Akhil Kushlani (Senior Max), Parth Ghoparde (Junior Max), and Dhruv Mohite (MicroMax), made it an Indian clean sweep of the top positions in the 2nd round of the Rotax Max Challenge Asia held at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore, India last weekend.
The Kari Motor Speedway circuit is an extremely fast track offering a great contrast to the twisty Kota Bharu circuit which was used for the opening round of the Asia Challenge. One slow corner, a few medium-high speed corners, and several on-the-edge flat out or almost flat out chicanes prove a challenge when drivers and mechanics decide on a setup.
In the Senior Category action started on Saturday with Mikko Nassi taking top spot in qualifying only just ahead of Akhil Kushlani and Rayomand Banajee. The top three were separated by only half a tenth! Ameya Walavalkar and Ooi Fei Hoong rounded up the top 5 positions.
Heat 1 was also held on Saturday with Mikko Nassi getting a poor start from pole and dropping back to 3rd while Akhil Kushlani and Ameya Walavalkar took full advantage by powering past. Championship leader Ooi Fei Hoong had contact at the start forcing him out of the race with a bent axle. The race for the top-3 positions stabilized as Kushlani gradually increased the gap to Walavalkar and Nassi likewise in a comfortable 3rd position. Suriya Bala finished the race in 4th followed by Mohammad Afiq.
Heat 2 on Sunday morning didn’t provide much of a change in the fight for the top 3 as the situation was much the same as it was in heat 1 and the finishing order didn’t change. Rayomand Banajee made it up to 4th place but didn’t quite have enough time to challenge for 3rd.
Kushlani started the pre-final from pole position with Ameya Walavalkar alongside. Right from the start Kushlani started to build a gap to Walavalkar in second and Nassi in 3rd. The battle for second also allowed Banajee in very close to the fight and the battle was only decided very late in the race despite Nassi attempting overtaking moves all race long. With just 3 laps to go, Walavalkar went wide onto the run-off area as he was balked by a backmarker allowing Nassi to take advantage and slip through. Banajee finished in 4th behind Walavaklar and Ooi Fei Hoong was a few seconds back in 5th place.
The start of the final once again saw Kushlani take an early lead and grow it further as Walavalkar had overtaken Nassi on the start and the battle between the two slowed both of them down. Nassi was able to pull a successful move to get up to 2nd and start to chase down Kushlani. Meanwhile Ooi Fei Hoong was able to overtake Walavalkar to get up into third and also start closing in on the battle for the win. Kushlani started to slow and with a quarter of the race left he had to start defending from both Mikko Nassi and Fei Hoong. Fei Hoong dropped out of the race as his seat broke – he was however able to hang on to finish in 3rd. Nassi and Kushlani had several side-by-side moments although Kushlani never had to give up his lead and he took the chequered flag just 2 tenths ahead of Nassi at the line.
Ameya Walavalkar finished the final in 4th position however he was deemed to have taken a false start by the officials and was handed a 10 sec penalty dropping him to 6th and moving Muhammad Afiq up into 4th and Rayomand Banajee into 5th. This results has Fei Hoong still at the front of the Championship standings, 9 points ahead of Mikko Nassi and a further 5 points ahead of Mohammad Afiq.
Saturday started off with a Malaysian 1-2 in qualifying as round 1 winner Nabil stamped his authority on the race meeting by taking pole position ahead of Hasif. The Malaysian duo were followed by an Indian trio of Parth Ghorpade in 3rd, Samyak Shah in 4th, and Chittesh Mandody in 5th.
Heat 1 was a battle between Hasif, Nabil, and Parth Ghropade. After several changes at the front Hasif finally found himself with a bit of breathing space while Nabil still had to keep an eye on a late attack from Parth Ghorpade. Parth was unable to pull off a move that would stick and finished the heat in 3rd less than a tenth behind Muhammed Nabil.
Heat 2 provided a radicaly different results with both Hasif and Nabil experiencing problems. Nabil retired from the race after only five laps which Hasif was also pushed back and only managed to finish in 8th place. At the front Chittesh Mandody powered away to a comfortable win ahead of Ryan Ritchie, and to add to the confusion even Parth Ghorpade had problems seeing him finish the heat in only 6th place. Samyak Shah took 3rd.
In the pre-final on Sunday the early lead was held by Muhammad Hasif followed very closely by Parth Ghorpade. Nabil however was on a charge and made caught up with the top 2 and swiftly overtook both and proceeded to build a lead for a comfortable victory.
Nabil and Hasif entered the final as the favorites with Ghorpade and Shah as challengers. Early on it did look like the Malaysians could keep their form but things quickly changed when backmarkers came into play and Parth Ghorpade and Samyak Shah were able to make it into the front of the field and give the crowd something to cheer about! Ghorpade finished the race in first well ahead of Samyak, who in turn was able to keep Nabil behind him. Hasif came in a few seconds away in 4th followed by Rahami and Ritchie.
Qualifying saw the only driver not from India steal the show as Brendan Seibl representing Singapore took pole position 8 tenths ahead of Dhurv Mohite. Arjun Maini, Krishna Mahadik, and Kush Maini ronuded up the top 5.
In heat 1 Seibl continued were he had left off in qualifying by setting an electric pace to take a comfortable win 3 seconds ahead of Mohite. Mahadik finished in third, well ahead of Arjun Maini.
Heat 2 was once again a lights-to-flag victory for Seibl and this time the winning margin in the ten lap heat had grown to an even more comfortable 4 seconds. The order for the top 4 was exactly the same as for heat 1, so the pre-final starting order was also exactly that for the top 4.
In the pre-final Seibl once again proved that he wasn’t here to provide an exciting race for the spectators, but rather to get the job done as he had in the heats. Mohite was once again in 2nd and could not put up a challenge to Seibl. The only change in the top 4 in comparison to the heats was that Arjun Maini experienced a problem and finished a lap down in 5th while Surya Raghuraman stepped up to take 4th.
Everyone was expecting Seibl to deliver once again in the final, however something went wrong as Mohite put up a challenge and was able to overtake Seibl early in the final. From here Mohite kept the lead while Seibl had to be content with 2nd after an almost-perfect weekend.
The next round of the Rotax Max Challenge Asia series is scheduled for the 19th-20th of July. The venue for the 3rd round has not been confirmed yet; it will either be held in Saraburi (Thailand), or Langkawi (Malaysia). Competitors will be kept informed. The venue will hopefully be finalized in the next 2 weeks or so. Round 4 will be held at the end of August at the Sentul circuit, in Indonesia.
More information on the series is available on the official Rotax Max Challenge Asia website.