The Mahagastotte Festival of Speed 2018 was run over two consecutive days – Saturday 7th and Sunday 8th April. This format change was started in 2017 to accommodate the record numbers of entries for all events – Bikes, Cars and the increasingly popular Classics parade.
It was a crisp and sunny morning in Nuwara Eliya on Saturday the 7th when the bikes were run. The unpredictable weather though turned rainy and windy by just past noon; dampening the enthusiasm somewhat of the Classics event which was scheduled to be run in the afternoon. Most of the participating classics (all over 25 years old) had driven from Colombo the previous day.
Nuwara Eliya once again dished out the best of weather on the 8th Sunday morning – to enable Ceylon Motor Sports Club (CMSC) to conduct an eventful and historic Hill Climb event where new standards were set.
In the recent history of Mahagastotte Hill Climb, the course record set by Rohan De Silva driving a Formula Ford continued unchallenged for many years until in 2014 Darin Weerasinghe driving a Subaru WRX broke the record on the newly resurfaced track. In 2015 Nishan Weerasooria again set a new record, albeit bettering the time only by fractions of a second to take the title. Darin Weerasinghe came back in 2016 to establish yet another new record. That record of 33.47 seconds was shattered this year when Ashan Silva bettered the time by almost 2 seconds when he established a record time of 32.64 seconds in his Mitsubishi Evo!
“A Class Act” was how one of the spectators described the run by Ashan. He is one of those young drivers who prepares his car meticulously and has a hands-on approach to even the minute details of setting up. But then the car alone is not good enough – especially for a track like Mahagastotte, where just a little too much of a slide could mean the difference between winning and losing. It could also mean losing it altogether and ending up in the proverbial “tea bushes” at best, or down a precipice and on to plough a “vegetable patch” at worse! So the more powerful the car, your “nerves of steel” will play more of a crucial role.
This year, the spectators were treated to some “never-before-seen” driving by Ashan Silva. I have been to well over 25 Mahagastotte events; but never have I seen any driver doing a hand-brake-turn into the uphill hairpin bends! The track is so narrow that there is absolutely no margin for error. And to say that Ashan mastered the hairpin bends, and indeed the rest of the track; is an understatement. In his first run Ashan set a new record. In his second run he bettered his own record set in the first run! Unless someone masters the uphill hand-brake-turn, I can’t see this record being broken in a very very long time.
In other events our Motor sponsored driver Namal Silva driving his Mini got the top podium place. In the Formula Ford 1600 event veteran open-wheeler driver Nadeera Jinasena managed to turn his car on its head! Thanks to the mandatory safety equipment Nadeera walked away unscathed.
In the motorbikes, the fastest time of the day was set by Nimesh Sandaruwan in the SM Over 100cc Upto 125cc (2t) and over 175cc Upto 250cc(4t) class. Goes to show that when it comes to two-wheelers doing a hill climb event, it is not the sheer power of the machine that matters – rather the riding skill and indeed the maneuverability of the bike. The course record for motorcycles is held by Ananda Sampath Weerasinghe at a time of 33.936 who set the record last year riding a Honda CRF 450.
For those who haven't been to the hill climb at Mahagastotte, the cars and bikes start from the bottom of Mahagastotte Road (a public road which is closed for the Hill Climb event), a slight turn left and on to a tighter right hander known as Cemetery Corner, a slight left around Blackpool Hotel and on to the first right hand hairpin bend, and soon after a short stretch, the second hairpin bend to the left. Then it’s a blind right hander, and on to the fast but challenging (because of the camber of the road) left hander which is Wakefield corner, and then straight on to the finish line. Each rider or driver are given two runs in the day. The runs are timed using state-of-the-art Tag Heuer timing equipment, and the best timing of the two are taken to calculate their positions.
This year a record 42 Classics ranging from MG’s, Alfasuds, Minis, Ford Escorts, Datsun 120Y, Toyota Trueno, Lancia Beta, Mazda MX5 and more lined up ready to go on parade opposite Grand Hotel for the Mahagstotte Classic event. Among the classics were also the Ford Escort Mexico of the late veteran Mahagstotte specialist Ananada De Alwis. Now owned by enthusiast Kishan Perera, the car has been extensively restored, and took center-stage among the classics. Once lined up, the Classics proceeded in procession along Lake Drive and on to the Mahagastotte track. At the track, the cars were given a run up the hill each, which brought back memories of what Mahagastotte would have looked like over 25 years ago.
CMSC, the oldest motor sports club in Sri Lanka was inaugurated on September 4, 1934, at the Grand Hotel, Nuwara Eliya and celebrated 84 years this year. Their first meet was the Hill Climb at the Mahagastotte Estate in Nuwara Eliya on September 28th 1934, and is now a regular feature in the Motor Sports calendar. The Mahagastotte Hill Climb has a long history and perhaps could be termed as the birth place of organized motor racing in Sri Lanka or Ceylon as it was known then.
Looking back, one can recall several stalwarts who established records at Mahagastotte, such as Phil Fowke, T. S. Jinasena, Alan Clerk, Rodney Mason, Nihal Jinasena, Bri Ponnambalam, Mike Rauff, Ananda de Alwis, Kingsley Smith, Ajith Chanmugam, Mana Jayawardana, Cassim Wahab, Shanaka Ambrose, Bandula Weerasinghe, Suren Cooke, Suranjith Premadasa, Shafraz Junaid, Nishan Weerasooria and Rohan de Silva, to name just a few. Of these, Bri Ponnambalam, Rohan De Silva and Shafraz Junaid took part in the 2018 event as well.
Ford Laser 1300 One Make
?1st Manura Pathmila Wanniatchi 44.79 ?2nd Shanaka Dias 46.88 ?3rd M.A. Naveen Madawa Bandara 47.62
SL- E NISSAN MARCH
?1st Dilupa Palliyaguru 46.89 ?2nd M.M.A Jayanith 47.46 ?3rd Chanuka Beligolla 47.94
Formula McLarens EFI
?1st Clement Senarathne 38.63 ?2nd Viren Botejue 39.01 ?3rd Sabry Salam 39.03
Ford Laser/Mazda 1500
?1st Kushan Peiris 43.00 ?2nd Shenal Gunawardana 43.46 ?3rd Romesh Gunawardane 44.43
Formula Ford 1600
?1st Dilan Senevirathne 35.85 ?2nd Nadeera Jinasena 35.96 ?3rd Shafraz Junaid 40.30
SL-E Mini 1275
?1st Chanaka Rathnayake 42.79 ?2nd Dulanjana Perera 44.33 ?3rd Kumudu de Silva 44.84
SL-H CARS 1618
?1st Kushan Peiris 39.81 ?2nd Shehara Jayawardana 40.46 ?3rd David Siyaguna 41.68
?1st Michael Wijesuriya ?2nd Mahen Madugalle 43.94 ?3rd Duminda Amarasiri 44.56
?1st Rohan de Silva 34.62 ?2nd Nadeera Jinasena 38.05 ?3rd Chandima Gunaratne 39.10
?1st Ashan Silva 32.64 ?2nd Dinesh Jayawardana 34.44 ?3rd Yasith Gamage 36.48
?1st Namal Silva 45.33 ?2nd K Parameshwaran 46.76 ?3rd T S N Tissera 47.06
FASTEST TIME OF DAY - CARS Ashan Silva 32.64
Group ‘O’ Std\Mod Upto 125cc(4t) Mono Cylinder
?1st Dilan Rathnayaka 44.86 ?2nd Supun Danushka 45.44 ?3rd R M Ranathunga 47.99
?1st W M Gunasinghe 42.12 ?2nd Sudara Weerasinghe 42.38 ?3rd Vikum Ranjith 42.40
?1st Gihan Sanjeewa 41.05 ?2nd Shane De Silva 41.58 ?3rd WM Gunasinghe 44.08
Std\Mod Motorcycles over 250cc Open
?1st Srian Samuel 37.02 ?2nd Insaaf Basheer 40.21 ?3rd A H Illeperuma 41.53
Std Motorcycles over 125cc Upto 160cc(4t)
?1st S Vasudevan 43.42 ?2nd B Pragash 43.93 ?3rd S Pragash 43.98
One Make Buell Open (Club Event)
?1st Hashan Illeperuma 41.53 ?2nd Jayalal Reries 44.06 ?3rd W P S Ranaweera 44.93
Street Trail One Make Kawasakii Tracker 250cc(4t)
?1st M Rizvi 38.39 ?2nd P Raguraj 38.40 ?3rd R M Mimshad 39.08
SM Over 100cc Upto 125cc(2t) and over 175cc Upto 250cc(4t)
?1st Nimesh Sandaruwan 36.26 ?2nd Dushan Mudalige 37.65 ?3rd Pradeep Oshen 38.52
S M Supermotard Open
?1st Nimesh Weerasinghe 36.69 ?2nd Udana Perera 36.91 ?3rd Srian Samuel 37.02
Sports Touring Motorcycles Over 700cc Club Event
?1st FBKC De Silva 40.91 ?2nd Shashika Sandaruwan 41.50 ?3rd Akalanka Perera 42.26
Std\Mod Motorcycles Over 100cc Upto 125cc(2t)
?1st Ganeshan Vijekumar 38.39 ?2nd Gihan Sanjeewa 41.20 ?3rd Supun Danushka 44.61
Std/Mod Motorcycle Upto 250cc 4t
?1st Srian Samuel 39.60 ?2nd Jude Lahiru 42.77 ?3rd Nipun Dilanka 44.09
Street Trail 250cc 2t
?1st Shane Mark 39.28 ?2nd S Pragash 42.38 ?3rd S Vasudevan 43.35
?1st Shevon De Silva 55.91 ?2nd Teshan De Silva 55.96 ?3rd Kanishka Prabath 57.75
Street Trail 250cc 4T
?1st M Rizvi 38.34 ?2nd R M Mimshad 38.86 ?3rd Sarath Kumarasinghe 42.86
FASTEST TIME OF DAY - MOTORCYCLES – Nimesh Sandaruwan 36.26