After a four-month break, the resurfaced Madras Motor Race Trust track in Sriperumbudur near Chennai, now in its 26th year, will play host to the fourth round of the MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Racing Championship that includes the showpiece MRF Formula 1600 besides the touring cars and the Volkswagen Vento Cup, beginning Friday (July 15).
The 3.7 km long track, which has a FIA Grade 2 certification to run all races outside of Formula 1, has been resurfaced with Polymer Bitumen as part of the multi-crore upgrade of the facility, including laying of a second short-loop of 1.9 km to complement the existing 2.1 km loop besides expansion of Race Control tower, building of garages to accommodate 120 cars and 600 two-wheelers in Phase 2 starting in September, and spectator seating in the infield providing 90 per cent view of the track.
Chairman of the Meet and a member of the MMRT board of trustees Vicky Chandhok said: “The MMRT track is among the busiest of its kind in the world. Last year, it was booked for nearly 300 days. As such, we decided to upgrade and expand the facility. Now, with two fully operational tracks for rent, we can accept more bookings for testing and corporate events besides, of course, regular racing.
“Since the surface is fresh, it could be a bit slippery with no rubber on the track, but I expect the timings to be at least 1.5 seconds quicker as it settles down. For this weekend, we have kept required personnel and equipment on stand-by to carry out running repairs if necessary.
“Over the next four months, the renovation work will continue and be completed in time for the start of the 2017 season in January. Our total budgeted outlay is about Rs 12 crore as of now.”
The weekend will see three races each in the MRF F1600 whose championship winner will get a ticket to race in the Road to Indy shootout in the United States later this year, the VW Vento Cup and the premier Indian Touring Cars class while the Indian Junior Touring Cars, the Super Stock and the F1300 Rookie Championship are all double-headers, according to a press release from the organisers.
Local challenger Karthik Tharani heads the MRF F1600 class with 106 points following his four consecutive wins in six outings, followed by Raghul Rangasamy (84), Vikash Anand (78), who marked his return to competitive racing after an 18-month break with a double in the previous round in March, Sandeep Kumar (68), Anindith Reddy (63) and Goutham Parekh (63).
Coimbatore’s Arjun Narendran of Red Rooster Performance team is comfortably placed in the ITC class with 118 points, having won four races from five starts. Trailing Narendran is Bengaluru’s Deepak Paul Chinnappa (Race Concepts) on 67, just ahead of veterans B Vijay Kumar (Prime Racing) from Coimbatore (56) and Sivaramakrishnan (53) of Chennai.
Just four points separate leader Keith Desouza (116) of UNIMEK Racing from Goa and Mumbai’s Ananth Pithawalla (112) of Team N1 in the IJTC class. This pair has won all the six races so far between them with Pithawalla winning in four.
In the Super Stock class, Veeresh Prasad (79), Alisha Abdullah (78), Raghul Rangasamy (77), Dean Mascarenhas (66) and Adith KC (63) are the front-runners while WSRF teammates CJ Tejas Ram (116) and Rangasamy (105) head the F1300 Rookie Championship field.
The Volkswagen Vento Cup has six drivers tied for the top three spots with Ishan Dodhiwala and Karminder Pal Singh (108 points each) leading, ahead of Keith Desouza and Aditya Pawar, both on 74, and Aditya Pawar and Jeet Jhabakh together on 62.