- Podium celebration [Copyright: Anand Philar]

Friday:

Belgian teenager Michelangelo Amendola came up with two brilliant drives to win both the races on Friday in the eighth edition of the FIA- approved MRF Challenge international series at the Dubai Autodrome.

The 17-year old Amendola displayed rare character to win both races from difficult positions. In the first race that he started form pole, he dropped to third after a wheel-spin as the lights went off before taking a win and in the next race, he made places from sixth on the reverse grid to take the checkered flag despite stalling his car at Turn-1 in the very first lap.

The race was marked by a Safety Car period following a collision between Aussie Dylan Young and Indian-American Yuven Sunderamoorthy in the first lap. The Belgian youngster, despite the Turn-1 incident, put his head down and managed to carve his way through the field before passing leader Joshua Mason, the 17-year old from Great Britain on the final lap while Jordanian teenager Manaf Hijjawi came in third.

“I am happy to win both races today. In the morning, I lost places at the start due to a wheel-spin as I did not let go of the clutch, and then had to fight my way into the lead. In the second race, I started sixth on the reverse grid, stalled my car after someone made contact from behind at Turn-1 in the first lap. Luckily, I managed to start the car and then made places to win,” said a delighted Amendola.

In the first race, Amendola, was slowly off the blocks due to wheel-spin and fell behind as Mason and Young led the pack into Turn-1. Mason opened up a sizeable lead before tyre wear slowed him down while Young caught up with him, but could not pass.

Meanwhile, Amendola recovered quickly and in the latter half of the race, got a jump on both the front-runners leaving Mason and Young scrap for the minor podium spots. Behind the trio, the midfield witnessed close battles while India’s Chetan Korada finished ninth and last after a spin in the eighth lap even as he was putting in consistent laps.

But in the second race, the Chennai-based Korada was running fourth, but conceded the advantage to finish seventh. Earlier, in the qualifying session, Amendola came up with a late charge to grab pole position ahead of Mason, who briefly led the time sheets, and Young.

Saturday:

Michelangelo Amendola from Belgium completed a dream week with three wins out of five races as the first round of the FIA-approved MRF Challenge international series concluded at the Dubai Autodrome.

Also notching wins were Australia’s Dylan Young and Indian-American Yuven Sundaramoorthy, for both of whom it was their maiden success in the championship. The 17-year old Amendola dominated the entire round, being quickest in Free Practice and qualifying sessions before winning both the races yesterday and another today besides finishing second in the other two outings, to give himself a great start in the championship stakes.

Young, 30, in his seventh appearance in the MRF Challenge, finally got the monkey off his back by notching his first win in the championship, while 16-year old debutant Sundaramoorthy, whose family roots are entrenched in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, reaped rewards for his persistence.

Young had to work hard for his maiden success. Quick at the start to take the lead, the affable Aussie hung on gamely to hold off pole-sitter Amendola by putting in some solid laps when it mattered.

The Belgian had another poor start from pole position and dropped to third behind Young and Joshua Mason (Great Britain) before easing past the British driver in the second lap to catch up with the Aussie. However, Amendola was unable to get past the experienced Young who went on to win.

Reflecting on his success, Young said: “It was a good race and the car felt really good. I got a good start which set it all up. Once I got the lead, I just put my head down and controlled the race from thereon. I am over the moon with this first win in MRF Challenge and will certainly have a few beers with the boys tonight!”

In Race 4 that had a reverse grid, pole-sitter Eriksen was quickly passed by Mason and Sundaramoorthy in the very first lap. The trio held positions until the sixth lap even as behind them, Amendola, who started from fifth, moved up a spot while Young dropped from sixth to seventh.

The Belgian made another move to pass Eriksen into third spot. Up the road, Mason came under increasing pressure from Sundaramoorthy. In the ninth lap, Mason spun, allowing Sundaramoorthy, Amendola and Eriksen to get ahead and finish in that order.

“It feels good to win the race especially after the crash yesterday in the previous race. Today, the race went very well. Josh (Mason) drove amazingly and all I could do was to put pressure on him, hoping to force him into a mistake as I was not close enough to pass. I feel great to have scored my first-ever win in the F2000 category,” said Sundaramoorthy.

The fifth and last race of the Dubai round was a comfortable outing for Amendola once he fought off his rivals at the start before going into a virtual cruise control mode for a comfortable win ahead of Mason and Young.

“It’s been a great week and yeah, feels good to win three of the five races. That was my target coming here to Dubai. I had to fend off others early in the last race, but after that, it was fairly comfortable as I opened up a good lead,” said Amendola who was followed home by Mason and Young.

The lone Indian entrant, Chetan Korada, showed some improvement in his pace to pick up some points though he could not offer any serious challenge to the front-runners.

Full result sheets can be found here.

[Note: The above story is as per the press release with no edits made]

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[Image courtesy: Anand Philar]

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