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Double for Arjun Balu, Rithvik Thomas in saloon cars
Chennai, February 16, 2020
Belgium’s Michelangelo Amendola did not win any of the three races run today, but picked up sufficient points from two third-place finishes and a sixth, to emerge the new champion in the FIA-approved MRF Challenge which concluded at the MMRT here today.
Earlier,16-year-old Indian-American Yuven Sundaramoorthy, with family roots in Madurai, gave the crowd plenty to cheer about by winning one race while British teenager Louis Foster and Australia’s Dylan Young took the honours in the other two races of the day.
A third-place finish in Race-5 today ensured the 18-year Amendola won the title in his third attempt as he opened up an unassailable 34-point lead over his nearest rival Young, going into the last race of the day. Amendola finished with 247 points, including five wins over three rounds, to Young’s 223 (3 wins) while Britain’s Joshua Mason (176) was placed third in the championship.
Meanwhile, Race Concepts drivers, Arjun Balu from Coimbatore and Bengaluru’s Rithvik Thomas, notched a double each in the Indian Touring Cars and the Super Stock categories, respectively, of the MRF MMSC fmsci Indian National Car Racing Championship (Round-1).
Rejoicing his championship success with his immediate family, Amendola, who had scored a double yesterday, said: “I am absolutely delighted that I finally won the MRF Challenge championship in my third season. Last season, I finished fourth in the championship and in 2017, I was sixth. So, I was determined to win the title this time. Now that I have won it, I am looking at a few options, but all depends on budgets and sponsorship. Motor racing is not very popular in Belgium, but I am hopeful.”
The day began with Foster capitalising on a Turn-2 incident on Lap-1 that led to a brief Safety Car period, moving from third to first. Foster then hung on to finish ahead of Sundaramoorthy with Amendola in third place. Young’s championship hopes virtually ended when he lost two spots to come in sixth.
In the next race, Sundaramoorthy, starting on pole on the reverse grid, was off to a good start and though he lost a bit going into Turn 10, he managed to hold off Jordanian Manaf Hijjawi for his second win of the season with Young trailing home in third place.
“It feels great to win here in Chennai, virtually my home race! But I made it difficult for myself by making a couple of mistakes early in the race, especially when I went in too hot in Turn-10, went sideways and lost a bunch of space. I am absolutely delighted to score my second win this season after Dubai,” said Sundaramoorthy who turns 17 on February 22.
Young, starting from reverse grid pole, also won the day’s last race untroubled, comfortably nursing his early lead to chalk up his third win of the season.
Balu destroyed the combined 29-car saloon cars field for a grand double. The grid was a mix of ITC, Super Stock and the Volkswagen Ameo (support race) that took its final bow after three seasons to be replaced by the turbo-charged Polo in the next round this summer.
Balu, like in Race-1 yesterday, was simply unstoppable though he started today eighth on the combined reverse grid. Within two laps, he sliced his way past six cars and then pole-sitter D Vidyaprakash of Prime Racing (subsequently disqualified for “technical infringement”, to take the lead that kept stretching corner to corner.
“At the start, I was keen to get to the front and not get stuck in mid-grid. Once into the lead, I was able to extend the lead before I decided to ease off big time as there was no need to push any more. It was a fairly comfortable race for me, but again, thanks to Race Concepts for preparing such a great racing car,” said Balu.