Honors Split as MRF1600 Heads Back to MMRT
 July 23, 2018| 
  • Feeder Series
Raghul Rangasamy, quickest in MRF F1600 category (June 22) (1200x433)
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CHENNAI, India – Sandeep Kumar, Gouthan Parekh and Raghul Rangasamy (pictured) each won a race as the hard-fought MRF F1600 Championship headed to its spiritual home at the Madras Motor Race Track near Chennai this past weekend. Nevertheless, 19-year-old series rookie Ashwin Datta, who swept the opening weekend of the season last month at Kari Speedway in Coimberatore, scored a best finish of third on his first visit to MMRT and continues to lead the title-chase and the quest for an invitation to the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout which will be held later this year in the United States.

Local driver Sandeep Kumar, 24, bounced back from a disappointing weekend in Coimberatore by grabbing pole position on Friday. Kumar, a practicing corporate lawyer in Chennai, had finished first runner-up in the MRF F1600 last year, thus missing a ticket to the Mazda Road To Indy shootout, and is determined to go one better this time.

“I pushed really hard today, almost to the very limit,” said Kumar after posting a best lap of 1:39.999 around the 3.716-kms track to set himself up for the weekend triple-header.

Another Chennai driver, Nirmal Umashanker, 16, shared the front row with a best lap of 1:40.310 ahead of Goa’s Keith D’Souza (1:40.069), while Datta qualified eighth after posting a best of 1:40.685.

Kumar was virtually untroubled in the opening race, though he trailed Umashankar briefly before moving into the lead midway through the first of the eight-lap race. Umashanker was subsequently penalized for a jump-start with a drive-through which he failed to obey leading to a 30-second penalty which placed him 12th and last after a spin at Turn One.

“It was tough at the start as Nirmal got past me when the lights went out,” related Kumar, “but I took him midway through the first lap itself and, after he spun, I had a good lead. The win helped me to earn some big points after my disappointing run in the first round last month when I finished fourth and had two DNFs in the next two races. Tomorrow, we have two more races and I hope to pick up more points.”

Datta became stranded in the mid-grid bunch and finished a distant seventh in his maiden race at the MMRT, while Raghul Rangasamy and Goutham Parekh finished second and third.

Race Two was a stop-go affair due to two stoppages following collisions and was reduced to a total of five laps. Chennai-based Parekh, first runner-up in 2015 before taking a two-year break, started fourth on the reverse grid and moved to the front with Sandeep Kumar and Nabil Hussain in close attendance. The order remained unchanged as they crossed the finish line.

In contrast, the third and final race of the weekend ran its course of eight laps without incident as 25-year-old Rangasamy, starting from pole position, gradually pulled away from Parekh. Behind them, Datta managed to hold off Kumar to complete the podium. For Rangasamy, who hails from the nearby temple town of Mamallapuram, it was his first-ever win in the championship.

The weekend saw considerable jockeying for points, although Datta maintained his overall lead with 96 points after two rounds, ahead of Rangasamy (84), Parekh (68) and Sandeep Kumar (67). With two more rounds and six races to be run in the coming weeks, the championship is wide open.

MRF F1600 Results:
Race 1 (8 laps)
: 1. Sandeep Kumar, 13:37.418s; 2. Raghul Rangasamy, 13:40.097 3. Goutham Parekh, 13:40.739.

Race 2 (5 laps): 1. Parekh, 10:35.884; 2. Kumar, 10:37.360; 3. Nabil Hussain, 10:40.124.

Race 3 (8 laps): 1. Rangasamy, 13:37.431; 2. Parekh, 13:39.405; 3. Ashwin Datta, 13:41.178.
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