Three-Wheeled Tuk-Tuk Racing Is Real, and Even Better Than It Sounds

Nothing says motorsport like top-heavy rickshaws barreling across Sri Lanka.

Participants
Dimitri Crusz/Red Bull Content Pool

Humans have been racing cars since the second one was built, and in the land of Sri Lanka, this spirit of motorsport is surprisingly strong. Earlier this year, 200 teams gathered to race those little motorized rickshaws known as tuk-tuks in an 80-plus-mile, winner-tuks-all event spanning almost half the country.

Crudely named the Tuk It 2020 by its sponsor Red Bull, the fourth annual running of this increasingly popular three-wheeler race kicked off Feb. 22 at the Moonamale Estate in Kaluaggala. Stage one of the event, reports The Papare, involved romping across a motocross track-like "obstacle course," which would be a cakewalk in anything more stable than a tuk-tuk.

Enduring this stage—never mind coming out in the lead—required the teams of three to take a leaf from the book of motorcycle sidecar racing, and manage their vehicles' weight by hanging off the side, preventing rollovers in fast corners. Those lucky enough to survive this stage faced an additional three, all of which involved further tricky terrain, plus navigation to the race's finish line in Dambulla, more than 80 miles away. The first team to reach this goal went home with a prize, though less tenacious teams of tuk-tukkers also had a shot at glory by decorating their vehicles creatively—a la 24 Hours of Lemons.

If falling out of a tuk-tuk dozens of times while racing across Sri Lanka sounds like your idea of a good vacation, then consider signing up for this October's Tuk-tuk Tournament, which appears to be a significantly lengthier event, spanning 13 days and over 1,000 "challenges." A $100 damages deposit is required for each entrant, though anyone who has seen Top Gear's old Reliant Robin film would know not to expect that money back at the end of the journey.

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