The 2015 MRF FF1600 series continued to thrill with Goutham Parekh retaking the Championship lead with a double podium finish at the MMRT on the outskirts of Chennai. Parekh won Race 1 and followed it up with a second placed finish in Race 2 at Round 4 of the MMSC-FMSCI National Racing Championship. Arjun Narendran also had a strong weekend with a win in Race 2 and 2nd place in Race 1. Parekh overturned a 1 point deficit and now leads by 12 points heading into the final round on August 22-23.
Qualifying took place on Saturday with Karthik Tharani taking a dominant pole position. His lap time of 1:42.850 was 0.845secs faster than Narendran and 1.020secs faster than Goutham Parekh. Tharani had also topped the Free Practice sessions and was looking to be in a league of his own.
In Race 1 pole sitter Tharani kept the lead heading into C1 with Parekh jumping Narendran to slot into 2nd place. Parekh was all over the rear of Tharani’s car and overtook his championship rival on lap 3 to take the lead. Tharani was given a drive-through penalty for a jumpstart, which put him back in 6th place on Lap 4.
Tharani fought his way back to 3rd place but the top two were too far ahead. Parekh comfortably took the chequered flag in 1st place ahead of Narendran with Tharani in 3rd place. Chetan Korada finished in 4th place ahead of Actor Jai, who managed to hold off CS Tejas Ram.
In Race 2 reverse grid pole sitter Chetan Korada took the lead with Narendran and Tharani slotting behind. Narendran passed Korada for the lead with Tharani being pushed into a spin and losing several places. Parekh got past Korada as well and chased after Narendran. Parekh tried everything possible to get past Narendran but could not find a way past.
Narendran drove a brilliant race to win his second race of the season ahead of Parekh. Tharani was again in recovery mode and finished in 3rd place limit his championship damage. Korada was again best of the rest with a strong 4th place finish.
Championship leader Goutham Parekh was delighted to leave Round 4 ahead after a tough start to the weekend. He commented, “A good weekend which didn’t start off quite good. Race 1 was a turning point. A win and then a second place in the 2nd race starting from 4th were good. I will have to work closely with Peter (Allnut, Chief Engineer) to understand why we were struggling for one lap pace. Nevertheless a good weekend overall and am looking forward to the finale.”
Championship contender Karthik Tharani Singh rued his bad luck but was confident of fighting back at the final round. He commented, “”It’s been an unlucky weekend I guess. I had the pace from practice and I was quicker by about 8 tenths! What should really have been an easy win in race 2 didn’t turn out to be so. I was hit from the rear and lost a lot of positions and it was about damage limitation after that. I had some epic battles with some drivers on my way to third so am happy about that. I will come back stronger for the final weekend.”
Arjun Narendran will head into the final round with an outside chance. He commented, “It was a great weekend for me and definitely a great way to strike back after the disappointment in Coimbatore. In Race 1 I could not keep up with Goutham so I settled for 2nd place but in Race 2 I knew I had to take my chances to get ahead. Goutham put a lot of pressure on me throughout the race but I managed to keep him behind.”
Parekh currently leads the championship on 162 points with Tharani in second place with 150 points. Arjun Narendran is further behind with 140 points.
The MRF FF1600 continues to be the best singles seater series in India which provides young drivers the opportunity to develop as drivers. The winner of the championship gets a free round in the F3 style Indian based MRF Challenge, which features the MRF Formula 2000 car, and is raced internationally. Last year saw 4 Indians from the MRF FF1600 graduating to the MRF Challenge, with 2014 winner Tarun Reddy also winning in the first round in Qatar.