Postscript: The video clips in this post were taken around 2004-2005
illegal street races occur in Colombo -as with any city on the planet. The video clip below is a thin slice of the action.
As with most Colombo high income subcultures, the street racing scene is not huge but it is active – as the video below indicates. The video below does a good job of sampling a variety of racing situations to a very appropriate “gangsta” sound track.
From the Honda Club Sri Lanka events page, the more legitimate “car enthusiasts” scene with its harmless meet-ups seem quite social. Certainly brings out the babes. With that sentence I’ll be sending them a lot of traffic :) Interestingly, their home page has the following disclaimer:
WARNING ! Street Racing is a Dangerous Activity which could harm you as well as innocent by-standers and others on the street. Please refrain from street racing unless it’s in a safe controlled environment. Drive Safe, be a designated Driver..!!
Existence of risk in the scene naturally gets a mention in the papers. Usually in the supplemental pages that feature social problems such as culture (no that was not a typo).
The Sunday-Times’ article “The midnight roar” talks about the obvious law enforcement issue/pubic safety issue behind the partying face of street racing. However, the more telling discussions are on autolanka .com’s forums. A prow through the topics seem to indicate that the police is not a problem. Speed and the cost of fuel on the police budget keeps the law at bay. My spies (they are everywhere) tell me that the Police presence in the streets end after 3AM (Police officers don’t get overtime after this hour). I have never been able to verify and don’t intend to. Perhaps one of those rare owls who prowl the streets sober can chip in.
At the core of the issue is finding closed off strips of straight wide SMOOTH roads in Colombo. Duncan Udawatta ‘s article “Drag Racing in Sri-Lanka” on autolanka .com suggests a win-win reconciliation between the needs of racing talent seeking an outlet for expression and the public safety.. Namely to formally close off tree lined section of Ananda Comaraswamy mawatha (also called Greenpath) for organised late night races. Its the sort of idea requiring skilful persistence patience to convince sceptical people with very different world views. In other words – details details. Until then Colombo’s illegal street racers have plenty of other venues along with Greenpath.
Behind the politics there ARE real issues of life and death. I know of one fatality by a racer on Galle road. I was a kid at the time so the details are fuzzy. The driver was using the pavement to overtake when he killed a pedestrian who worked with my farther. The driver’s folk’s apparently offered the victim’s family a few thousand rupees. The figure that lurks in the fog of memory is Rs5000/-. That was sometime in the last decades of the 20th century.
Who are these racers? I don’t know any. My only encounters with them boils down to the two cars that whizzed past me on one of the rare occasions I was on the roads after midnight. The video below is what it felt like ;)
Such ignorance is fertile ground for sweeping assumptions unencumbered by facts. Hopefully such blind word shooting might motive someone knowledgeable to correct me.
Indulging in any kind of racing (in the third world in particular) you need very large amounts in hard currency. The kind of money that in Sri Lanka’s tiny universe also places you among people with influence. Influence is also necessary to smoothen the flow import duty burdened chariots. Not to mention esoteric parts and the ability to buy the mechanical skills if you don’t want to get your paws dirty.
The utility of influence that comes with such wealth is apparent if you do get into a problem with the law. The kind where charges (if any) can are dropped with a phone call and the constable responsible suddenly posted to Vauniya beyond the reach of a court appearance.
The other luxury is time. Its not just about avoiding the morning commute after a hard night’s racing. You need the time to tinker and spruce up your chariot. The rich brat factor will certainly buy you out of the need for a triviality like a job.
I have speculated dangerously to paint the racers as part of the eternal elite that stands above the law in most human societies through history. Specific people come and go but the Nomoklatura is forever. Better stop (note I didn’t pull a bad pun like “slam the brakes”) before I trundled off the topic from cafe talk speculation to the sloppy social commentary and political rants.
There has to be somebody better informed than me reading this. I’m sure they can find the comment box ;) below.