Sri Lanka’s riding champion does his final lap | Sunday Observer

Sri Lanka’s riding champion does his final lap

17 January, 2021
Upali Dassanayake
Upali Dassanayake

A racing rider who reigned on the racing tracks in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade passed away last week after a long battle with a prolonged illness. Upali Dassanayake, a product of Maliyadeva College, Kurunegala was the icon among racing enthusiasts on all tracks from Kandy road races to the Katunayake and Katukurunda circuits.

Upali Mervyn Senerath Dassanayke hailed from a family of eight in Pannala and took to racing following the in wheels of his relatives, the famous Mirando family of three brothers, Asoka, Bathiya and Lucky from Negombo.

After years of learning the art of riding, Upali was a daredevil rider even in his younger days. His eldest brother, the late Gamini too was into racing but never could achieve what his younger brother reached.

Upali always thrilled the younger set in Kurunegala by showing his riding discipline by borrowng his elder brother’s Honda 125.

His late father Harry Dassanayake, was a prominent figure in Pannala and extended his support to his son at all times. Upali also excelled in athletics and was a member of the senior cricket team.

He first bought the Kawasakii from Chandra de Costa, another rider of his own class. That was his very first attempt at the Kandy road races where as a youngester had many tosses while riding but was cheered on by the crowds for his bold style in handling the bike.

Undaunted by his several attempts to win the track he continued fearlessly by participating on all tracks and finally in the late 1970s reached his goal as the champion rider of Sri Lanka.

He was the third rider from Kurunegala following Siri Wedisinghe and Dilantha Malagamuwa (before he switched to motor cars) and remained at the helm for many years.

At the time of his death he was 67 and was the finest figure in various fields.

He was a leading motorcycle businessman starting his money spinner with Goldwing Motors. His fortune as a great rider and businessman had much to do with his beloved wife Kamani who too hails from Kurunegala. He was a popular character to his dear friends here and overseas.

Upali had a dream to enter politics after his retirement from the track and successfully contested the Katugampola by-election in 1988 and won comfortably thanks to his popularity and to his devoed wife Kamani. He was elected again in 1989 and the late President Ranasinghe Premadasa gave him the portfolio of deputy minister of Parliamentary Affairs.

He did not contest in 1994 and concentrated on his business with Goldwing Motors.

His success was attributed to his wife Kamani who made him a legend of his time of motor racing, business and politics and his family life.

Kamani was a woman of great character and perseverence and effort and never feared to overcome challenges that came upon him. She stood by him even at the time of his death and brought up the children with respect, honour, irrational resentment, truth and integrity.

The results of her strength proved to be evidence even at the time of his demise. She was laudible and compassion was written all over her face throughout.

Upali’s success in life took another turn when he created the popular racing track in Pannala where his passion thrived at the zenith of his career.

His final journey taking the final lap took place on January 8 at his dream venue for which his wife Kamani was instrumental in giving him the unstinted support, the Pannala racing track.

He leaves behind his wife Kamani, son Naveen and daughter Gayathri. May he attain the supreme bliss of Nirvana.