Bahrain, 17 Nov, 2017: Felipe Drugovich, the 17-year-old Brazilian, got his 2017 MRF Challenge campaign off to a perfect start by winning both races in the season opener at the Bahrain International Circuit in Sakhir, here on Friday.
Drugovich pulled off a last lap move on Manuel Maldonado, cousin of former F1 racer Pastor Maldonado, to win Race 2. Presley Martono also passed Maldonado on the run up to the chequered flag to beat the Venezuelan by 0.010 secs to take second spot. In Race 1, Drugovich benefitted from race leader Rinus van Kalmthout’s retirement to win ahead of Martono and Dylan Young.
Earlier in the day van Kalmthout was dominant in qualifying to put his car on pole position by almost half a second. He set a 2:00.754 to set the fastest time of the weekend. Drugovich qualified 2nd, albeit 0.461secs off with Karkosik in 3rd place. Falchero qualified in 4th place ahead of Martono and Friday pace setter Pavan Ravishankar.
The season got underway with van Kalmthout having the perfect start from pole position to lead into the first corner. Drugovich followed him in 2nd place with Dylan Young jumping from 7th to 3rd after getting a brilliant start. Drugovich managed to stay with van Kalmthout for the first few laps before the Dutch driver started pulling away at the front. Meanwhile Martono passed Young for 3rd and started catching Drugovich. It was heartbreak for van Kalmthout as he was forced to retire from the lead with 2 laps to go due to a mechanical problem. Meanwhile Martono closed up right behind Drugovich and the two cars were side by side as they headed down the main straight. Martono tried to get past but Drugovich held on to win the first race of the season. Young crossed the line in 3rd place to take only his second podium in championship. Alex Karkosik finished in 4th place ahead of Maldonado, Julien Falchero and Robert Megennis.
In the reverse grid based Race 2, Maldonado jumped Falchero to lead into the first corner. Drugovich had a strong start from 6th on the grid to slot into 3rd behind the fast starting Karkosik. Karkosik and Drugovich put pressure on Maldonado but the Venezuelan did well to stay in front. Van Kalmthout, who started last, sliced through the field and was upto 6th place on lap 5. Martono passed Falchero into the first corner on lap 6 while 2nd placed man Karkosik was forced to retire with a mechanical problem. On the last lap Drugovich out braked Maldonado to take the lead, with Martono close behind. Coming out of the last corner and heading into the start finish straight Martono managed to get his nose ahead to beat Maldonado by 0.010secs. It was heartbreak for Maldonado who slipped from 1st to 3rd on the last lap. Behind the top 3, Falchero finished in 4th ahead of the charging van Kalmthout, with Megennis and Ravishankar rounding off the top 7.
Double winner Felipe Drugovich, commented, “I am really happy to win both races today. In qualifying we were still trying things with the setup. We were lucky to win Race 1 with Van Kalmthout retiring. In race 2 I had a great start and managed to get behind Maldonado. He made a small mistake into the final corner and I took advantage to pass him into the first corner. It has been a great start and I hope we can do the same tomorrow.”
Presley Martono impressed with a double podium finish in the season opener. He commented, “The car was great today and I felt that we really nailed the setup. I have to improve my starts and then I feel I can challenge for the win. Overall I am very happy with today’s performance.”
Race 3&4 will take place tomorrow.
MRF Challenge 2017, Round 1, Bahrain, Qualifying:
- Rinus Van Kalmthout – 2:00.754
- Felipe Drugovich – 2:01.215
- Alex Karkosik – 2:01.533
- Julian Falchero – 2:01.900
- Presley Martono – 2:01.961
MRF Challenge 2017, Round 1, Bahrain, Race 1:
- Felipe Drugovich – 20:33.897
- Presley Martono – 20:34.546
- Dylan Young – 20:38.456
- Alex Karkosik – 20:40.984
- Manuel Maldonado – 20:43.096
MRF Challenge 2017, Round 1, Bahrain, Race 2:
- Felipe Drugovich – 20:33.019
- Presley Martono – 20:34.689
- Manuel Maldonado – 20:34.699
- Julian Falchero – 20:36.847
- Rinus van Kalmthout – 20:39.456