December 8, 2017: 17 year old Dutch driver Rinus van Kalmthout

Brazilian Felipe Drugovich got his 2017 MRF Challenge campaign off to a perfect start by winning both races in the season opener at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, Bahrain. Drugovich pulled off a last lap move on Manuel Maldonado, cousin of former F1 racer Pastor Maldonado, to win Race 2. Presley Martono also passed Maldonado on the run up to the chequered flag to beat the Venezuelan by 0.010 secs to take second spot. In Race 1, Drugovich benefitted from race leader Rinus van Kalmthout’s retirement to win ahead of Martono and Dylan Young.

Qualifying got the engines roaring to start the day and it was a two-way battle between Martono and Drugovich. Drugovich set a time of 1:55.867 with three minutes to go on the clock. Martono struck back and set a 1:55.861 to go 0.006 secs faster. He further improved his time to confirm his pole position. Karkosik qualified in 3rd place ahead of van Kalmthout and Julien Falchero.

Martono continued his run of bad starts as he got bogged down allowing the top guys to go past him. Drugovich had the perfect start and led comfortably into the first corner. Karkosik slotted into 2nd place ahead of van Kalmthout and Falchero. Martono dropped down to 6th place but passed Harri Jones by the end of lap 1. Drugovich was unchallenged as he coasted to his 3rd win of the season. Van Kalmthout set the fastest lap of the race and closed in on Karkosik but was unable to pass the Polish driver and had to settle for 3rd place. Falchero finished ahead of Martono, with Louis Gachot overtaking Jones to finish in 6th place.

In the reverse grid based Race 2, Maldonado jumped Falchero to lead into the first corner. Drugovich had a strong start from 6th on the grid to slot into 3rd behind the fast starting Karkosik. Karkosik and Drugovich put pressure on Maldonado but the Venezuelan did well to stay in front. Van Kalmthout, who started last, sliced through the field and was upto 6th place on lap 5. Martono passed Falchero into the first corner on lap 6 while 2nd placed man Karkosik was forced to retire with a mechanical problem. On the last lap Drugovich out braked Maldonado to take the lead, with Martono close behind. Coming out of the last corner and heading into the start finish straight Martono managed to get his nose ahead to beat Maldonado by 0.010secs. It was heartbreak for Maldonado who slipped from 1st to 3rd on the last lap. Behind the top 3, Falchero finished in 4th ahead of the charging van Kalmthout, with Megennis and Ravishankar rounding off the top 7.

Double winner Felipe Drugovich, commented, “I am really happy to win both races today. In qualifying we were still trying things with the setup. We were lucky to win Race 1 with Van Kalmthout retiring. In race 2 I had a great start and managed to get behind Maldonado. He made a small mistake into the final corner and I took advantage to pass him into the first corner. It has been a great start and I hope we can do the same tomorrow.”

Presley Martono impressed with a double podium finish in the season opener. He commented, “The car was great today and I felt that we really nailed the setup. I have to improve my starts and then I feel I can challenge for the win. Overall I am very happy with today’s performance.”

Race 3&4 will take place tomorrow.

Live Timing:
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MRF Challenge 2017, Round 1, Dubai, Qualifying:

S.No. Driver Name Time
1. Presley MARTONO 1:55.833
2. Felipe DRUGOVICH 1:57.867
3. Alex KARKOSIK 1:56.300
4. Rinus VAN KALMTHOUT 1:56.390
5. Julien FALCHERO 1:56.765

MRF Challenge 2017, Round 1, Dubai, Race 1:

S.No. Driver Name Total Time
1. Presley MARTONO 19:44.537
2. Rinus VAN KALMTHOUT 19:46.790
3. Alex KARKOSIK 19:47.372
4. Julien FALCHERO 19:51.510
5. Danial FROST 19:52.035

MRF Challenge 2017, Round 1, Dubai, Race 2:

S.No. Driver Name Time
1. Presley MARTONO 19:44.537
2. Rinus VAN KALMTHOUT 19:44.537
3. Alex KARKOSIK 19:44.537
4. Julien FALCHERO 19:44.537
5. Danial FROST 19:44.537