Bahrain, 19 Nov 2015: Debutant and 2013 Formel 3 ADAC Masters driver Alessi Picariello took a stunning pole position at Round 2 of the MRF Challenge 2015 at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir. Russian driver Nikita Troitckii and India’s Tarun Reddy will start 2nd and 3rd on the grid after missing out on pole position by 0.044 and 0.048 seconds respectively in one of the closest qualifying sessions ever in the MRF Challenge. Championship contenders Tatiana Calderon and Pietro Fittipaldi will start 4th and 5th on the grid.
With an action packed motorsport weekend in Bahrain, the MRF Challenge drivers only got one practice session ahead of the 30 minute qualifying session. After a sunny morning session, qualifying was totally different with cool temperatures and the night sky greeting the drivers. Fittipaldi was quick to top the times after putting in a 2:06.587 followed by Troitckii with a 2:06.786. The times started to tumble with all drivers going faster. With 5 minutes to go is where all the action started with Picariello going fastest with a 2:03.390. Troitckii was on course to better it but just fell short. Reddy set the fastest time in the first two sectors but just missed out as well. Fittipaldi could do no better but Calderon started setting purple sectors as well, threatening Picariello’s pole position. She fell 0.080secs short, which put her in 4th place.
The MRF Challenge 2015 started first in one of the biggest motorsport weekends in the region, with the GP2, GP3 and World Endurance Championship (WEC) also on display this weekend. In the only practice session of the weekend, Troitskiy lapped in a 2m02.766s to set the fastest time of the session. He was 0.297s ahead of Reddy, who had completed the most laps in the session. Fittipaldi slotted in at third, while Sean Walkinshaw was fourth and Picariello completed the top five. Tatiana Calderon was in 6th place, with Indycar and Formula 1 winner Juan Pablo Montoya helping out his fellow Colombian.
Belgian driver Alessio Picariello was surprised to be in pole position in his first ever race in the series. He commented, “In the morning practice session it took me some time to get used to the car and tyres. With only one practice session I knew I had to learn things fast. I felt comfortable straight away and was able to push in the qualifying. I am thrilled to be on pole position and amazed at how competitive this series is. Tomorrow will be tough but I am confident of going for the win”
Russian driver Nikita Troitckii felt he could have been on pole but was happy to start from the front row. He commented, “I had a good session in the morning and just worked on getting more comfortable with the car. I felt we had the pace for pole position but we just missed out. My race pace this morning was good so am looking forward for the race tomorrow.”
India’s Tarun Reddy had his best qualifying in the series with 3rd position. He commented, “I really enjoy driving on this circuit. I have been quick from the start but not enough for pole position. To be 3rd on the grid here is great, especially with all the GP2 and WEC guys in attendance. I will push for the win tomorrow.”
Qualifying: 1. Alessio Picariello – 2:03.390; 2 Nikita Troitckii – 2:03.434; 3. Tarun Reddy – 2:03.438; 4 Tatiana Calderon – 2:03.470; 5 Pietro Fittipaldi – 2:03.503
Practice 1: 1. Nikita Troitckii – 2:02.766; 2 Tarun Reddy – 2:03.063; 3. Pietro Fittipaldi – 2:03.262; 4 Sean Walkinshaw – 2:03.429