Three-way battle for MRF races
It is difficult to look beyond the top three of Jordan King, Conor Daly and Akshay Luciano Bacheta to land the spoils in the second round of the MRF Challenge F2000 that will no doubt highlight the Sidvin Festival of Speed to be run at the Buddh International Circuit (BIC) in Greater Noida this weekend.
The three drivers occupied the three podium spots in both the races of the first round that was held during the India Grand Prix weekend in late October with Daly and King scoring a win apiece and the battle between the two should again provide some fireworks.
MRF have roped in their Rally driver Gaurav Gill for the two races this weekend besides Parthiva Sureshwaren and 19-year old Parth Ghorpade who took part in the opening round but it remains to be seen whether the three home entrants will be able to make any impact at all given the quality of the 18-car grid.
The 31-year old Gill has the raw speed and some racing experience but is better known for his achievements in rallying at home and abroad while Ghorpade, who is into junior formula series, had a miserable first round as he failed to start the first race and retired in the second.
Sureshwaren, at 31, brings in a lot of experience gained from participating in a variety of formula races. He finished seventh and 10th in the previous round, and even a top five finish should be considered a bonus.
Ranged against the Indians are championship leader King, who at 18 is eyeing a Formula 1 drive in the near future as he finished runner-up in the 2012 Formula Renault (Northern European Cup) with a tally of 13 top-five finishes, including one win and eight podiums.
This performance earned King a test drive in a World Series by Renault car and he straightaway was on pace in the 530bhp machine prompting BVM Target team manager Roberto Venieri to predict a bright future for the English teenager.
Likewise, 20-year-old Daly from the United States, winner of the first race here in October, is fresh off a decent run in the GP3 series in which he finished overall sixth with a win in Barcelona being the highlight besides four other podium positions.
Daly had a brief stint in Formula 1 when he was invited by Sahara Force India for a drive in their car during an aero data mapping session in England and the American hopes to build on this exposure.
The 22-year old England-born Bacheta of Indian parentage, showcased his skills by winning the 2012 Formula 2 championship with four consecutive wins and as many podium finishes that earned him a test drive in a Williams Formula 1 car of 2011 vintage.
In the first round of MRF Challenge in October, Bacheta finished third in first race and second in the next outing and is currently third on the leaderboard behind King and Daly.
Outside the top three is the only female driver on the grid, Alice Powell, the 19-year old from Oxford who was fourth in both the first round races. No stranger to the series, Powell was a creditable second behind King in the F1600 championship last year when the races were run in Chennai.
Since then, Powell took part in the GP3 this year but managed only one point in the last race at Monza when she finished 12th and eighth after qualifying 22nd. In the second race, Powell did well to come in ahead of Daly.
It will surprise none should Powell write her own script and claim a podium or two this weekend, something she is eminently capable of though on the face of it, the odds seemed to be stacked against her.
Overall, the two races promise action aplenty as 18 cars on Dallara chassis and powered by 1998cc Renault engines that develop 210bhp, line up for the showpiece event of the weekend.