MRF F1600: Tharani and Anand Share Honours at MMRT
 March 6, 2016| 
  • Feeder Series
CHENNAI, India – A busy weekend at the MMRT (Madras Motor Race Track) at Sriperumbudur, near Chennai, saw Karthik Tharani extend his lead in the MRF Formula 1600 Championship following another pair of victories on Saturday, only to meet his match the following day when Vikash Anand emerged from the pack to win twice.

Tharani, a 22-year-old automobile engineering graduate from Chennai and the defending champion, adjusted well to the tricky track conditions on a hot and humid day to set the fastest time in both the Friday practice sessions ahead of Saturday qualifying.

“The track was a bit bumpy and the grip was much less than what it was during the first round in January, but I managed to adjust to the conditions to be quickest in both the practice sessions,” said Tharani on Friday evening. “It was a good start for the round and I am looking forward to qualifying. Hopefully, I should be able to go much quicker since it is a morning session and on new tyres.”

Instead it was Anand, returning to the cockpit for the first time in 18 months, who qualified on pole for the first race of the weekend, only for Tharani to rocket off the blocks and into the lead, which he nursed to the finish to ensure the victory. Anand finished second, just 1.708 seconds adrift, with Rangasamy five seconds farther back in third.

In the next race, Tharani, who had scored a double in the first round in January, started fourth on the reverse grid and lost a place before cutting through the field. When leader Raghul Rangasamy spun, the race was Tharani’s for the taking. Sandeep Kumar followed in second, two seconds clesar of Anindath Reddy. Rangasamy recovered to finish seventh.

Both Saturday races were interrupted by Safety Car periods following on-track incidents which took out title contender Goutham Parekh.

“Today has been a brilliant day,” said Tharani. “In the first race, I jumped Vikash (Anand) at the start and then just managed the pace to win the race. The second race was more interesting. I had a slow start and lost a place to go down to fifth position. I managed to get past two drivers before the Safety Car and then passed Sandeep (Kumar) into Anand’s corner. Raghul (Rangaswamy) spun off in front of me, so winning this race was unexpected and exciting. It's four out of four, and so I look forward to some more battles tomorrow.”

Anand, however, proved to be the star of Sunday’s show, ending Tharani’s four-win spree by winning both races. Anand thus became a serious contender for the championship whose winner will be eligible to participate in the Mazda Road to Indy shootout to be held later this year in the United States.

Anand hardly put a wheel wrong in the first race, winning comfortably ahead of a pack that was involved in a merry scrap for track positions. He started fourth on the reverse grid for the final race of the weekend but made places to move into second behind Parekh. The duo was involved in a tight fight until Parekh’s mistake on the last lap saw Anand move in front and win.

Meanwhile, Tharani’s fortunes nosedived. In the third race on Sunday morning, a 30-second penalty for “causing an avoidable collision” pushed him from third to eighth and in the next outing he had a contact with Rangasamy before finishing ninth.

“I am at a loss for words,” said Anand. “It has been a year and a half since I raced and I am surprised how competitive I have been since yesterday. It was a great battle with Goutham, a clean, fair fight and I am overjoyed to win on the last lap.”

Despite his disastrous Sunday, Tharani still leads the championship by a healthy margin, 106-84 points over Rangasamy. Anand has vaulted into third place in the standings just six points further adrift. The next rounds of the championship will be held at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore on June 18/19.

About MMSC:
The Madras Motor Sports Club which came into being in 1953 has since grown into one of India’s premier motor sport institutions. Moving on from the days of Sholavaram which is synonymous with motor racing in India, MMSC built its own race track that was inaugurated in 1979 and secured its FIA Grade-2 international certification in 2015, making it the only club which owns such a facility. MMSC can be justifiably proud of the many activities designed to develop and promote motor sport. Having successfully conducted many international events, both four and two-wheeler, MMSC came up with a new initiative last year that provides a great opportunity for young Indian racing aspirants to participate in the iconic Indy Series in the United States. The winner of the 2016 MRF F1600 series will participate in the Mazda Road to Indy shootout, the winner of which will receive a scholarship of USD 200,000. In two-wheeler racing, MMSC set a new benchmark by securing participation of leading manufacturers Honda, Yamaha, TVS and Suzuki, with the One-Make Championship. Not one to rest on its laurels, the MMSC has striven to evolve while keeping pace with changing times.

Photo courtesy of Anand Philar.
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