Wins Sevanagala Rally and the Championship with one more rally to go
EZY Racing driver Shafraz Junaid was crowned the new Rally Champion of Sri Lanka when he outstripped all his rivals and won the Sevanagala Rally and the Championship organized jointly by the MRA and CMSC by driving his car outstandingly well for 22kms in the final stage of the day with a heated radiator and a leaking gasket.
Shafaz Junaid and co driver Shafraz Hamzadeen who are also known as Shafraz & Shafraz, entered the rally leading the championship from EZY Racing teammate and defending champion Rizvi Farouk.
The Rally started off at a hectic pace with Rizvi in his EZY Subaru STI VIII (ER9) setting the fastest timing in Stage 1 closely followed by Ashan Silva in his Honda SIR and Shafraz Junaid in his EZY Subaru STI 3 (ER3). Stage 2 saw a charged up Shafraz chasing the ever flying Ashan Silva in a battle where the latter won by a meager 2 seconds. Rizvi who experienced mechanical issues still managed to finish the stage placed 3rd, 8 seconds behind Junaid. With Rizvi getting stuck in the muddy sugar plantation and Riyaz Farook catching up on Shafraz Junaid, day one ended with Ashan Silva having a clear lead over Junaid and Riyaz Farook catching him up.
On day 2,with the commencement of Stage 4, Ashan Silva yet again was the pace setter with Riyaz Farouk trying his best to catch up with Junaid who experienced issues in the intercooler and had to drive the car heavily underpowered. Stage 5 saw Rizvi, who till then had experienced a variety of mechanical issues showing his prowess by winning Stage 5, 30 seconds clear of a fighting Javed Wahab. Shafraz finished the stage with the third fastest time ahead of Riyaz Farouk, while a driving error from Ashan saw him not finishing that stage due to a double puncture and this provided Shafraz Junaid with the overall Rally lead.
“We have always believed that consistency is the key in rallying. When we prepare ourselves for a rally, we concentrate hard on pacing ourselves right so that we don’t overdo it during the rally. In Sevenagala we stuck to the same game plan. We always wanted to be amongst the top 3 fastest timings in every stage. Barring a couple of stages we were always there. We knew that what’s most important is winning the war and not the battle which means what matters in a rally is the final result and not the stage result” said Junaid
With two more stages to go and Ashan Silva and Riyaz Farook in hot pursuit of rally leader Junaid, he was forced to up his pace. “In Kantale we could have won the rally if we had not eased off on the second stage. With two more stages to go and a clear three minute lead over the others, both myself and Shafraz (Hamzadeen) didn’t want to relax. We wanted to push as hard as we could without breaking the car, and Stage 6 saw us performing quite decently to finish second with a clear three minute lead over Ashan. However just before we started the final stage we realized that I had run the previous stage with a heated radiator and that my gasket needed replacement. Since we didn’t have the time our mechanical partners Auto Force did an outstanding job to provide us a car which we were able to successfully nurse all the way through the 22km’s to win” said Junaid.
After the race an elated Junaid went on to say “ I am speechless. This is my first national championship and that too with one more rally to go is an awesome feeling. I just don’t have words to express my happiness. Every driver dreams of this moment and to know that I was able to do it in only my second full season of rallying is a phenomenal feeling. I want to thank everyone in my team for the outstanding support they have given me, especially the guys at Auto Force and Senok for a wonderful effort in providing me with a flawless car. I also want to thank Sri Lanka’s only computer manufacturer EZY, who decided to enter motor racing in 2009 and formed a professional motor racing company early this year with a promise to make EZY Motor Racing Corporation the leading motor racing company Sri Lanka in a space of 5 years”.
Ever since the launch of their team 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 Chief Executive, EZY Holdings, Shafraz Hamzadeen (who also is the co-driver for Shafraz Junaid), stated “ It’s a unbelievable outcome. The first time he won a rally is the rally where he won his first championship as well. What better way to win a championship. Shafraz (Junaid) has been consistently competitive this season. He has come a long way in his driving and has without doubt proved himself to be a top racing driver. The fact that EZY Racing drivers have won the Rally championship for two consecutive years (Rizvi Farouk in 2009) goes to prove that we are the strongest racing team currently in the arena. We have always believed that we have the best drivers and Shafraz (Junaid) winning this year has without doubt proved it. He has had his tough times during different stages this season, but he’s never lost his focus. It’s down to what he’s done on the rally route and the whole team is hugely proud of what he’s achieved today. It’s been a very very big week for us”
EZY Racing, are currently leading both the team championship as well as the drivers’ championship with just one more rally to be completed.