David Pieris Motor Company Ltd (DPMC) has come out with an innovative idea to offer discerning motorsport enthusiasts, both local and foreign, the chance to witness and partake in an event that would otherwise be difficult for most to attend, as it takes place in other countries.Extending its arms into the leisure/tourism sector, DPMC birthed its newest extension in the immensely diversified group, David Pieris Racing and Leisure (DPRL). With the aim of boosting the tourism sector in Sri Lanka as well as giving many locals the opportunity to witness the international experience firsthand, DPRL will host the first ever international Go-karting event in Sri Lanka, the ‘X30 Asia Cup’, set to take place at the Sri Lanka Karting Circuit which is built to the requirements of international racing standards, in Bandaragama on January 13th and 14th this year.Going forth with confidence about the upcoming mega event, David Pieris Racing and Leisure CEO/MD Dinesh Jayasundera spoke to Mirror Business about the opportunity and many other matters. Following are excerpts from the interview.
Can you explain us about the Go-karting track built to international standards in Bandaragama?
Previously we had about 750 metres of a rental track, so this was like a leisure/racing location. We had a swimming pool, rifle range, basketball court. We are putting up a VIP lounge and then there’s a restaurant. So, there were other activities around racing, but racing was the prominent aspect. We thought of taking it to the next level.
We have done our part of doing an amazing track up to international standards. This track has elevation differences. Not many tracks have this feature and it’s a totally different experience to the drivers. So we went from 750 metres to 1.2 kilometres since 1200 metres is the minimum requirement for an international racing track and we have done that. There are so many facilities as well. There are pavilions that have been done for the international race track and lot of other positives have been added to the track. I think it’s going to be a very unique location for international races. There are two track layouts with the track expansion. Previously we had only one track layout. If there was a corporate event, we had to stop rentals. So now we can simultaneously run both. we can have two events. So, we have taken care of most of those restrictions we had before and taken the next step towards that.
Why did David Pieris Motor Company decide to move into the leisure/tourism sector?
I think there is a huge gap if you look at activity- based tourism, and it is an ideal area to enter. One thing is from a motorsports perspective. That’s an area that has not expanded enough in the country, and we are trying to do our part in the motorsports sector.
I also want to touch on our upcoming plan of a theme park, where we have finalised the plans already. The theme we are focusing on for the theme park will be a ‘speed’ theme to compliment Go-karting, and we are thinking of a resort as well. One key thing we are trying to change the dynamics of it. People go to Malaysia, Thailand or Singapore for a weekend to spend time and we spend money overseas. So, we want to have a location in Colombo where people can come and spend their weekend. Normally, with karting, it was the father and the son who were driving and the mother and other small kids don’t have many activities because we had limited number of activities. That’s why we are trying to cater with the theme park where even the younger kids or girls have more options to do. So, it’s a family-oriented location rather than just racing.
‘‘In countries like Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore kids start driving Go-karts at the age of 5, and that’s how they end up in F1
What kind of market do you hope to attract?
For international races there will be foreigners coming in, and we are only 30 minutes away from the Southern Coastal belt. We are trying to partner with most hotels so that foreigners have a day activity to do rather than spending the whole day at the beach because there isn’t much leisure activity-based tourism in the country. That’s a target, and it’s a local attraction as well. I think it opens up many areas for locals to come and enjoy as well.
Last but not least are corporate events. There was not much marketing done on this location before but in the last six months we saw a tremendous growth on corporate events happening there. So you would wonder how a corporate event could be held. There are teams doing endurance, say three hour races. So, there is a team manager, driver mechanics, so they have to play like a team. So team-building, leadership, working together and all that is needed. Corporate event organising companies can rent out the place, have their events and measure people’s performances.
What is your total investment for this venture?
It’s a significant investment.
Do you think the local market will make a sizeable contribution to this sector?
Yes, in two aspects. If you take racing alone, we’ll first take that. There is a significant interest developing in people little-by-little. We’ve been pushing schools to get involved. Already there is a sports club of S. Thomas’ College which comes to Bandaragama for karting training. There is a cadet programme we conduct. So, from a younger age it is slowly but surely spreading around the population. If you take Thailand, Malaysia or Singapore for example, the kids are just five years old, and from that age they start driving Go-karts and that’s how they end up in F1, because Go-karting is the stepping stone for F1.
The other area, as I said before, are corporate events, but that’s from a racing perspective, and then when the theme park comes in, its like family-oriented and they complement each other well.
How do you propose to build awareness on this venture?
We have done and distributed flyers among our 30,000+ customer database, and electronic media and social media and print media are also key areas we look at.
Also, during the previous race in Thailand we did some canvasing to promote Sri Lanka as a tourist destination and then the track. So, when tourists see the beautiful beaches and the new track they just say “wow!”
Do you have any plans to expand further and also try to cater to the tourists in providing accommodation facilities?
Yes, with the theme park coming in we want to make this becomes a weekend getaway place for the locals as well. That is the thinking right now. So, with the expansion plans these can change a little bit. But that’s the thinking, and we see the requirement. Rather than going to Malaysia, Singapore or Thailand for a weekend, we want the people to come here and spend time, and in half an hour you’re back home.