There is plenty of high octane action on cards as the second round of the MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Racing Championship kicks off at the MMRT track in Sriperumbudur, near here this weekend along with the grand finale of MRF Challenge (Formula 2000) which boasts of a highly competitive grid containing young guns from abroad, some of them boasting rich racing pedigree.
In all, 10 races have been scheduled over Saturday and Sunday after Friday’s free practice sessions. Much of the attention will be on the four MRF Challenge races where Australian Joey Mawson (211 points), Harrison Newey of the UK (184) and German Mick Schumacher (171) are locked in a three-way battle for the championship. The MRF Challenge returns to Chennai after previous rounds in Bahrain, Dubai and Greater Noida (Buddh International Circuit).
One of the highpoints of the weekend will be the presence of MRF brand ambassador Bharat Ratna Sachin Tendulkar who is expected to do a few laps of the circuit in a twin-seater racing car on Sunday.
The MRF Challenge is being run concurrently with the National Racing Championship that includes MRF F1600, a revamped Formula LGB 1300 and the Saloon cars which comprise the Indian Junior Touring Cars and the Super Stock while the Esteem Cup will be making its debut, but not counting towards the National championship. The high-end Indian Touring Cars will be joining the championship in the next round to be run in March.
The entry-level Formula LGB 1300 which also has a Rookie class provides an option for youngsters moving up from karting to open-wheel racing. The Rookie class is part of MMSC’s continuing efforts to attract fresh and young talent, especially among students and the initiative has met with an encouraging response with 22 entries.
Chairman of the Meet Vicky Chandhok said: “Now that we have the single-seater category in place as a platform for talent to move up the ladder, we decided to focus on saloon cars in our effort to encourage participation of more car manufacturers in the National Championship in keeping with MMSC’s vision.
“With this in mind, we have thrown open the Super Stock to all comers and not just restricted to the Maruti Esteem.
“The production of Esteem cars has been stopped, but considering that many have already invested in this make, we decided to have a separate Cup for this make. We hope that this move will see bigger grids and more manufacturers coming aboard.”
The MRF F1600, where the champion at the end of the season will be eligible to participate in the Mazda Road To Indy shootout in the United States, is no doubt the flagship of the National championship with a very competitive grid.
The first round in Noida last month saw Bengaluru’s Ananth Shanmugam and Nayan Chatterjee from Mumbai winning a race apiece. The two share the top spot with 40 points apiece, ahead of 2015 Volkswagen Vento Cup champion Anindith Reddy (36) from Hyderabad. The grid also has 2016 Vento Cup champion Ishaan Dodhiwala (Hyderabad) who is in his first single-seater season and managed just six points in the previous round.
Joey Mawson heads to the 4th and final round as the favourite as he enjoys a 27 point lead over Harrison Newey and a 40 point lead over Mick Schumacher. However with 100+ points available, the championship will certainly go down to the wire. The MRF 1600 will also be in action for with Round 2 of the series take place this weekend.
Mr. Arun Mammen, Managing Director, MRF Tyres, commented, “The final round in Chennai always brings a lot of excitement and this time will be no different. The Championship has been closely contested featuring some of the best young drivers from across the world. The cars have been 3-4 seconds faster this year and we expect the MMRT to witness even faster times. We eagerly await to see who will be crowned the MRF Challenge 2016 Champion and look forward to a thrilling weekend ahead.”
Mawson currently leads the Championship on 211 points with Newey on 184 points. Schumacher is on 171 points with Brazilian driver Felipe Drugovich on 135 points after a costly double DNF in the last Round in New Delhi. Mawson is the only driver to have finished in the points in all races this season. While Schumacher and Newey have showed tremendous pace all season, the former has had 3 DNFs while the latter has had 2 DNFs. Mawson has showed that consistency is the key to winning a championship.
This weekend will once again see the leading young drivers from across the globe competing against each other. Joining the MRF Challenge for this weekend will be Red Bull Junior and F3 driver Dan Ticktum. He will joined by 2015 Italian F4 Champion and F3 race winner Ralf Aron returns along with Japanese F3 Champion (National Class) Yoshiaki Katayama and Manuel Maldonado, cousin of former F1 race winner Pastor Maldonado.
In its fifth year, the MRF Challenge will feature MRF Formula 2000 race cars, which have been made in India by Coimbatore based JA Motorsport. The Formula 3 style car has been built by JA Motorsport in technical collaboration with Dallara, and is considered to be the fastest of its kind in Asia. The new car is powered by a 2 litre Mountune Duratec engine with max power of 230 bhp and shod on MRF Z.L.O. tyres. The car will also feature advanced aerodynamics with underbody diffuser and a Hewland 6-speed sequential gearbox.
Joining the MRF Challenge 2016 cars this weekend will be the MRF 1600 series. Round 1 lived up to its excitement with Ananth Shanmugam and Nayan Chaterjee both winning to be joint leaders at the top of the championship. Anindith Reddy is also clearly in the reckoning and just behind the leaders. Also joining them will be former champion Karthik Tharani Singh, Chetan Korada and Siddharth Trivellore.
Also in action will be a special MRF stunt bike show. Free Practice 1&2 will take place on Friday, February 17. Qualifying and Races 1&2 will take place on Saturday, February 18, with Races 3&4 taking place on Sunday, February 19. All the action will be streamed live this weekend and can be seen at www.mrfracing.in