LtoR-NeweyJanuary 30, 2016: Three legendary motorsport names swept the podium in the opening race of the MRF Challenge 2015 finale at the MMRT in Chennai. Pietro Fittipaldi extended his championship lead with a win in Race 1 ahead of Harrison Newey and an impressive Mick Schumacher. Race 2 provided more entertainment with Alessio Picariello colliding with young Indian Tarun Reddy, who was leading the race, on lap 17 of the race. Nikita Troitckii took the win when both retired ahead of Newey and Russian driver Nerses Isaakyan. Fittipaldi currently leads on 207 points, 35 ahead of his closest rival Tatiana Calderon with only two races to go tomorrow. Troitckii is on 166 points, 6 behind Calderon.

In Race 1, Fittipaldi starting on pole position just managed to hold on to the lead into the first corner. Reddy had a rocket start and was alongside Fittipaldi trying to go around the outside into the first corner. He ran wide but managed to stay in 4th place ahead of Calderon. One lap 4 Schumacher got past Reddy when he went wide and Calderon also took advantage to pass the young Indian into the final corner. At the front Fittipaldi and Newey continued to set a similar pace but pulling away from 3rd place Picariello. On Lap 10, Schumacher passed Picariello to move into 3rd place to the excitement of the audience. While Newey managed the close the gap it was not enough and Fittipaldi won to increase his championship lead. Newey finished 2nd with Schumacher further back in 3rd and on the podium in his first ever race in series. Picariello finished in 4th place ahead of Calderon and Reddy, who will start on reverse grid pole for Race 2. Russian drivers Nikita Troitckii and Nerses Isakyaan finished in 7th & 8th positions respectively.

In Race 2, Reddy got off to a great start and led into C1 ahead of a fast starting Picariello and Calderon. Schumacher slotted into 4th place ahead of Newey. Picariello piled on the pressure on Reddy trying every possible move to get past. Behind them Calderon had a train of cars behind her with Schumacher, Newey and Troitckii all behind and trying to find a way past. On lap 12 Schumacher, who was the faster driver at this point, was getting frustrated behind dived down the inside of Calderon and spun but managed to keep the car going.

All the action started on lap 17 of 20 as Picariello and Reddy collided, putting race leader Reddy out of the race. Troitckii inherited the lead with Newey in 2nd and Nerses Isaakyan in 3rd place. Troitckii went wide on the penultimate lap which gave Newey a run down in to the first corner. Both drivers were side by side but Troitckii just managed to hold on. Troitckii took his second win of the season with Newey in yet another second place. Isaakyan earned his first MRF Challenge podium with Calderon in 4th, followed by Fittipaldi in 5th and Schumacher recovering well to finish in 6th place.

Pietro Fittipaldi was thrilled to extend his lead after a strong Race 1. He commented, “Today was a really good day and I have also managed to extend my lead. In the first race I had a great start and after that it was just about maintaining the pace. Newey was really quick but I had some in reserve if needed. In the second race the start had cars coming from all sides so I decided to take it easy. The end of the race was fun. Tomorrow I start on pole again so look forward to a good race.”

Harrison Newey
was happy to get two 2nd place finishes and commented, “Both races were really good and I felt I had a chance to win in both of them. The car has been really quick all weekend so I am hoping to step on the top step of the podium tomorrow.”

Mick Schumacher
impressed on his debut with a brilliant 3rd place in Race 1. He commented, “I am pretty happy, for sure. The two guys were a bit quicker than I was and so they had gone from the start,” I had to pass few people first and also managed to get closer to Calderon who was quick, I am pretty happy to be third now. I really like this track and would be happy to show my tricks on this track.”

In the MRF F1600 qualifying, Karthik Tharani qualified on pole position and was the only driver to dip below 1m41s, setting a time of 1m40.761s. 2015 Volkswagen Vento Cup winner Anindith Reddy will start alongside Tharani in second place, having set a time of 1m41m.197s. Rahul Rangaswamy and 17yr old Tejas Ram will share the second row of the grid, with the two drivers separated by just over a tenth of a second. Goutham Parekh was fifth quickest in qualifying, ahead of Sandeep Kumar.

MRF Challenge 2015 Race 1:

1. Pietro Fittipaldi
2. Harrison Newey
3. Mick Schumacher
4. Alessio Picariello
5. Tatiana Calderon
6. Tarun Reddy
7. Nerses Isaakyan
8. Nikita Troitckii
9. Dylan Young
10. Max Fewtrell

MRF Challenge 2015 Race 2:

1. Nikita Troitckii
2. Harrison Newey
3. Nerses Isaakyan
4. Tatiana Calderon
5. Pietro Fittipaldi
6. Mick Schumacher
7. Max Fewtrell
8. Enzo Bortoleto
9. Dylan Young
10. Aleksanteri Huovinen

MRF Challenge 2015 Championship Standings:

1. Pietro Fittipaldi – 207 points
2. Tatiana Calderon – 172 points
3. Nikita Troitckii – 166 points
4. Alessio Picariello – 146 points
5. Harrison Newey – 83 points

*All results are provisional

MRF Challenge

In its fourth year, the MRF Challenge 2015 will feature 16 MRF Formula 2000 race cars, which have been made in India by JA Motorsport, based in Coimbatore. The Formula 3 style car has been built by JA Motorsport in technical collaboration with Dallara, world’s largest racing car manufacturer,and is considered to be the fastest of its kind in Asia. The MRF Formula 2000 is powered by a 2.0 litre 210 BHP Renault Sport Engine and will have a Hewland 6-Speed sequential gearbox. The race car has also been crash tested to FIA F3 safety standards and will race with MRF ZLO slick and wet tyres.

The MRF Challenge has fielded a strong driver line-up in the last three seasons, with drivers going on to win races in GP2 and British Formula 3. The MRF Challenge Alumni include GP2 drivers like Jordan King, Nobuharu Matsushita, Arthur Pic, Tio Ellinas, Jon Lancaster, Conor Daly, GP3 drivers like Ryan Cullen and Carmen Jorda and British Drivers Harry Tincknell (WEC) and Rupert Svendsen-Cook.

MRF Challenge 2015 Calendar:

Round 1: October 29-31, 2015, Abu Dhabi, Yas Marina Circuit
Round 2: November 18-20, 2015, Bahrain, Bahrain International Circuit (World Endurance Championship Support Race)
Round 3: December 17-19, 2015, Dubai, Dubai Autodrome
Round 4: January 29-31, 2016, Chennai, Madras Motor Race Track