In Sri Lanka we don’t have Formula 1 cars or GP2 cars. The best we have also cannot be compared with any of the cars mentioned above. There are couple of types of Formula cars in Sri Lanka, namely Formula Ford and Formula McLarens (LGB). Formula McLarens are powered by a 1300cc engines whereas the Formula Fords has a little more power.
I got to know about a Formula training program conducting in Sri Lanka, this is the first time I have heard of such a training program conducted in Sri Lanka. The Asian Motor Racing Association (AMRC) has brought down an ex Formula 1 license holder Akbar Ebrahim to get the training done. I signed up for the program after doing some research on the trainer. The practice session was scheduled on 12th and 13th of June 2010 from 10.00am to 6.00pm on both days at the Pannala racing track. The AMRC provided us transport from SpeedRome to Pannala and the way back on both days.
We the drivers got in to the bus and went to Pannala race track. It’s my first time at Pannala; most of the other drivers had previous experience at Pannala track. We arrived at Pannala late due to traffic and had couple of rain showers on the way. Luckily it wasn’t raining at Pannala but it was a cloudy day and the track was wet. As we arrived we were briefed by Mr. Akbar and the drivers were divided in to three groups because we only had 9 cars. Then the lessons started both theory and more practical. Mr. Akbar been a professional trainer gave us very useful advice. Since the Formula cars are build with the least complicated parts without the theory no one would have survived. The very first theory lesson included driving techniques like Blip to get the maximum traction from the rear wheels at corners, late breaking, in-slow out-fast and lot more. Once we were sent to the track we had to follow the safety car in the first few laps. That gave me an idea on the track. Pannala track is only 1.4 kilometers long, but it had all sort of corners, straights and so on. After the safety car went in to the pits the real practice started. I spun several times at the last corner and during the last practice on Saturday I crashed the car but myself and the car was not damaged. Saturday there were many incidents, but according to Mr. Akbar the incidents were nothing big. Sunday was the qualifying and our lap timing was taken in to account. During qualifying a somewhat serious incident happened to one of the cars. That happened at the same place where I crashed on previous day. During Qualifying 1 it was yellow flagged for 2 laps out of 5 laps for the batch I was racing. Despite that out of all 27 drivers (from all 3 batches) I was rated 7th from the lap timing on Qualifying 1. However the Qualifying 2 was a disaster for me, I again spun at the last corner and lost lot of time and couldn’t carry the pace for the next lap as well so my timing in Q2 was worse than in Q1.
Then there was a simulation of a race and simulation of safety car deployment, after that each batch started the race. I started from the 4th position due to my Q2 timing. Formation lap started and I warmed up my tyres for the race, came to the grid and as the green flag waved I started my race. I had a really good start placing myself just behind the car in the 3rd position. It was a generally slow car and I managed to pass that in the first lap itself. After a couple of laps I passed the car in the 2nd position too but soon later I did a mistake and lost a position. In lap before the final lap the car in the 2nd position did a mistake and I took the maximum advantage of it. I saw the chequered flag just after the guy in 1st position. I really wished I had few more laps, at that time I was closing in on the car in the 1st position continuously.
We all had a good session and I’m so glad I came 2nd in my race, and I’m evermore happy with the rating I got during the Qualifying. There were some well experienced drivers as well as rookie formula drivers so overall I’m very happy with the session and specially the advices from Mr. Akbar. My body was hurting from the first day but after the 2nd day we all were exhausted. But the fun and the experience were well worth it.