We can’t blame anyone for Sri Lanka’s Motor Racing set up: Shafraz


Shafraz Hamzadeen

by Roshen Steelman

EZY is Sri Lanka’s first ever professional motor racing team. EZY Racing who took up professional motor racing in Sri Lanka in 2010, have successfully taken this sport to greater heights by introducing Team based motor racing. Their success has encouraged many more teams to enter the sport thereby providing many drivers with lucrative sponsorship offers.

Having started with a humble driver line up, EZY Racing today have dominated every motor racing circuit in Sri Lanka with over 100 podiums to date. The brain child of its CEO/ Team Principal Shafraz Hamzadeen, EZY Racing has overcome many challenges in the field of motor sports in Sri Lanka to achieve a feat that no other motor racing team has achieved thus far in the country.

The Sri Lankan team will be competing in the Malaysian Rally 2015 which will be worked off from August 14-16 and they are aiming to finish on the podium. Here is an interview with Shafraz Hamzadeen, who is the founder of Sri Lanka’s first ever professional motor Racing team.

Question: First of all for the benefit of the readers’ can you briefly explain how the EZY racing team was formed?  

Answer: I have always been a motor racing enthusiast and have been actively following motor racing locally since my school days. However, I never had any plans of getting into motor sports in the way at present. Back in 2008, EZY Corporation set up the country’s first automated computer design and assembly plant. Since computers did not have great margins, we were forced to look into novel ways of marketing ourselves. That’s when a friend of mine suggested that we branded two rally cars and marketed our computers in the towns and cities the rally’s took place. We were very pleased with the results we got from the limited marketing funds we deployed through motor racing sponsorships.

The platform motor racing provided EZY computers to market ourselves was an eye opener for us.

I then spent lot of time studying many forms of International Motor Sports to understand the key facts that were to be considered when forming a professional team that could be developed for commercial appeal. After carefully studying I realized that Motor Sports offered us the avenue to become a marketing channel where you channel marketing the car which would be followed by millions of television viewers.

It was at this point that I realized that we should develop ourselves into a meaningful team with high commercial value. So I decided to form EZY Motor Racing Corporation, the country’s very first professional motor racing company. EZY Racing was the racing brand of EZY Motor Racing Corporation.

Q: As the founder of Sri Lanka’s first ever professional motor racing team, what do you see as the main differences between Sri Lanka and International racing?

A: This is a very good question. If we take the FIA’s structure (Governing body for World Motor Sports), there are many formats of racing. The epitome of this is what we know as Formula 1 which is a circuit event. However, those racing standards are so different to ours. The safety standards of the car and driver, the age and standard of the cars, the setup of the car, the crew and their level of expertise, the engineering knowledge and the driver standards are of a different extreme to what we see in Sri Lanka. The countries that host these races have a very mature motor racing structure. Truly speaking, it isn’t realistic for a country like ours who do not have the strength to structure such motor racing formats.

The non-circuit dependent races like rallies have always been a far more realistic choice for Sri Lankans to benchmark themselves against International drivers. In the past many drivers have travelled on their own expenses to compete at regional rally competitions.

During our very first year in International Rallying, we received a rude shock. We realized that the standards at International Rallying was so high and there were many areas that we had to address to meet standards.

Firstly the entire approach for racing internationally is way different to how we approach a race. This starts from the car preparation to the car management over a race weekend from engineering and technical perspective.

The knowledge wealth most teams had on how to prepare and set up a car, their usage of technology to gather data that would be used to improve on the car set up and their ability to assimilate all these independent functions and operate as a unified engineering team made our most accomplished technical approach look amateurish. The second area where there was a considerable parity was the in car driver/ co driver combination. The professional co drivers who have made a career out of co driving immensely contributed to increase the pace of the driver. The best co drivers know how to get the best out of the drivers. Unfortunately, this was an area we were once again falling short of because the motor racing in Sri Lanka wasn’t professional enough to create a profession in driver/ co driving. The third area that we were shocked was the level of driving demonstrated by the international top runners. Most of these drivers have graduated from top driving schools or rally schools and have had numerous hours of seat time behind the wheels.

When I look back, we cannot blame anyone for this setup. I believe there are many Sri Lankan racing drivers who have the skill and ability to be in par with international drivers if they are provided the exposure to compete continuously in international race events, they will definitely develop the expertise to be up there. Unfortunately the resources required to take ordinary Sri Lankans to that level is scarce.

Q: What are the obstacles your team is facing currently?

The amount of challenges we have faced in this journey has been simply unbelievable. One of the biggest challenges we had to eternally encounter was the fact that many people thought this was just a hobby. It has taken five long years for people to acknowledge that this is not a hobby.

The challenges we have for our international racing is totally different to local motor challenges. In the local arena, the biggest challenge is the instability of the governing council. As a result the sport suffers. This is one of the reasons that motor racing has struggled to be commercially appealing in spite of the potential. Unearthing good youngsters is another one of our challenges.

In international motor sports, we have heaps of different challenges. In order to commercially make ourselves more appealing, basing ourselves out of Sri Lanka works in a disadvantageous manner for us as many international sponsors cannot relate Sri Lanka and motor racing. We are now working on changing our financial headquarters to Singapore whereas the brand and sport development would still be retained in Sri Lanka.

Q: What are your expectations for Malaysian Rally 2015?

A: The Malaysian Rally is considered to be the most grueling rally in the championship. It’s a very technical rally where it takes the best out of man and machine.

So with Malaysia we know we have the capability to finish on the podium.

Q: Can you explain your Kiwi driver Mike Young’s recent performances and your expectation?

A: Mike has been the most exciting young talent APRC has currently got. He was a multiple Junior Asia Pacific Rally Champion and this is his first year in the senior category. Mike is well supported by Cusco Racing in Japan who provide us the technical expertise with the car. Mike holds a very unique record of having competed in the last 10 rallies which goes onto prove that he has a very mature head despite his age.

Mike currently leads the production cup of APRC and is overall lying third in the APRC Rankings. Our plans would be for Mike to consolidate his position and win the APRC Production Cup for 2015. We are hopeful and confident that we could achieve this.

Q: Can you briefly explain your future goals through EZY racing team?

A: I have a vision to set EZY Racing as one of Asia’s top most racing brands.

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