Racing cars: The ‘coolest thing’ for champion F3 driver | Sunday Observer

Racing cars: The ‘coolest thing’ for champion F3 driver

12 June, 2021
Eshan Pieris on the podium at his debut in the F4 South East Asia in 2017 in the Sepang F1 Circuit-Eshan Pieris after winning an F3 Asian Winter Series Race in 2019 in Malaysia
Eshan Pieris on the podium at his debut in the F4 South East Asia in 2017 in the Sepang F1 Circuit-Eshan Pieris after winning an F3 Asian Winter Series Race in 2019 in Malaysia

Eshan Pieris aims to create pathway for aspiring young drivers in Racing School at SLKC:

Eshan Pieris had a promising racing career ahead of him after becoming the first Sri Lankan to win a Formula 3 race in Malaysia in 2019. Selected to be part of Porsche Asia’s Junior Talent Program to compete in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Championship last year, he was eagerly looking forward to the support event for three Formula 1 races in Vietnam, Singapore and Shanghai.

A young driver with immense talent and considerable achievements in the sphere of motor sports, Eshan concurrently completed his Bachelor of Business and Commerce with majors in International Business and Management at Monash University, Malaysia. Alas the COVID-19 pandemic put a spanner in the works of his racing ambitions as he returned to Sri Lanka to look after his father’s business.

“It’s very difficult to go on tour unless you are going to Europe. I don’t have any opportunities in Europe at the moment. I’m also working and just kind of waiting to see when all of this blows over. Then I’ll get back on tour. But I am definitely not done racing yet,” said the 22-year-old champion driver who is a part of Shanghai-based Absolute Racing team.

“I did the Porsche Sprint Race in Malaysia. It was a smaller multi-class series with GT cars as well. I was taking part in the Cup car category with the pro drivers. I qualified and finished third in both races, getting a debut podium with the car. I got a lot of confidence after that weekend. But obviously with coronavirus everything got shut down,” lamented Eshan who has been stuck in Sri Lanka since.

“I have been doing a lot of simulator racing. It’s a whole new ball game. The competition is really good though. The fact that I can do it at home at any time with some of the best drivers in the world is great. I still drive go-karts here at SLKC (Sri Lanka Karting Circuit) and put in some laps. I am still keeping fit and just being ready to go on tour when everything opens up again,” said Eshan who operates the Racing School at SLKC in Bandaragama.

He commended 13-year-old Yevan David who caused a sensation when he was placed first in one of the five qualifying heats at the ‘Champions of the Future 2021’ karting competition in Belgium.

“I have seen him drive. He is doing quite well in Europe. He is running towards the front in Europe which is fantastic because it’s a very competitive field. He is very young and performing well. He has got a long future if he works hard,” said Eshan, who aims to create a pathway for kids to become future champions.

“SLKC can provide a pathway for them to get the proper foundation to actually pursue the sport properly. That’s why I started the racing school,” said Eshan who is Project Manager for a Water Theme Park of David Pieris Racing & Leisure (Pvt) Ltd which also owns and operates SLKC, Sri Lanka’s first FIA-CIK homologated international standard karting track that hosted the inaugural race for the world renowned IAME X30 Asia Cup.

Aneeq Jamaldeen, a nine-year-old who won the first-ever cadet kart race conducted by SLKC in September 2019 is one of his protégés. “He did one race in Indonesia and was on tour in Malaysia when the pandemic happened. All events were cancelled and we haven’t had a race since,” said Eshan who is also waiting till the coronavirus blows over.

The youngest of four siblings, Eshan David Pieris who had his primary education at S. Thomas’ College, Mount Lavinia was the only child to show an interest in motor sport after his father David Pieris though his elder brother became a pilot. One of his sisters works for the government in Sweden while the other is an artist.

“Like most other kids back then eight or nine years ago, I went to the Speedrome in Battaramulla with friends just for fun. I always had an interest in motor sport. My dad and I used to watch Formula One from time to time. I used to follow the sport but did watch every sport like most people,” he recalled.

He did athletics competitively, played cricket for a short while but did not develop a great interest for it and also did swimming and badminton in school.

“I left school because I started racing,” he stated. “It started as a hobby purely for fun. I met a lot of great people, awesome individuals through the sport. The interest kind of peaked from there. Then I started to get a little better, a little more competitive. My father gave me the option of pursuing it a little more seriously. We did a couple of tests in Malaysia. Once that positive feedback came, I decided to pursue it full time,” recalled Eshan.

Taking part in the Rotax Series in Malaysia brought out his talents. “Running in that competition and being in front was a big change in mindset and approach for the race. I have never led in an international competition before. I remember very clearly. The first race was a gearbox class as well. We were very strong but I didn’t have the confidence to overtake for the lead and finished second. The following race we managed to pull everything together. We got ahead in the final and won that race,” said Eshan who joined Monash University in Malaysia in 2016.

He credited the RL Karting team based out of Malaysia for making him a complete driver. “They made me the driver I am today. All the credit to them, dad and RL. They took me from when I had very little experience. And whatever talent that I had, they brought it out of me. Aaron Lim is manager to this day. He really brought out everything that I had to offer and continues to do so even now,” he recalled with gratitude. Richard Lin is team principal.

“Uncle Richard, Aaron’s dad, he really put pressure on me when I started. The skills that I have got come because of all the pressure. He was really old school. Really hard on a lot of the younger guys. I’m glad that he was who he was to me. I really do owe a lot of it to him,” he said.

When he began karting as a kid, it was not all fun. “Dad was pushing me and I was pushing myself. I wanted to hopefully make a career out of it as well. So I knew I had to be very serious about it. I wasn’t looking at Formula 1 because I was already too old to have that kind of a goal for myself. I was really looking at a very competitive career,” he said.

“We were looking at F2 and moving to Europe but I felt that a better move for me would be back to Sri Lanka and I started working as well. My father wanted me to come back and help him with the business,” said Eshan.

Asked what inspired him to pursue motor racing, he said: “It’s just love for the sport. I always thought it was the coolest thing to be racing cars.”

“I was good at it. I like to think I am still good at it,” added Eshan, who is not so comfortable on two wheels.

“No! That is a bit too dangerous. I can ride, but when it comes to competitive riding motorcycles, I don’t have that kind of confidence. Also my father might disown me if I start racing bikes,” he said.

“I asked him this question recently. He said ‘if you ever touch a motorcycle on a race track, you will not hear from me again’. I don’t want to do that. I might give it a try later at some point in my life if the opportunity comes my way,” he added.

Young Ferrari drivers Charles Le clerk and Max Verstappen are his role models. “They are the youngest drivers who made it to F1,” said Eshan who loves the Suzuka track in Japan.

“Suzuka is really special because that circuit is phenomenal. It’s high speed. In single seaters especially even better. It’s an awesome circuit with very big changes in elevation as well. I wish I had more success in Japan,” he said.