If Friday’s free practice timings are any indications, then the fifth and penultimate round of the 15th JK Tyre-FMSCI National Racing Championship to be held here over the weekend promises to be most competitive of the current season.
The front runners in the three championship classes - LGB Formula 4, Indian Touring Cars and the Indian Junior Touring Cars - besides the one-make Volkswagen Polo R Cup series, will be surely having an eye on their rear-view mirrors as there is very little separating the top guns.
Mumbai veteran Ameya Walavalkar, with three wins in eight starts, heads the Polo Cup championship table with 276 points and he warmed up for the weekend’s double-header by clocking the day’s fastest time of 2:00.822, just ahead of Mexican Diego Duez, a guest driver, whose best was a 2:01.160.
Second in the championship, local lad Sandeep Kumar (249 points), had a best of 2:01.337, just behind Akhil Khushlani (2:01.167). In fact, three other drivers, including Goa’s Avdumber Hede (213), were not that far adrift after the afternoon session, thus promising some close races Sunday, though Saturday’s qualifying session would be far more indicative of their race pace.
In the Formula 4 class, leader Ashwin Sundar of Dark Don Racing, having won three of the five races thus far, is sitting pretty with 111 points, well clear of Mars Racing’s Saran Vikram (86).
Sundar was nearly two seconds quicker than the rest of the field during free practice and looked all primed to widen the gap in the championship stakes.
Also fancying his chances is third placed Sudarshana Rao (Rayo Racing) from Bangalore who is a pilot by profession and is just four points adrift of Saran Vikram.
The trio of Fahad Kutty (137 points) of team Game Over, Feroze Khan (136) and Diljith Shaji (115) of Eram Group, appear well set to extend their domination in the IJTC class that has so far been the most closely fought series.
Kutty, winner of five races, spent much of Friday getting his car in shape, but was confident of a strong show over the weekend.
“I have just now got the car the way I want it,” he said as he drove into the paddock after a test drive on the adjacent National Highway in time for the second free practice session.
The premium class of Super Saloon (Indian Touring Cars) has Coimbatore’s Arjun Balu of Tiger Sport firmly perched at the top with 118 points following his three back-to-back wins and was the quickest in Friday’s practice in his finely tuned Honda City.
Second in the championship Vijaykumar Rajvirdhan (93) of Prime Racing appeared more preoccupied in setting up his car that went up in flames in the previous round after the fuel hose burst entering the last corner.
“We have taken some precautions, but in racing you go through spells when nothing goes right,” said Rajvirdhan’s father, B. Vijaykumar who is currently sixth in the championship. In fact, Rajvirdhan has won only two races and drew blank in three other outings.
Behind the two front-runner is another veteran Narayanaswamy Leelakrishnan (Big Foots Racing) who has 81 points, but still to win a race, but finishing on podium in five outings. Like the rest, he too faces the prospect of getting ahead of Balu whose engineers have upped the bhp of the Honda City by another 20.
Thus, with the championship titles up for grabs in all the classes and just one more round remaining which is scheduled to be run at the fag end of November in New Delhi, an action-packed weekend is on the cards.