The “racing month” in Sri Lanka happens April in the central hills, which enjoys cooler temperatures throughout the year. It is also the month which records the hottest temperatures in the rest of the country. So naturally it is the time of year when people from many parts of the country converge to the hills to get away from the heat. What better time then, to have a smorgasbord of motor sports in the hills?
The list of April events goes like this…
Mahagastota Hill Climb
Organized by the Ceylon Motor Sports Club (CMSC), the event uses a stretch of road running through the Mahagastota Tea Estate in Nuwara Eliya. 2014 is the 80th consecutive year in which this event was held. To mark the occasion, this year a Historic event was also held on the day prior to race day where classic/vintage cars manufactured prior to 1977 did what is termed an exhibition run. Mahagastota Hill Climb, first started by a group of British Planters stationed in the then Ceylon, is also the longest running motor sports event in the South East Asia region.
Fox Hill Supercross
Currently jointly organized by the Sri Lanka Autosports Drivers Association (SLADA) and the Sri Lanka Military Academy, this is the premier Supercross event in the country. Conceptualized and started in 1993 by Hans Ralf Karpinski – a long standing motor sports competitor and enthusiast himself - the event attracts well over 40,000 spectators every year and arguably stands as the most popular motor sports event in the country. The Fox Hill Supercross is held annually at the track carved out at the base of Fox Hill in Dyathalawa inside the premises of the Military Academy.
Nuwara Eliya Road Races
This is a “Street Circuit” event run on the streets of Nuwara Eliya Town. Organized by the Sri Lanka Motor Cycle Club, the event usually attracts many holiday makers who converge to the cool climes of Nuwara Eliya at this time of the year.
Nuwara Eliya 4X4 Challenge
This off-road event is organized annually by the Nuwara Eliya 4X4 Club. It is held at the edge of Lake Gregory, the fabulously scenic lake in the middle of the city of Nuwara Eliya.
Motor sports has come a long way in Sri Lanka, more so since the “noughties” when safety regulations such as roll cages, and later racing license were introduced. Also race marshalling, which was done previously mostly on a voluntary basis has come a long way. In fact last year a group of Sri Lankans went to Singapore to work as marshals at the Formula 1.
This year at Fox Hill we did see some professional marshalling. In the first motor car event of the day, for Mini 7, in the first lap Donal Bultjen’s Mini rolled about 4 times and landed on its side. The race was immediately stopped and the race marshals were seen rushing to the driver’s aid. They gently extracted him out of the car before turning the car on to its wheels. Another marshal was seen immediately disconnecting and removing the battery of the car. A level of professionalism rarely seen previously in local motor sports.
Safety regulations in motor-sports, and indeed good marshaling undoubtedly saves lives.