Top motor racing body acknowledges what many sports bosses have yet to do as it credits the soldiers with keeping the sport away from death
An elite cast of Army officers and their subordinates have eventually received what may have been long overdue to their force with most of it gone unnoticed over the years.
Last Tuesday evening members of the country’s crack Commando Unit listened with intent one man speak up and let everyone know the role the soldiers have played in keeping sport in Sri Lanka afloat, unknown to many.
“If not for the Army, motor racing would have been a dead sport in the country with only the Katukurunda race track. Unlike how other sports are treated we got nothing from the government over the years”, a passionately moved president of the Sri Lanka Association of Racing Drivers and Riders (SLARDAR) Nishan Wasalathantri declared.
He made the revelation at the Lotus Pond in Colombo at the launch of the third Commando Challenge and Supercross motor racing events to be flagged off from Kandy on October 3.
In effect, Wasalathantri echoed what many other sports bosses in Sri Lanka are yet to do and that is to pay tribute to the army which has not only employed sportsmen and women but also provided them with many facilities for training and development they would not have found elsewhere.
Currently, the Army can take pride in announcing to the country that they house hundreds of track and field athletes to pursue their goals, take care of rugby players, including a promising Sri Lanka women’s team and promote footballers among numerous other sports. They even got two cricketing World Cup stars on their payroll, Ajantha Mendis and Seekkuge Prasanna whom they discovered playing at village level.
For the Commando Challenge and Supercross, members of the anti-terrorist, anti hijack force will leave aside their routine drills to ensure the smooth conduct of the two events that are not only designed to cater to racing fans but also to showcase the island’s pristine eastern coastline and verdant landscaping to overseas tourists.
“We also want this event to be an investment to boost the economy in and around Kuda Oya and we will do a professional job”, said Brigadier Ralf Nugera, Commandant of the Commando Regiment.
The Commando Challenge will be flagged off from Kandy on October 3 and move into, among other areas, Mahiyangana, Maha Oya, Damana and Arugam Bay in Ampara to finish off at Kuda Oya in the forested Monaragala district three days later covering a distance of 566 kilometres in three stages.
Uniformed commandos will, along with SLARDAR officials guide and supervise the rally in keeping with the accepted regulations while drivers have according to Wasalathantri been cautioned how to negotiate terrain that is the domain of wildlife.
The Kudu Oya race track constructed by Army engineers like many more across the country will host the Supercross on October 9 where the cream of the island’s riders and drivers numbering more than 150 will vie for honours.
Hans Ralf Karpinsky who is considered the father of Supercross in Sri Lanka claimed that the event will provide everything that racing fans could yearn to see as local competitors have reached a stage where they could compete at international meets.
“It is a fine race track (at Kuda Oya) and you can expect a strong level of competition as Sri Lankans can now compete anywhere in the world”, said Karpinski a onetime president of SLARDAR.
Kuda Oya follows the construction of similar race arenas by the army in Walawe, Diyatalawa (Foxhill), Minneriya, Kurunegala (Wijeyaba) and Saliyapura in Anuradhapura.