Competing in any sport internationally is a feat in itself. It’s the dream of many an athlete to be recognized and honoured on the intentional stage, competing for glory no longer amongst mere individuals, but against entire nations as well. Last month we met such an athlete, whose exploits in the international motorsports arena have made him a household name in Sri Lanka. This month we chat with a young New Zealander, who aims to make the Sri Lankan EZY Racing outfit a championship winning name both here and abroad.
At just 22 years of age, Mike Young is already in his 4th full year of the Asia Pacific Rally Championship, and is proving to be one to watch in the popular and widely viewed rally championship. Having just won the FIA Production cup in a Subaru Impreza with EZY Racing for 2015, the plucky Kiwi obviously is no junior when it comes to driving. “ A lot of the inspiration came from my father, who was also a rally driver back in New Zealand,” says Mike. “And since then he’s turned to motorsports photography, so I’ve been around cars and racing them from an early age thanks to him.”
Having cut his teeth in a Proton Satria, in 2011 and 2012, Young was put behind the wheel of a Cusco Toyota Vitz for the 2013 APRC 2WD championship. “It was great to get the Vitz and to battle in it. But we couldn’t have imagined the success we actually achieved in 2013.” Despite being a 2WD car, it soon became apparent that Mike’s Asia Championship campaign may cause the more experienced drivers to look over their shoulders. “Even though we couldn’t touch the 4WD cars in terms of power and all out speed, we were able to consistently finish well and in the points. Consistency is pretty much key to any championship, and in the end it’s what earned us the Asia Championship win.” Young and co-driver Malcolm Read became the first pairing to win the APRC Asia Cup in a two wheel drive car, as well as the first to secure a hat-trick of championships; clinching the Junior and 2WD cups as well.
Back in a Proton for 2014, more wins and championships followed – with Mike once again becoming a triple FIA champion, picking up the Junior, 2WD and Production Cups. So in 2015 Mike made the jump to the 4WD Production Class where EZY Racing too stepped in to support him. “Shafraz was with Dinesh (Deheragoda) in the 2014 season, and Ezy was looking to expand their outfit, “ says Young. “So yeah, it’s great to be part of a team that is so passionate about motorsport and to be on board with them this year – it’s definitely been a great experience”. Upgrading from the two wheel drive Vitz and Satria, Young now drives a Subaru Impreza WRX. “There are some differences with the Subaru to the 2WD cars, mainly being the speed and power,” says Mike. “In the 2WD cars the maximum you’re going is around 100kmph, whereas in the Subaru you can easily reach 150. It’s much better in the twisties than an Evo, and the with all wheel drive you can keep you foot flat down the straights and even in some corners. But as the car is made to FIA Group N specifications for our class, the car is still quite similar to the road going Impreza. It wasn’t too big a leap from the cars I was driving before, and I got a hang of it quite quickly”
Despite some hair raising moments behind the wheel of the Cusco-Ezy Racing Impreza this year, Mike evidently revelled in the challenge of the upgrade, finishing second overall and winning the production cup championship. We got a hold of Mike in his first of hopefully many visits to Sri Lanka, where he was treated to a look at Ezy Racing’s Local oporations and a chance to meet their fans. “It’s great to be here in Sri Lanka for the first time. Everyone has been hospitable, and I can see there’s a fair amount of interest in racing here. It’s great to see a lot of support here for the team and myself too. Our technical support by Cusco has been amazing this year as well, and they too will be partnering with EZY Racing. I know for me they’ve always been able to get the car going well, despite the punishment. “
Anyone who’s watched the odd WRC video on Youtube will know that rallying can be one of the most punishing motor sports out there, but how does the Asia Pacific Rally circuit compare? “We get a lot of different terrains and courses which challenge man and machine in the APRC circuit,” says Mike. “For instance Australia and New Zealand are wide and sweeping, but Malaysia can be very narrow and tricky. Heat is also another challenge, the in car temperatures soar and keeping cool and handling the temps is very important when you’re under so much pressure. The different countries we visit mean that you have to adapt to different driving styles and be a different driver for each rally.”
So what does the future hold for the Lankan-backed multiple champion, who’s already grabbed a plethora of victories internationally. “I think it’s any Rally drivers dream to be part of the WRC (World Rally Championship),” says Young. “But in addition to that I want to be a professional rally driver: one who gets paid to race. It’s not easy finding sponsors, but it’s still a part of being a racing driver. We’re thankful to have the sponsors we have on board now, including Cusco and EZY Racing, and we hope to put Sri Lanka and their drivers on the map in the years to come. In the short term I’m looking ahead to the 2016 season, and I’m sure it’ll be another strong one for Ezy Racing!”
Mike Young, Ezy Racing and the APRC will be back in action on the 19th of April at round one in New Zealand. Keep an eye on Torqueandthrottle.net for updates on the 2016 APRC season.
Words: Sam Smith
Photography: EZY Racing
Thanks to: Mike Young, Ezy Racing & Farzan Najmudeen