Yoga Perera - Sri Lanka’s car racing legend
Yoga Perera is a living legend in car racing in Sri Lanka. His trophy
room is proof positive of that. Yoga has a special memory attached to
each of the almost thousand trophies that are kept hidden away in the
upstairs of his house.
Yoga Perera with his trophies
He has been racing since 1981, as a young boy just out of school and
helping his dad in the family construction business.
Yoga used all his savings and bought his first mini minor and started
racing. His parents did not know what he was upto until he brought home
his first trophy from the first race that he raced in. From that time,
his late mother was his biggest fan, not missing a single race.
Sri Lanka car racing is still at the amateur level. Yoga feels that
the petrol rations of the late 1970s was the biggest obstacle to taking
Sri Lanka racing to another level. All road races had come to a
But come 1981, and it was car racing time again and Yoga was
determined to make his mark. Yoga says, he has always been crazy about
This was something close to his heart even while he was in school.
Even now, when he gets behind the wheel of his mini minor, he feels that
he has come home. He used just the same little car for racing as well as
for driving regularly as he could not afford another special race car
those days. He had spent every cent that he had on his little racing
car. Today, he has three special cars to race and his friend helps with
all the preparations of the cars for races.
Early on, Yoga realised that the important qualities for a good race
driver are very good reflexes. To improve his reflexes, he has been
playing badminton at least four times a week. To improve his stamina
which is sorely needed for the enduring laps of the race, he realised
gym training was a must.
Now he is very happy that it has worked both ways. “I wanted to
improve my stamina and reflexes and so I go for badminton and gym. And
because I go for badminton and gym, I am able to race better. Whichever
way you look at it, it is a win-win situation for me,” says Yoga
It has been a glorious road for Yoga and racing. With every race he
absorbed more and fine tuned his techniques. He has a completely calm
and easy going personality, perfectly suited to a racing driver.
None of the hot passion that makes today’s youngsters drive like a
maniac. He has raced in all the six circuits in Sri Lanka, but finds the
Foxhill climb one of the best race tracks.
“Racing is a sport of strategy and planning,” says Yoga. Yoga raced
in the Carlton Night races last week end. “This was something the whole
motor-racing circuit and the country itself was looking forward to,” he
It was one of the most glamorous events held in Sri Lanka. It was
almost like a carnival for the whole country.
“For an event like this to be pulled off with success shows that our
next step is International racing,” says Yoga. Only thing he is
concerned is that other than a few promising youngsters like Parindu
Peiris, Shehan de Silva and Romani de Silva, to name a few, the younger
generation lacks discipline and has a tendency to cheat by working on
“For eg. here in Sri Lanka it is not possible to scrutinize the car’s
engine. So, in a 1000cc race category, the young drivers are quite
capable of fitting in 1500cc engines, very much like athletes taking
dope,” says Yoga.
Yoga himself was a victim of lack of discipline last week-end as his
car was knocked from behind and he spun off the track and fell into a
culvert and could not finish the race.
“If we can clean up motor sports in Sri Lanka, by disciplining our
young drivers and stopping inter-club politics, motor racing can scale
great heights,” says Yoga the SLARDAR- which is the controlling body of
motor sports, has proven with the Carlton Night races that they can pull
off a great job when it comes to organizing.
Yoga is keen that his two young sons get a good education before they
take up motor racing. They may do it if they wish, he says. But they
have to work hard for it. I am not going to give them a racing car and
say you go and race putha. Somehow or other you must win.
No way. That is why most of our young drivers, drive like maniacs
now. I don’t blame the undisciplined race driver of today. I blame his
parent for handing things over in a platter, he says.
Yoga is passionate about motor racing and can see a very bright
future for Sri Lanka motor sports and he is cheering it on.