Ashan Silva & Irfan Fuard, in a Mitsubishi Lancer Evolution IX dominated the cars category at the Northern Speed Rally 2019, held in the Jaffna peninsula last weekend – March 22nd, 23rd & 24th.
The longtime driver & co-driver painting beat another experienced duo, Shafraz Junaid & Akhry Ameer, in a Subaru Impreza, into second place. Sri Lanka Army rider Sameera Premaratne on a Yamaha WRF250 won the bikes event from 14-year old 125 cc KTM rider DMD Kalhara. This historic meet was the first-ever national motorsport event held in the Jaffna peninsula.
Multiple-time national racing champion Silva, who curiously had never won a national rally overall despite starring in several past rallies in a lower-powered Honda, set a scorching pace and was never headed in the overall classification after winning the very first stage of the rally by a narrow 22 thousands of a second from fellow Lancer Evolution driver Ishraq Wahab (co-driven by brother Zaakir Wahab).
That first stage, a historic night-time Spectator Super Special (never before run at a rally in Sri Lanka) that ran on the streets of the city of Jaffna around the Service Park followed a colorful opening ceremony and ceremonial start presided over by the Mayor of Jaffna & several military brass.
Once the rally moved from Jaffna to the fast and flowing stages in the Chundikulam area, Ishraq Wahab’s challenge fell away due to technical issues (retiring permanently after SS3) but Silva saw close competition from Junaid and another Lancer Evolution driver, Yasith Gamage (co-driven by Dakshina Amarasinghe), winner of SS4, beating Silva by 32 seconds.
However, by the end of the rally Silva had established a commanding lead of 5 minutes and 30 seconds to Junaid and almost 12 minutes to Gamage, who finished 4th overall after booking a 5-minute penalty for failing to start SS1 on account of engine trouble. In fact so great was Silva’s pace that despite the sizeable and growing lead, he continued to push hard and on SS9, the second running of the Villu Reverse stage, he set a scarcely believable average speed of 111 KMPH, a new Sri Lankan record for single-stage average speeds
With the winner setting an overall average speed of 99.67 KMPH, experienced Asia Pacific Rally Championship and Indian Rally Championship campaigner and event runner-up Junaid called it the fastest rally he has ever run anywhere in the world. Several drivers commented on the smooth nature of the roads, and the low rate of attrition (only one non-finisher) was a testament to the quality of the stages.
In 3rd overall were one of the star performers of the weekend, rallying debutants Nishantha Senadeera & Roshitha Aluthwala, in an unfancied SLH-class Honda Civic. Senadeera’s spectactular driving saw them beat faster SLGT cars on 3 of the 9 completed stages, and running close on several others. 5th overall and first home in the SLS class were Nigel Perera & Umar Farouk in another Civic, after a quiet but consistent run that promised more after setting the third-fastest overall time on SS1.
Trucks & Jeeps class winners Javidh Wahab & Rizmin Razik were unfortunate to finish out of the top 5 after showing great pace the whole rally, as a crash on SS9 put paid to their chances, but Wahab’s team was able to get the Mitsubishi Pajero Evolution out for the final stage – despite the time-loss and penalty, they still won the very competitive T&J class by almost a minute from husband and wife duo Buddhi & Kumudika Gunasekera in a Toyota Hilux.
Another debutant, Amjad Rizvi (Nissan Pickup), co-driven by Azaad Ziafuddin, finished 3rd in class after a close rally-long battle with the Gunasekeras. Yakub Ariff & Bashry Hilmy (Toyota Starlet, SLS) were awarded the prestigious Tony Tranchell Spirit Of The Rally Award for their efforts in continuing and finishing the rally after missing 3 stages and overcoming numerous challenges.
The bikes category also saw several strong performances, with the event won by Sri Lanka Army rider Premaratne, who overcame technical problems with his Yamaha to beat Kalhara by just under a minute in the overall standings. KR Kumarasekaka, HBCI Samaranayake and SAYA Perera from the STF, riding Yamaha XT250s rounded out positions 3 to 5. Jaffna local Sri Ram, on debut on a 250 cc Honda Baja also completed the rally.
Following a longstanding tradition of assisting local communities near rallies held by the organizing club, a charitable donation to 150 local school children was made on behalf of several well-wishers, with a presentation ceremony held at St. Anthony’s Church in Vettilaikerny, Mulliyan, near where the stages ran.
The event was organized by the Motor Racing Association in conjunction with the Sri Lanka Army Motorsports Club, and promoted by the Jaffna Motorsports Club. For further details contact Joint-Secretary of the meet, Kalim Iqbal, on 0773219958.