National Racing Championship 2013 season review
Over the years fans of Indian motorsport have seen many a cynical day, and I'm sure that on that count several people will agree with me.
However, for each of those cynical days, there is that one race weekend that very nearly makes up for it all. The setting this time was the Buddh International Circuit (BIC). The occasion was the season finale of the MMSC-FMSCI National Racing Championship (NRC). Here then, was an opportunity for Indian racers to race their machines on a world-class facility. And with cars and motorcycles both running at the BIC on the 14th and 15th of September, it was a right treat to watch. What was also particularly heartening was that there was an audience to witness what was happening there and we've got photos to prove it - the lower tier of the main grandstand at the BIC was packed full of cheering fans. Let's take a look at how the weekend turned out, shall we.
Indian Touring Car Class
Of the classes in the National Racing Championship, the one that consistently has more than its fair share of exciting racing is the Indian Touring Car Class. Of course, sometimes the excitement is further back the grid and not at the head of the order. The 2013 season of the ITC class had seen rather consistent domination from N Leelakrishnan. The first round of the NRC saw a double win from the veteran tuner and racer. While Arjun Balu won one race of the second round in the Tiger Sport Honda City that completely dominated the 2012 season of the championship. Round 3 saw Gaurav Gill pilot a Big Foots Racing Esteem that led the pack by a mile all through, while at Round 4 it was Leela on the top step of the podium twice. Perhaps aiding Leela's domination of the season was the fact that the Tiger Sport team had decided to swap their City for a Customer Sport Pilot Programme Volkswagen Vento starting Round 3 of the championship. The Vento had made it to the podium, but hadn't made it all the way to the top step. The BIC, then, would be the championship decider.
When we got to the track at Greater Noida, qualifying was already done. The track temperatures were soaring, and we encountered N Leelakrishnan cooling himself off in one of the paddock hospitality areas. "Qualified on pole," he declared to us with a smile on his face. And it seemed like there wasn't a care in the world for him, except for the fact that the Delhi heat was quite bothersome. The races, it appeared, would be easy enough.
Starting from pole in the first race, Leelakrishnan got a good start. He managed to pull out a 2 second lead over the chasing cars. Meanwhile, behind him Arjun Balu didn't get the quickest start possible, but managed to hold M Sivaramakrishnan at bay. Eventually Leela won the race by 3.030 seconds from the chasing Vento, while Sivaramakrishnan finished third, 13.37 seconds behind the race leader. The win was enough to ensure that Leela took home the Indian Touring Cars title with one race to spare.
Speaking of the race to spare, the win very nearly went to Leela once again. In fact, it was the Big Foots Racing Esteem that led every lap of the race, from lights to flag. After the race, though, he was handed a 15-second time penalty that saw him being demoted to third place. Sivaramakrishnan, who finished second on track, was adjudged race winner, while Ramnarayan, who had finished third on track, was promoted to second place. It was the Vento piloted by Balu that ran into trouble though, losing second place on lap 3 and eventually finishing fourth. But the Brothers Balu, the driving force behind Tiger Sport, determined to sort out the niggles that have plagued their Vento thus far, the 2014 season will be a lot closer. Yes, a determined lot they are.
Meanwhile, in the Indian Junior Touring Car Class, the win in Race 1 went to VJ Senthil, who won from Charen Chandran and RP Raja Rajan. The second race went to Feroze Khan who was victorious ahead of Charen Chandran and Anant Pithawalla.
The FF1600 category of racing has seen close battles all through the 2013 season. A few names have emerged quite prominently over the course of the season. One, of course, is that of Yudai Jinkawa, the Japanese racer who has been on the top step of the podium more often than not. The other is Ashwin Sundar, a racer who really doesn't need much of an introduction. There was another name that rose to
prominence though - Tarun Reddy. The youngster has in the past been a part of the Sahara Force India Academy, and moved from karting straight into the 1600s - his first single-seater experience. Going into the round at the BIC, though, the championship had already been decided. Ashwin Sundar had wrapped up the title, perhaps the reason why he didn't make it to the races at the BIC. This left the battlefield open to the rest of the grid. Here's how the races panned out.
Yudai Jinkawa started the race on pole, got off to a good start and was able to keep Tarun Reddy behind him. However, Reddy was the one under pressure, being chased doggedly by Vikash Anand. Anand managed to get past Reddy, and then started set off in pursuit of Jinkawa.
Despite trying to get past the Japanese driver several times, he wasn't able to do so. And the trio finished in that order. When Reddy was later penalised for a jump start, Advaith Deodhar took third place on the rostrum.
In the second race of the weekend, the reverse grid meant it was Japanese driver Kizuka Hirota who started the race on pole, with Vikash Anand starting fourth. Anand got off to a good start, moved up into second place and then made sure he got past Hirota to take the lead. Tarun Reddy made up places as well, getting past Jinkawa to take second place, while Hirota held on for third. This decided second and
third place in the championship, with Vikash Anand taking second and Reddy taking third place.
The Etios Motor Racing Championship had a total of four races that weekend, which was a tough ask for the drivers taking part in the competition. Diljith was probably the most prominent driver to emerge in the championship standings, and it was he who took the win in the first race of the round, leading from start to finish. Akhil Rabindra managed to take second place in the race, ahead of Abhinay Bikkani in second place. The second race, though, was quite a thriller. Akhil Rabindra took his first win with Farhan Ahmed second and Diljith third. But it was the action further down the grid that caught a lot of attention, particularly Keith D'Souza's flip at Turn 4. The driver emerged unscather, however, which is partly down to the sturdy nature of the car, and also down to the track that they were driving at. Race 3 saw pole man Diljith lead from start to finish once again, while Akhil Rabindra finished second and Dean Mascarenhas took third place.
The final race, then would decide the championship. With Varun Anekar starting on pole in the reverse grid race, there was little Akshay Gupta and Binoy John Maddela could do to get past him. And that is the order in which they finished. Diljith's fourth place was enough to see
him crowned Toyota EMR Trophy winner, with Akhil Rabindra taking second in the championship and Varun Anekar taking third. All the three will get the opportunity to race internationally in the Vios Cup that will take place in Thailand later this year, which is conducted by Toyota Racing Development (TRD) in Thailand.
If you want to read what it was like to be a part of the EMR series, read OVERDRIVE's very own Rishaad Mody's account of his first full competitive season of racing. And for those of you who think we've skipped the motorcycles, we're dedicating a separate story to exactly that. It'll go up very soon and we'll have the link posted here as well.
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