Deheragoda finishes 2nd in China debut for EZY Racing
Tuesday, 11 November 2014 00:28
Leapfrogs to 3rd place in Asia Cup Championship standings
LONGYOU, CHINA: Champion Sri Lankan driver Dinesh Deheragoda who made a strong start to his debut in the Chinese Rally on Friday by finishing 3rd after the 1st day’s Super Special Stage, went on to complete a tough outing where he successfully overcame the gruelling conditions to secure 2nd place through the narrow and unforgiving roads of Longyou, where many competitors fell victim to the tough rally conditions, in the Chinese Leg of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship (APRC).
Deheragoda, representing the country’s Premier Motor Racing Team, EZY Racing, driving his ER88 displayed his best performance to date since making his APRC debut in Malaysia three months back.
Deheragoda entered the Chinese Rally lying 6th in the Asia Cup Standings behind Championship Leader and multiple Asia Cup winner from Japan Yuya Sumiyama, Chinese Driver Jun Xu, Indian Drivers Sanjay Takale, Defending APRC Champion Gaurav Gil and Japanese driver Tomohide Hasagawa after collecting a total of 27 points in his previous two outings in Malaysia and Japan respectively.
“We knew that we had an opportunity to gain some valuable points and leap frog a couple of positions if we could be consistent. We therefore further strengthened our support crew for this Rally and got some major upgrades done to the car. This helped us tremendously in during stage 1, where we could have definitely been more competitive if not for a mistake from my side at the start,” said a jubilant Deheragoda.
The Chinese Rally, which is traditionally known for its unforgiving nature, was at its most gruelling on Saturday, where six stages took place under wet weather conditions. The APRC Chinese Leg which was held jointly with the Chinese International Rally, which saw the presence of some well-known WRC (World Rally Championship) drivers, had a record number of competitors exceeding well over a 100.
The EZY Racing driver got off to a strong start on day 2 before experiencing visibility issues due to foggy conditions. With the Rally becoming extremely tricky, stage 3 and 4 saw many competitors prematurely exiting the rally with their cars being the victim of the extreme conditions.
Deheragoda who was gaining confidence throughout managed to manoeuvre the ER88 safely without facing many problems to the first service park at mid day. The second half of the first stage was not so smooth, as Australian Mark Pedder competing in a Mitsubishi Evolution X and MRF Skoda team’s defending champion Gaurav Gill both fell victim in the same spot during an even tougher stage 6, where their cars went into a broken culvert in an eroded patch on the road.
The Dubai-based Interactive Group powered Team EZY Racing, who by now was 3rd at this stage, managed to elevate itself to 2nd position due to the retirement of the defending APRC champion.
“We faced a peculiar issue with the car where we started losing power during the final stage on day 2. It’s tough to diagnose complicated issues within the stipulated 30 minutes of service park. Given that we were strongly positioned in the Asia Cup, we were prepared for a more composed approach for Day 3 where our objective was to end the Rally,” said Shafraz Hamzadeen, Founder/CEO of EZY Racing on his team’s performance on the second day of the Rally.
With a dry final day on the cards and the pecking order expected to stay the same, Deheragoda cruised the ER88 to the end to secure his first podium position in just his 3rd race in Asia Pacific’s leading motor racing championship. “We knew that there was little to gain and more to lose by pushing on the final day. We therefore decided to drive the car home and secure our position on the podium,” said Deheragoda after the final stage.
Deheragoda rated the rally as the most dangerous he had ever driven in his racing career of more than 17 years. “Definitely, I would rate this easily as the most dangerous and difficult rally by far, compared to all the rallies I have taken part in. I haven’t come across a rally that had so many cars retiring due to the tough nature of the rally. We realized that this rally was all about survival and had to dig very deep to manage the right balance between aggression and precaution,” said the champion driver.
“Rally is about endurance. It’s about your ability to pace yourself through. We always knew that we didn’t have the power to go head on up there. Therefore we were willing to play the endurance game. The 2nd place finish today gives us a lot of satisfaction because of this. I am happy about two things today. First is that we were able to finish the rally, without any major drawbacks and secure our first podium finish internationally. Second is that we have been able to come up to 2nd position in the overall Asia Cup standings with just one more round to go in Thailand in which we have a decent opportunity to finish as Runner Up in the Asia Cup. It is a noteworthy achievement and I think is a big moment for Motor Sports in Sri Lanka,” Deheragoda said proudly.
Team Founder Hamzadeen who was elated with his team’s performance stated that this achievement was purely due to the commitment and attitude of his Champion driver and his Co-Driver. “Dinesh (Deheragoda) always sets high standards for himself. His commitment to the team has at times driven us to push boundaries.”
Commenting further on his team’s first podium finish in their debut year, Hamzadeen said: “This definitely came as a surprise to us. Given the limitations we have when with the advantages of the top running teams who have competed at this level for over a decade, our strategy has always been to focus on the basics and believe the results will come on its own. Today’s results stood a true testimony to this. Given the limitations we are well aware that we cannot go head on with teams like MRF and Cusco. Therefore our strategy has always been to be competitive and go the distance. If we are fortunate, then through consistency we can move up the order.
This is precisely what took place in China. We know that we have a long way to go and we are clear that we will not let this unexpected pleasant surprise deviate our focus.”
EZY Racing which entered Rally China as a clear underdog finds itself in an extraordinary position following China’s performance where it has leapfrogged four championship positions to finish in a strong 2nd place in the Asia Cup Championship, a single point ahead of Chinese Driver Jun Xu (56 points) and the Championship leader and winner Sumiyama.
“Thailand provides us a unique proposition. If we are able to finish on the podium, there is a good possibility that we could hold on to our current ranking and finish 2nd in the Asia Cup Championship. We will be going all out in Thailand to give our absolute best to achieve this feat which would be a pleasant bonus for us on our very first year in International Rally Racing,” said Hamzadeen.