The VW Polo Cup India running as a part of the 13th JK Tyre National Racing Championship visited the MMRT at Chennai for the first time ever and what a maiden excursion it turned out to be! Thanks to unpredictable weather, the qualifying and races turned out to be an enthralling affair from start to the chequered flag.
The qualifying session was held under wet conditions which brought out the JK wet-tyres in action for the first time this season. The track was drying quickly despite a heavy spell of rain which had subsided just a few minutes before the pit lane was opened. After a couple of laps behind the safety car, the drivers were let loose on the circuit for hot laps and times started tumbling soon as they acquainted and accustomed themselves to the limits of the wet compound.
As the chequered flag came out, it was young Chennai driver Vishnu Prasad who secured pole position with championship leader Sailesh Bolisetti alongside him on row 1. Parth Ghorpade managed third with Vikash Anand alongside in fourth on row 2.
Come race day, clouds loomed thick and heavy before the onset of race 1, signalling that weather would play a part in the final outcome of the race. It was hard not to compare the status quo, albeit remotely, with the Formula 1 race at Spa where intermittent showers kept all drivers and teams on their toes. It wasn’t similarly complex or significant in the Polo Cup race, but couldn’t be completely ignored nevertheless.
As the lights went out for race 1, Vishnu made good escape from pole with Sailesh close behind. However, it was clear in the first few laps that Prasad had a pace advantage as he started pulling away from the pack. He was however, stopped short of completing a flawless victory as his car suddenly came to a standstill midway through lap eight - with no telltale signs of a failure. Agreed, a machine is prone to failures but an inexplicable breakdown, which even had the VW tech team flummoxed for a while, can be quite discouraging for a competitor. It has still not been made clear what exactly caused the car to stall on the racetrack.
With Vishnu out of contention, it was Sailesh Bolisetti who took the chequered flag with Vikash Anand right on his tail in second place as showers in the last few laps saw the drivers battling traction on slick tyres. Parth Ghorpade continued his consistent run, taking the last spot on the podium.
Race 2 of the Polo Cup is always promising thanks to the reverse grid approach, and this time it was Gurniaz Mann on pole with Imran Majid alongside him. More importantly, Fahad Kutty was in P3 - which meant thrills and spills guaranteed. Another grid position to watch out was Vishnu Prasad - starting at the back of the grid in a replacement car and looking forward to charge up the field.
The flag was dropped for race 2 and Imran Majid immediately made clear his intentions by moving ahead of Gurniaz on the opening lap. Gurniaz tried to get back his position but Imran didn’t give an inch forcing Mann on the backfoot. Fahad Kutty managed to hold onto third. But the man on the move was Parth Ghorpade, who despite starting sixth had moved up behind Fahad.
Fahad then managed to find his way past Gurniaz and Imran but that didn’t stop Parth’s charge as found a way through Imran’s defense and moved into second behind Fahad. Fahad could hold back Parth only for a couple of laps before yielding to the Kolhapur’s driver’s attacks. Once out in front, Ghorpade managed to steadily build a gap to the Mumbai duo, taking the chequered flag with Fahad and Imran finishing second and third respectively.
Vishnu Prasad meanwhile had managed to work his way upto 13th place in the first couple of laps, but his progress was once again cut short as an impact from another car damaged his steering arm and he spent rest of the race nursing an out of alignment car. He finally finished 14th- a weekend which started on a positive note, ended on a forgettable one for the young prodigy.
1. Sailesh Bolisetti 25:35.172
2. Vikash Anand 25:35.536
3. Parth Ghorpade 25:36.609
BEST LAP: 2:04.945 (Vishnu Prasad)
1. Parth Ghorpade 25:13.862
2. Mohd Fahad Kutty 25:18.214
3. Imran Majid 25:26.826
BEST LAP: 2:04.714 (Parth Ghorpade)