• Over 30 entries for saloon car races
  • Full grid for final round of MRF Challenge

Chennai: In more ways than one, it will be a new beginning for the MRF MMSC fmsci Indian National Racing Championship as the first round of the 2018 season kicks off on Friday at the refurbished and renovated MMRT circuit now boasting of international standard paddock complex.

The weekend of races will be headlined by the fourth and concluding round of the MRF Challenge which boasts of a full grid of 18 2-litre formula cars, considered to be the quickest in Asia, and spearheaded by 17-year old Brazilian Felipe Drugovich who heads the championship table.

The National championship, which has attracted over 30 entries, will see the ever-popular saloon cars in four categories – the top-end Indian Touring Cars, Indian Junior Touring Cars, Super Stock and Esteem Cup. Also in the mix are two support events, the Volkswagen Media Race and the Superbikes.

The competitors will have the benefit of new and spacious garages following the development work carried out over the past nine months, besides the plush hospitality suites.

Drugovich, who has won eight of the 12 races contested over three rounds in Bahrain, Dubai and Abu Dhabi during November-December last year, leads Indonesian Presley Mortono, also just 17 years old, by 86 points going into the final round of four races.

The Brazilian teenager enjoyed his best outing in Abu Dhabi where he won all the four races to pull away from the rest of the field in the championship stakes and he would be looking to continue his good run to seal the title here this weekend.

Behind the dominant Drugovich who moved to open-wheel racing after seven seasons of karting, is Mortono (178 points) with two wins followed by 20-year old GP 3 driver Frenchman Julien Falchero (168) and Rinus van Kalmthout (165) from the Netherlands, also 17, both of whom have won a race apiece.

The National Championship is expected to dish out its share of exciting races as was the case last season which witnessed hard-fought battles and titles being won at the wire.

The ITC races this weekend will be without its two prominent drivers, defending champion Arjun Narendran and second-placed Deepak Paul Chinnappa, both of whom have opted out due to work commitments.

Their absence will open the doors for others, notably Bengaluru’s Ashish Ramaswamy who finished third in the championship last year behind Arjun Narendran and Chinnappa, and will again spearhead Red Rooster Performance challenge.

With all four categories in saloon cars to be run from a common grid, there will be no dearth of on-track action due to hectic jostling for positions.

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