Lankan champion to make Dubai debut

Multiple Sri Lankan champion Dinesh Deheragoda faces a stern test this weekend when he makes his maiden Dubai International Rally appearance alongside the Middle East’s top drivers.

Deheragoda has notched up an impressive haul of 22 national and club championships since entering the motor racing scene in 1996, proving his versatility with wins on tarmac and gravel, in hill climbs and in rally cross events.

He now faces a completely different challenge in the 34th Dubai International Rally, which will see him take on the fast and demanding desert stages over UAE National Day weekend.

Deheragoda hopes for a much happier ending than the one he experienced on his only other appearance outside Sri Lanka to date. That was two years ago, when mechanical failure brought an early exit from a candidate event in India for the Asia-Pacific Rally Championship.

“Since then I have always wanted to compete overseas,” said Deheragoda, who enters a Group N Mitsubishi Lancer Evo in the Dubai International Rally, held under the patronage of Shaikh Majid Bin Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Chairman of Dubai Culture and Arts Authority.

“I have limited opportunities because of my commitments in Sri Lanka, which means December is the only month when we don’t have championship events.
“So the timing of the Dubai Rally is right for me. Depending on how it goes this year I will be back in 2013. The organisers, the ATCUAE, have been very helpful by guiding me as to what should be done first time out. Their approach has been very encouraging.”

Among the Sri Lankan’s Group N rivals in Dubai will be former Middle East production class champion and regional Super 1600 title winner Ron Oakeley and his close friend and regular visitor from the UK, Simon Nutter.

The sixth and final round of the 2012 FIA Middle East Rally championship has its ceremonial start on Emaar Boulevard, in Old Town Dubai, at 7.30pm on Thursday. (Gulf News)