Sam Catches up with Kleen Park sponsored racing driver Mohan Perera, to chat about the racing scene here and in Australia, and just what it’s like to race as a privateer
“I left Sri Lanka in 1974. Prior to that I only raced a bike here at Katukurunda, but after I went to Australia I got into car racing, and only now am I starting to race back here in Sri Lanka. In Australia I did a lot of stock car racing and speed rallying. I did national championships as well in the circuit races, as well as one make series.
“I’ve always wanted to come back to Sri Lanka and race, but my business commitments didn’t really let me. Now though, it easier for me to spend more time in Sri Lanka, so I started to build some cars. I still have some cars back in Aussie, but my focus is here now.
“Most of the racing we did was one make series, such as the Lotus Elise, and the Mitsubishi Mirages – that I did for three years and won quite a few races. There were some full time professional drivers in that championship too, so it was very competitive and always great whenever we won.
“In the rally field we rallied in the 2WD class, with a turbo charged 4 cylinder Volvo, racing against V8s! We eventually had the second fastest car on the track, but it was very expensive, and when the four wheel drives came our class was virtually redundant. We won the Holden Commodore one make rally championship twice, and that car is still with me. I also have a Mitsubishi Mirage still back there. It’d be interesting to actually compare those to the SL-H cars here, and having driven both, I would say the Mitsubishi was a better handling car, although in power terms I’m not sure. Of course the gearing would be a lot different for the circuits there, as in Australia there were much longer circuits with sweeping corners, whereas here it’s quite difficult. Still I would wager that the Mirage would give the civics quite a run for their money if they had the right gearing.
“I would say it’s unfair to directly compare the two countries, but Sri Lanka has come a long way. One area that lacks though here is discipline. There are a lot of drivers here that would struggle to hold a license in Australia, as there are certain things you can’t get away with there. But there’s a lot of enthusiasm here, a lot of young drivers, and a big following from the public now. Even when we go outstation, we get huge crowds for the races.
“But it’s getting quite expensive here. There are normal things like tyres and engine parts that need replacing regularly, so I’m very lucky to have Kleen Park helping me on the sponsorship side of things, they are such a tremendous support to me, and takes a lot of the stress off of me.
“I think it could be better if the various clubs work closertogether, rather than doing their own things. Even in the classes there are certain ambiguities in the rules, and if they were covered and fine-tuned it would make the sport much better for everyone. The shame is not so much for us, but it’s for the younger generation who come into the sport and get discouraged when they find their cars are so much slower than the rest. For this sport to grow we need the younger generation to come on an equal footing. For instance, when we were running the Mirage class in Australia, on race day we would be given a bag of ECUs, and each driver had to select one, so everyone knew that they were standard, and everyone knew that it was fair.
“I prefer special stage rallying the most, and had a good run at Pelwatta last month. I feel the adrenalin is much higher when in special stage rallies, but on circuit races you know your cars’ limits, and have a good idea how competitive you are, but on a rally it’s a lot more dependent on so many different factors.
“I’d like to thank Kleen Park, and despite a few mishaps I’ve had they’ve never given up. I suppose that’s Kleen Park’s motto to, to never give up, so it’s been a big help to me, as well as all my other sponsors, as racing is by no means a cheap sport.