Falchero, Gachot in MRF Challenge entry list, cars upgraded with Newey's inputs
The Indian international championship is back for its sixth season.
After last year's success for Harrison Newey, son of Formula 1 tech-guru Adrian, in a nail-biter season-finale against Joey Mawson, the 2017-18 MRF Challenge kicks off in two weeks (November 16-18) time at the Bahrain International Circuit.
The first round will once again be a support event to FIA World Endurance Championship's 6 Hours of Bahrain, before it heads to Dubai (December 7-9), followed by Abu Dhabi (December 13-15) and culminating in Chennai (February 2-4).
The organisers have released a strong 18-driver entry list for Bahrain, which includes six drivers returning from the last year's season - who are Brazil's Felipe Drugovich, Australia's Dylan Young, Venezuela's Manuel Maldonado, Singapore's Pavan Ravishankar, Netherlands' Rinus van Kalmthout and Indonesia's Presley Martono.
While Durgovich, Young, Maldonado and Ravishankar competed in the full-season finishing fourth, ninth, 14th and 18th respectively, Kalmthout raced in three rounds to be 10th, while Martono only did the last event to be 16th.
The trend of ex-Formula 1 driver's sons competing in the winter championship continues this season as well, with Frenchman Bertrand Gachot's son Loius entering the series, as is Pastor Maldonado's brother Manuel.
With Gachot, the eyes will also be on his French counterpart Julien Falchero, who joins the series as one the experienced campaigners, since he currently races in the GP3 Series with Campos. The same goes for Euroformula Open's podium finisher from Poland, Alex Karkosik.
From the Formula 4 South East Asia's stable, joining Martono will be Singapore's Daniel Frost and Malaysia's Nazim Azman. Also, Martono's countryman, graduating from karts, will be Perdana Putra Minang.
Among others, van Kalmthout rival from the USF2000 championship, a race winner Robert Megennis from America will be competing, while flying the Australian flag with MRF Challenge veteran Young will be Harrison Jones and Kurt Hill.
Another karting graduate together with Minang is Belgian Michelangelo Amendola, who confirmed his participation in September, while a sportscar racer from Sweden Henning Enqvist and ADC F4 racer from Germany Richard Wagner completes the line-up.
Having switched to 2L Mountune Duratec engine last season, the F2000 cars will see various upgrades, featuring advanced aerodynamics and a new diffuser deign to increase downforce. It will use the Hewland 6-speed sequential gearbox with the newly integrated dash and paddle shift system.
The F3-style car developed by JA Motorsport in collaboration with Dallara, this year, has inputs from Adrian Newey - who has been a firm supporter of the championship for the last two seasons. The car was tested thoroughly by Narain Karthikeyan and Toby Sowery last year, with Sam Dejonghe also undertaking few running.
MRF Tyres' Arun Mammen said: "We are extremely excited to announce the launch of the sixth season of the MRF Challenge. It is very rare for championships to go down to the wire but last year saw the eventual winner clinching it on the final lap of the final race.
"MRF Tyres thrives on the constant need to develop and innovate and this year’s car is another step forward from the previous season. We will continue to push the envelope to showcase India as a key hub for R&D and development in motorsport. Racing is in our DNA and we are thrilled to offer young drivers a platform to showcase their abilities.
"We provide drivers with identical cars so that talent plays a key role and this also helps drivers develop. This season features another exciting line-up and we are confident of some exciting wheel-to-wheel racing.”
JA Motorsport's J Anand added: "For the sixth season of the MRF Challenge we have focused on making the cars even faster, while also ensuring it is more enjoyable for the drivers. Mr. Adrian Newey has been kind enough to share some thoughts with us for increasing the downforce with new diffuser design.
"We have also introduced paddle shift gearbox for the first time. This has been received well during testing so we are confident that the car can be even faster this year. The series has been gaining a lot of traction internationally so it is heartening to see an Indian series getting so much attention”