King and Daly set to renew rivalry in MRF Challenge

Chennai, Feb 7: This weekend will witness the start of a fresh National racing season while bringing the curtains down on the highly competitive inaugural MRF Challenge Formula 2000 championship at the MMRT track here.

The final two rounds of the F2000 series that will have Renault-powered 210bhp single-seaters, coincide with the start of the 2013 FMSCI National Racing championship that, for the first time in 15 years, will not be prefixed by JK Tyre who have been replaced by Madras Motor Sports Club as the promoters.

The National championship will encompass the MRF Formula Ford 1600 that was launched in 2010 and the two classes in saloon car series, the Indian Touring Cars (Super Saloons) and the Indian Junior Touring Cars.

Without doubt, much of the attention over the weekend will be on F2000 series that boats of some high-profile drivers quite a few of whom look set to break into Formula One in the seasons to come.

The F2000 line-up is headlined by Britain’s Jordan King who leads the championship with 100 points and three wins from four starts, just ahead of American Conor Daly (95) who has two wins to his credit. The rivalry between the two is expected to be as fierce as in the previous rounds.

Ranged behind the pair are three British entries Alice Powell, (68) one of three female drivers on the grid, Akshay Luciano Bacheta (67) of Indian ancestry, and Hector Hurst (55), just four ahead of Japan’s Yudai Jinkawa.

Joining the “regulars” are two notable first-timers, 22-year old Joshua Hill, son of 1996 F1 champion Damon Hill and grandson of double F1 title winner Graham (1962, 1968), and Milan-born teenager Vicky Piria who will be testing her skills in a highly competitive field after stints in Italian Formula Renault and Abarth series, besides GP3.

Spain’s Carmen Jorda is the third female driver on the F2000 grid with six seasons of single-seater racing experience, but with just one point from her 10th place finish in the previous round run at the Budh International Circuit in December.

The Indian challenge will be spearheaded by veteran Parthiva Sureshwaren, who cut his racing teeth at this very track over a decade ago, and Kolhapur’s Parth Ghorpade, neither of whom has made much of impact. Their best performance has been a seventh place finish.

Of the lot, King who will turn 19 Feb 26, is all too familiar with the track from his participation in the MRF F1600 series in 2011 that he won comfortably. As such, the highly technical nature of the track should not be an issue with this talented lad.

However, he can expect some strong challenge from the likes of Daly, 2012 Formula 2 champion Bacheta and Powell who marked her presence with a second place finish at the previous round in BIC.

The foursome is expected to again dominate the show, but one cannot put anything past Jinkawa who pulled off an electrifying win in the second race of last round after being involved in a horrific crash a day earlier.

Meanwhile, the F1600 series has an all-India 12-driver grid headed by 2010 champion Ashwin Sundar who will have to contend with few other experienced competitors in Sudarshana Rao and Ajay Kini.

As in the past, races in the the two saloon car categories should provide their quota of thrills with a bunch of seasoned veterans in the fray.

IANS