CHENNAI: Indonesian driver Presley Martono got his second pole position of the MRF Challenge 2017 season at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) in Chennai on Friday.
Martono came very close to beating 1min30 mark but just felt short and will start alongside championship leader Felipe Drugovich for the first race of the weekend.
Drugovich was the first to set a competitive time before Pavan Ravishankar and Louis Gachot both went faster. Rinus van Kalmthout then set a 1:30.628 only for Martono to go even quicker seconds later. The Indonesian driver went even faster with a 1:30.017 to confirm his pole position. Drugovich could only manage a 1:30.377 to finish in 2nd position. Van Kalmthout and Julien Falchero will start on the second row with Ravishankar and Danial Frost locking out row 3.
Earlier in the day the drivers wasted no time going out in the opening practice session of the weekend. With most drivers experiencing the circuit for the first time, they wasted no time in pushing the MRF F2000 to the limit.
Brazilian driver Drugovich was the fastest driver through the session and was untouched at the top with a 1:30.771. Van Kalmthout & Martono finished in 2nd and 3rd places respectively with Falchero and Harri Jones rounding off the top 5.
Free practice 2 saw Drugovich once again setting the early pace as he immediately went fast with a 1:30.969. The session saw drivers taking turns setting times at the top before Martono went fastest with a 1:30.595. Van Kalmthout came close but finished 0.032secs off the leader with Drugovich marginally improving to finish in 3rd place. Falchero was once again 4th with Gachot in 5th place.
Presley Martono, commented, “I have heard great things about the MMRT and it sure did live up to its expectations. The track is challenging and unforgiving even if you put two wheels off. Qualifying is key here but will be more important to lead into the first corner. Felipe and Rinus are both quick but I will do everything to stay in front.”
Felipe Drugovich, who took can take the championship if he wins the first race, commented, “I am happy to be starting on the front row but disappointed not to be on pole. We tried to find the right balance but we are not there yet. Our race pace is good so looking to get a good start and will take it from there.”
Along with all the action on the track was the unveiling of a significant upgrade to the Paddock and related facilities of the MMRT. A new pit complex with garages and hospitality suites has been developed at India’s first FIA-licensed track here. The MMRT carried out massive development work with 20 pit garages, a spectator viewing terrace and VIP hospitality suites that can accommodate up to 400 people along the pit-lane on the eastern side, thereby creating a truly international-standard facility.
POLE FOR ARKA MOTOR’S RAMASWAMY
Bengaluru’s Ashish Ramaswamy of Arka Motor Sports team set the benchmark by qualifying for pole position among saloon cars as the first round of the MRF MMSC fmsci Indian National Racing Championship that commenced at the MMRT circuit, here on Friday. Ashish Ramaswamy, who had finished third in the championship last year, enjoyed a virtually trouble-free run through the day as he was the quickest in the free practice sessions before putting the hammer down in the qualifying where he clocked 01:53.520, well clear of second-placed team-mate V Nikanth Ram from Coimbatore (01:55.816).
(Qualifying - top 3):
Saloon cars: 1. Ashish Ramaswamy (Arka Motor Sports) 01:53.520; 2. V Nikanth Ram (Arka Motor Sports) 01:55.816; 3. B Vijay Kumar (Prime Racing) 01:56.741.
Round 4, Qualifying:
1. Presley Martono 1:30.017
2. Felipe Drugovich 1:30.377
3. Rinus Van Kalmthout 1:30.468
4. Julien Falchero 1:30.740
5. Pavan Ravishankar 1:30.878.