Harrison Newey_MMRTChampionship leader Pietro Fittipaldi inched one step closer to the MRF Challenge 2015 title after qualifying in pole position for the finale at the MMRT in Chennai. Harrison Newey, who has been fast all day was on top of the timesheets but lost out to Fittipaldi by 0.003secs in the final few minutes. Indian driver Tarun Reddy qualified in 3rd place, ahead of a hugely impressive Mick Schumacher. Earlier in the day Newey and Nikita Troitckii topped the free practice sessions. Karthik Tharani Singh picked up where he left off and was fastest in both sessions of the MRF F1600 championship.

Newey was one of the first few drivers to set a quick time and went top of the timesheets early. There were many changes at the top with Schumacher also moving top after 10 minutes. With 5 minutes to go Newey did a 1:34.041 only for Fittipaldi to beat him with a 1:34.197. Schumacher jumped up to 3rd place with a 1:34.237 as the top 3 looked to be set. Reddy did a 1:34.197 on his final lap to move into 3rd. Championship contenders Alessio Picariello, Troitckii and Tatiana Calderon had to settle for 5,6,7 positions. Tomorrow’s two races will be 15 laps and 20 laps each, longest that it has ever been for the series at the MMRT.

Pietro Fittipaldi was thrilled to start on pole position in a key weekend for him. He commented, “I decided to save my tyres for qualifying and focus on getting the balance right in practice. It paid off as the car felt really good in qualifying and I was able to push. The MMRT is a very challenging circuit to drive on and a lot of fun. It is always best to start on pole position so I hope to convert this into a win tomorrow.”

Harrison Newey was disappointed to just miss out on pole and commented, “The car has been great all day long and this circuit is just unbelievable to drive on. I was quick from the get go and managed to bring that same form in qualifying. It is upsetting to miss out on pole position by such a small margin but am happy to have my best qualifying session of the season. The start will be crucial so hope to have a good race tomorrow.”

Free Practice (FP) 1 set the weekend off to a start with Harrison Newey topping the times on his first visit to the circuit. He set a time 1:34.679 to go fastest on his 3rd lap. He was follow by Russian driver Troitckii, who has been consistently fast all day and 0.412s shy of the Brit’s time with home boy Tarun Reddy in third. Schumacher impressed with his performance straightaway finishing fourth ahead of Alessio Picariello, who rounded the top five. Tatiana Calderon was sixth, keeping championship leader Pietro Fittipaldi at bay in seventh. Arjun Narendran has his best practice session the championship to finish in 9th place.

In FP2 as the rubber set in the cars went faster. Troitckii did a 1m33.939s, pipping Schumacher by less than two-tenths of a second. Reddy once again set the third fastest time of the session ahead of Picariello and Calderon. 16 year old Enzo Bortoleto finished 6th with a time of 1m34.963s, ahead of fellow rookie Aleksanteri Huovinen, who brought out the red flag after he was forced to stop on track. The session was red-flagged briefly for marshals to clear the oil left on the track from Huovinen’s car. championship leader Pietro Fittipaldi finished close to the rear of the pack in 13th place.

This weekend also saw practice sessions for Round 1 of the MRF F1600 Championship. Karthik Tharani Singh was fastest in both sessions, picking up from where he left off yesterday. In FP1 he was fastest by close to one second ahead of Arjun Narendran and Sandeep Kumar. In FP2 the times became a lot closer and 2015 Volkswagen Vento Cup winner Anindith Reddy impressed to be less than a tenth of a second off the leader. Anindith finished 2nd ahead of Sandeep Kumar and Tejas Ram. Qualifying will take place tomorrow followed by the race.

Spectators are also in for a treat with the MRF FMX riders all set to thrill the fans in between the races. MRF FMX riders Callum Shaw from New Zealand and Gabriel Villegas from Chile will perform stunts on their Yamaha YZ 250 like the ‘Superman’, ‘Whip’, ‘Backflip’, ‘9Knack’ and many more as they soar through the air doing flips.

MRF Challenge 2015 Qualifying:

1. Pietro Fittipaldi
2. Harrison Newey
3. Tarun Reddy
4. Mick Schumacher
5. Alessio Picariello
6. Nikita Troitckii
7. Tatiana Calderon
8. Aleksanteri Huovinen
9. Max Fewtrell
10. Karthik Tharani Singh

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