Lankan rally duo cre­ate his­tory with Asia Pac podium fin­ish

Sunday Times (Sri Lanka) - - INTERNATIONAL -

How would you sum up your achieve­ment?

Shafraz: I am hon­oured by this vic­tory since I was the slow­est car on the APRC grid. Some of the high-pow­ered cars who ran through­out the sea­son failed to make it to the fin­ish due to me­chan­i­cal issues, which pushed up my luck in the rank­ing, but every­body in the sport tells me that it is not just about power and that man­ag­ing man and ma­chine is also a skill of the rally driver.

How chal­leng­ing was this at­tempt since you par­tic­i­pated in the same rally last year?

Shafraz: Last year we drove in the In­dian Rally Cham­pi­onship cat­e­gory; this year we were in the APRC cat­e­gory do­ing 207km of spe­cial stages and 294km of trans­port stages, which is more than dou­ble the dis­tance within the same time frame. Due to the strin­gent FIA APRC spec­i­fi­ca­tions, we had to rent a dif­fer­ent car and we were not happy with some of the per­for­mance as­pects of the car after shake­down test­ing and we were in two minds about run­ning. How­ever, since we had gone all this way and were com­mit­ted to our spon­sors, we de­cided to take the chal­lenge. This had its risks be­cause the power was not enough for my style of driv­ing to han­dle the cor­ners; we feel we could have been much faster.

What was it like to co-drive in a speed rally of this na­ture?

Akhry: I took to nav­i­gat­ing and co-driv­ing a lit­tle more than 20 years ago with a good part of it with Shafraz, but this was my sec­ond at­tempt at in­ter­na­tional level. Con­sid­er­ing that we did not have any speed ral­lies for the whole of this year in Sri Lanka, I have had no prac­tice since last year. This was a chal­lenge and I did ex­pe­ri­ence some tough times mis­read­ing a part of the stage. On the other hand, we got to de­velop on our pace notes from last year and get a bet­ter grip of my style of mak­ing the calls. Both Shafrazs’ driv­ing and my co-driv­ing we are com­pet­ing with the big teams with a frac­tion of what we call ‘seat time’ or ex­pe­ri­ence.

How dif­fi­cult was your par­tic­i­pa­tion?

Shafraz: Gear­ing for par­tic­i­pa­tion is some­what more dif­fi­cult than the com­pe­ti­tion it­self. Firstly, I owe it to Di­nesh De­heragoda who showed me the way and for giv­ing me the ex­pe­ri­ence by invit­ing me to co-drive him in the 2015 and 2016 APRC sea­son. Riyaz Fa­rook, who is a vet­eran in our lo­cal rac­ing and hav­ing his busi­ness in Ban­ga­lore, also helped us in many ways. Niroshan Per­era, the FIA Asia Zone Co­or­di­na­tor in­tro­duced us to the cor­rect par­ties in co­or­di­nat­ing our en­try.

Then, we did have the chal­lenge of fund­ing. We had to work hard and go it alone last year to show the pos­si­bil­ity to our spon­sors and this year Maxxis Sri Lanka my lo­cal spon­sor met me half­way. We are also grate­ful to HTL Lo­gis­tics and Con­tura Lanka who pitched in for var­i­ous as­pects.

Akhry: Par­tic­i­pa­tion is a big un­der­tak­ing be­cause of the costs in­volved. As a small team we have to de­pend on a lot of peo­ple. The race team that rented the car too was a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween GT Tuners, Ban­ga­lore and OTT OTTAP, Malaysia, while Volk­swa­gen Mo­tor­sports In­dia and Mo­tul Oils In­dia also pitched in dif­fer­ent ways. We are also grate­ful to our pre­vi­ous car sup­plier Anirud­dha Rangnekar and Chet­ti­nad Rac­ing who were there for us de­spite the fact that we were not run­ning their cars. And we can­not for­get the Sun­day Times and the other me­dia who have sup­ported our en­deav­ours and rec­og­nize our spon­sors.

How did you pre­pare for this event?

Shafraz: I think the pas­sion to per­form and be­have like an or­gan­ised rac­ing team was our main driv­ing force. To state it briefly, Akhry and I did cross-train in the lead up to the event with cy­cling, etc, and we also re­viewed our videos from the pre­vi­ous at­tempt; while my lo­cal en­gi­neer Am­jad Rizvi from my garage ProMech Au­toworks did the prepara­tory work for our car setup and went in ad­vance to over­look some as­pects of the car prepa­ra­tion. It was also upon Akhry and my­self to pre­pare pro­pos­als and have de­tailed dis­cus­sion with our spon­sors on var­i­ous as­pects.

Suresh Subra­ma­niam (with mic, 2nd from right) at the SLTA 100th year cel­e­bra­tion launch in Colombo

Janaki Ala­hap­pe­ruma the only fe­male who is among the top par­tic­i­pants at SMSC Mo­tor Ral­lies

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