most importantly fitness and mental toughness. Our drivers are trained in these aspects. Our recent programs with our drivers in building stamina, fitness and focus were clearly evident in the style of driving exhibited by Rizvi and Shafraz.”
“Although our cars weren’t the most powerful, we knew it was reliable. In the past, as well as in this particular rally we saw many cars that were superfast but couldn’t complete more than half the rally with reliability issues. We have always focused on car reliability and this is where our mechanical partners have played a key role. I wish to thank our mechanical partners, Senok for the relentless efforts they have put in to making a reliable car for us.”
Hamzadeen further went on to state that they were indeed grateful to the organisers of this event for their relentless efforts in organising a rally of this magnitude for the first time in seven years in Kantale. “We strongly believe that rallying is the way forward in motorsports in Sri Lanka. Rallying takes us to where the crowd is, rather than asking them to come to where the races are (in a Sri Lankan context, this hasn’t worked). Therefore, this provides great entertainment to the village people and great exposure to our sponsors and partners.”
EZY Racing is currently leading both the team championship as well as the drivers’ championship with two more rallies to be completed.
When questioned if his team would have an easy drive to the championship, Hamzadeen stated: “In motor racing, it’s never easy. You need to work hard and earn your wins. Anything can happen, and what happened last year is a testimony to this. Rizvi won the championship from Dinesh Deheragoda because Shafraz Junaid beat Dinesh in the final stage of the last rally of the year. Today we were fortunate that our drivers were able to take care of their cars and see it through to then end while challenging the others.”
“Our competitors are all great drivers. They will prepare themselves and come back strongly in the coming rallies. Therefore it is critical that we continue in our stride to improve on this performance and keep pushing till the end. As for the championship, it’s still a long way to go. We intend on taking one stage at a time and one rally at a time.”