A competition for speed freaks

Aditya Patel celebrates on the podium with the trophy after winning Race 4 of the JK Asia Series at the Buddh International Circuit. Aston Hare finished second.-RAJEEV BHATT

The Sidvin Festival of Speed got the thumbs-up from all the participating drivers and ace professionals. It provided the young Indian drivers an opportunity to perform at an elite circuit, and this should enrich their profile. By Y. B. Sarangi.

The Sidvin Festival of Speed was one of its kind in Indian motorsport. The three-day event comprised some top competitions such as the Round 2 of the MRF Challenge, the grand finale of the JK Racing Asia Series (JKRAS) and the National Racing Championship, including the Volkswagen Polo-R Cup.

It was path breaking in a sense that for the first time the Indian drivers, participating in various races of the National Championship, moved out of the smaller domestic racetracks in Coimbatore and Chennai to showcase their skills on the internationally acclaimed Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida.

“It was a dream come true for the drivers to compete on a world-class track. They had their own team buildings and conference rooms etc,” said Sanjay Sharma, the head of motorsport of JK Tyres.

A few drivers concurred with this view after their experience of driving on a superfast track, while some felt that their cars were short of speed on such a surface.

“It is the first time that the National Racing Championship is being held at the BIC and the experience has been exhilarating. While the two podium finishes are satisfactory, I am very glad to have finished in the top three in the championship,” said Saran Vikram from Chennai, who participated in the LGB Formula 4 category. The young driver from Mumbai, Fahad Kutty, who claimed a title in the Indian Junior Touring Cars event, too had a similar view. “I’ve had a decent run this season and it is a good feeling to be here and racing at the BIC,” he said.

JK Tyre also gave opportunity to a few Indian drivers, like the promising Akhil Khushlani and Aditya Patel, to compete in its premier JKRAS event against some of the best talents racing in the series. Both Khushlani and Patel did not disappoint as they earned two podium finishes each. The highpoint of the JKRAS grand finale was Patel winning the title in the final race of the series.

Patel, who took the chequered flag amidst loud cheers from the spectators by overtaking Aston Hare, the eventual series champion, was thrilled with his showing. “When I was leading the race, I looked forward to see if there was anyone up ahead of me. Then it hit me that I was leading the race and I shouldn’t make any mistake. Even on the last lap I gave my 100 per cent,” he said.

It was a great moment for the home drivers participating in the highly competitive MRF Challenge, a Formula 3-level event that produced some fine races (because of the powerful engines and high speed) and spectacular crashes.

Parthiva Sureshwaren, who had a mixed weekend, liked the concept of bringing all the races together. “This should happen every year. Personally, I am looking forward to drive in the final leg of the event in Chennai in February and return some good finishes.”

Arun Mammen, the managing director of MRF Limited, was delighted with the Festival of Speed and the performance of the MRF Formula 2000 cars. “The cars are fast and this year it was a huge jump for the championship. That’s why so many talented drivers are coming to participate in this during the off-season in Europe.”

Mammen informed that MRF, which ran a test car during the competitions at the BIC, was in the process of developing new racing tyres for its next event. “We are getting a lot of feedback from the test car and will utilise those to improvise the tyres,” he said.

According to Mammen, in the next season, part of the series could be held outside India. “There is so much potential in Asia, especially in the Gulf and Asia Pacific regions. Eight of the 20 Formula One races are held in Asia where motorsport can develop a lot,” he said.

Coming back to the concept of the Sidvin Festival of Speed, it got the thumbs-up from all the participating drivers and ace professionals such as Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, who were present at the BIC to promote the event. It provided the young Indian drivers an opportunity to perform at an elite circuit and this should enrich their profile.

There is every chance that the event may become an annual affair. This will help the youngsters to familiarise themselves with the environment and challenges they would face while stepping into the big league.

Ryan Lochte (in pic) shattered his own world record in winning the 200m individual medley at the world short course swimming championships on December 14 and celebrated by tossing his gold medal away. The 28-year-old New Yorker, an 11-time Olympic medallist, finished in 1:49.63s en route to a fourth consecutive gold medal at the Sinan Erdem Arena in Istanbul. His previous record had been 1:50.08, set in December 2010, in Dubai.

Japan’s Daiya Seto clocked 1:52.80 to add the silver medal to the gold he won in the 400m individual medley, and Laszlo Cseh of Hungary won the bronze in 1:52.89.

It had already been a stellar meeting for Lochte after he had won gold in the 200m freestyle, 4x100m and 4x200m freestyle relays. But he stunned the crowd by handing his gold medal to a 10-year-old boy who had been patiently waiting for the American’s autograph.

“I give them all away. One of the main reasons for racing is because of my fans, so I always want to give something back,” said Lochte, who now has 27 short course medals, including 18 gold.

THE RESULTS

Ashwin Sundar...leading the JK National Championship standings.-M KARUNAKARAN

MRF Challenge — Race 1 (10 laps): 1. Jordan King 19:21.419; 2. Conor Daly 19:24.893; 3. Luciano Bacheta 19:26.188. Race 2 (12 laps): 1. Jordan King 23:20.634; 2. Luciano Bacheta 23:28.305; 3. Alice Powell 23:33.737. Race 3 (10 laps): 1. Conor Daly 21:54.788; 2. Alice Powell 21:58.276; 3. Hector Hurst 22:02.304. Race 4 (14 laps): 1. Yuudai Jinkawa (Japan) 27:11.738; 2. Sam Dejonghe 27:16.697; 3. Hector Hurst 27:22.010.

JK Racing Asia Series — Race 1 (10 laps): 1. Aston Hare (Eurointernational) 20:23.383; 2. Akhil Khushlani (Eurointernational) 20:23.571; 3. Afiq Ikhwan (Meritus GP) 20:29.089. Race 2 (10 laps): 1. Aston Hare 20:16.541; 2. Afiq Ikhwan 20:18.914; 3. Aditya Patel (Eurointernational) 20:20.363. Race 3 (10 laps): 1. Aston Hare 20:16.541; 2. Afiq Ikhwan 20:18.914; 3. Aditya Patel 20:20.363. Race 4 (10 laps): 1. Aditya Patel 20:13.116; 2. Aston Hare 20:18.697; 3. Aidan Wright (Meritus GP) 20:19.569.

LGB Formula 4 — Race 1 (six laps): 1. Sarosh Hataria 14:48.281; 2. Diljith 14:48.745, 3. Saran Vikram 14:57.804. Race 2 (six laps): 1. Saran Vikram 16:19.153; 2. Sarosh Hataria 16:19.8; 3. Diljith 16:20.062.

Indian Touring Cars — Race 1 (six laps): 1. N. Leelakrishnan 14:58.753; 2. B. Balavijay 15:12.148; 3. V. Ramnarayanan 15:14.839. Race 2 (six laps): 1. N. Leelakrishnan 14:51.489; 2. B. Balavijay 14:52.670; 3. Sunny Sidhu 14:58.210.

Indian Junior Touring Cars — Race 1 (six laps): 1. Fahad Kutty 16:45.111; 2. S. Feroze Khan 16:45.584; 3. S. Sreeram 16:47.222. Race 2 (six laps): 1. Fahad Kutty 16:36.084; 2. S. Feroze Khan 16:37.254; 3. S. Sreeram 16:46.745.

Volkswagen Polo-R Cup (six laps): 1. Ameya Walavalkar 14:48.856; 2. Jeffrey John Kruger 14:49.601; 3. Avdumber Hede 14:50.132.

JK National Racing Championship standings (after Round 6) — LGB Formula 4: 1. Ashwin Sundar 186 points; 2. Sarosh Hataria 175; 3. Saran Vikram 146.

Indian Touring Cars: 1. Arjun Balu 168; 2. N Leelakrishnan 167; 3. B. Balavijay 123.

Indian Junior Touring Cars: 1. Feroze Khan 197; 2. Fahad Kutty 187; 3. Diljith 172.

Volkswagen Polo-R Cup: 1. Ameya Walavalkar 440; 2. Sandeep Kumar 342; 3. Rahil Noorani 221.