Ishan Dasanayake, who became the National Motorcycle Champion in 2016, could be considered as one of the best riders to emerge from Sri Lanka in the recent times.
Dasanayake, who has claimed the Best Rider’s award at all major motorcross events in the country, also has made the country proud by showing his prowess at international events.
However, during the latter part of 2019, the aspiring rider was out of action due to an injury and motorsports lovers missed his daredevil acts on the track.
Here, Dasanayake speaks to ‘Motor sports Network’ to reveal what caused his brief break from the motor-racing events and on many other areas.
Q: Why was you not seen on the track during the recent times?
A: To clearly answer the question, I was lack of a sponsor. India’s TVS Motorbikes was my main sponsor, but after Easter Sunday terrorist attacks last year, they pulled out from racing activities in Sri Lankan. It’s really hard to compete without a proper sponsor here in our country, as there is a huge cost involved in motorsports. So, reluctantly, I decided to take a break until I find a suitable sponsor.
Q: Does that mean that if a sponsor does not come forward, you will not make a return?
A: Not really. I love motorsports and because of that I have already made a decision to compete at events held in my hometown, Kurunegala even there is no sponsor.
Q: Haven’t you attempted to find any potential sponsor during this period?
A: I tried a lot. But, unfortunately I could not interest a fitting sponsor. A few parties showed interest, but I found it very difficult to agree to some of their conditions. Hence, the amounts they promised were not even close to engage in a massive sport like motorcross cycling.
Q: Is there a possibility of seeing Ishan Dasanayake back in action, that if a potential sponsor supports you?
A: It all depends on the sponsor. Even if I found one, I will have to seriously discuss on what their requirements are before competing. With the current situation it will be a hard task to cover all motorsports events taking place in Sri Lanka, because the expenditure of a race is higher than you can imagine. If I decide to compete at all events, I’m taking a major risk in injuring myself, because riding has the risk of causing direct injuries through accidents. So, it’s better to discuss with the potential sponsor and then come to an agreement on how many events out of the lot, that we see as important, and make a final count.
Q: Why did you choose a risky sport like motorcross?
A: I started competing in 1996, when I was just 4-years-old. My father was a former rider, who had competed in motorcross events and road races. Seeing him compete,, as a youngster, brewed my interest.
Q: How many National Champions have you won all-in-all?
A: I first won a title in 2015, it was the 125cc National Championship. I was just 23-years-old then. Then in 2016 I won the National Championship in both 125cc and 250cc. In 2017, there was no 125cc championship, and I missed the 250cc National Championship by a whisker.
Q: Usually the winner of the 250cc class is considered the National Champion. How can you assess the performances in 2016 and 2017?
A: In 2016, I won six back-to-back event titles as Best Rider, but in 2017 I faced a few accidents. I dislocated my shoulder thrice at the Gajaba Supercross in Anuradhapura. The doctors told me that I would have to undergo a surgery, and to take a break of three months from racing. But I decided not to have the surgery, because I was eager to compete at the Sigiriya Rallycross. I took that risk, despite the recommendations of the doctors and won all three events I competed.
Q: What are the international events that you have taken part in?
A: My first international event was the Asian Motorcross in 2015 held in Malaysia. I finished 18th there. In 2017 I competed in the same event held in the Philippines and Indonesia, and according to the overall results, I was placed sixth.
Q: Did you compete at motorcross events in India?
A: Yes I did. I competed at the Pune Supercross representing Team TVS in 2015. I was placed third then. In 2018 I was placed second and in 2019 I won the championship, that was my first international title and the best among the lot.
Q: You had the opportunity to compete alongside K.P. Aravind, C.S. Santhosh and Harith Noah as your team-mates with TVS. How was that experience?
A: It was very competitive, competing with them in a team and against them on the track. They are highly skilled and experienced riders than me. I learned a lot from them, and they helped me immensely to perfect my skills as a rider. It was a great privilege to be a part of a team they were in.
Q: What difference do you observe between the events you have taken part locally and internationally?
A: I must admit that events held here need to improve more, in all aspects. The tracks locally must include more jumps to make it more competitive. In addition safety of the competitors must be given more focus in local events. Beyond Sri Lankan shores, especially at the Asian Championship all these aspects were in perfect order.
Q: Do you have a specific track to train, or do you train on the tracks that are meant for competitions?
A: Local riders do not have the privilege of enjoying training facilities other than at tracks that are prepared for competitions in Sri Lanka. Majority of the tracks are inside military facilities and riders like us find it very had to enter the track without proper clearance and payments. But there too, tracks are prepared only for the event held annually. During the remaining period they are not maintained and totally ignored. So the local riders hardly find a place to train themselves even during off season.
Q: What sort of support do the riders get from the Sri Lanka Motorcycle Federation, when representing the country at international events?
A: To be frank, almost nothing. They could do more that they imagine. But sadly nothing happens in favour of the riders.
Q: Does that mean that even when you competed at the Asian Championship, you did not receive any kind of support from them?
A: In 2017 they intervened and helped me by obtaining an airline ticket. But as a governing body, they can do more than that. The expenditure for a rider is very high and mostly riders cover all the costs personally.
Q: From the present lot of riders in Sri Lanka, who is your closest rival?
A: I can easily name Ivon B. Gurusinghe and Jacque Gunawardene as the two riders who has all the potential.
Q: Do you intend to come as out as a trainer, coach or an administrator after you decide to call it quits as a competitive rider?
A: Joining as an administrator is certainly out of the subject. I strongly feel that I do not fit in as an administrator and I do not like that subject. But even if not as a trainer or coach, if a newcomer seeks my help, I will definitely provide my help and support willingly. After I give up as a competitive rider, I intend to give back to the sport I love in a different way.