The second round of the VW Polo Cup India- running as a part of the 13th JK Tyre National Racing championship was held at the Kari Motor Speedway in Coimbatore and saw the country’s first manufacturer-backed one-make series hit a specialised racing circuit for the first time, following the street circuit round held in Pune last month.
The qualifying session saw Chennai driver Vishnu Prasad, a familiar name in the karting circuit, posting a blistering 1:15:811 to claim pole position with Saran Vikram in P2 after a few hot laps. However, Saran didn’t seem content with his position and pushed things a tad too far, crashing heavily into the tyre barriers before coming to rest on its roof at the left-right section after the fast chicane. Post-crash, Saran stated that he had braked at the same point as the last lap but the car didn’t respond to his inputs. However, according to VW, the on-board telemetry analysis showed that it was indeed driver error that resulted in the crash. Irrespective of the reasons, details are still murky but it definitely put Saran out of the equation for the round. Another young karter, Sahil Shelar who had qualified on P3 moved into the front row alongside Vishnu while Karthik Shankar was promoted into P3. Championship leader and Pune round winner Sailesh Bolisetti could only manage fifth on the grid.
The 20-lap race 1 saw Vishnu off to a rocket start with Sahil in hot pursuit. Karthik Shankar also managed to hold his third place. Vishnu slowly started pulling away from the pack thanks to a clear track ahead of him while those behind him had to defend their positions while trying to catch him at the same time. When the cars are so evenly matched, mistakes made by the driver in front can be converted into potential overtakes- the race otherwise settling into a processional affair. Vishnu was certainly not looking forward to making any mistakes; however, all his hard work was almost wiped out when the safety car came out past the half-way mark in the race due to a crash. The entire field was bunched up again with drivers looking to have a go at the car in front of them once the safety car returned to the pits. But Vishu managed to keep Sahil and Karthik behind him for the remainder of the race, taking the chequered flag with the duo finishing in second and third places respectively.
Race 2 saw a reverse grid being adopted, which meant the top eight finishers of race 1 started in reverse order for race two. This saw Vishnu starting eighth on the grid with Imran Majid, who had finished eighth on pole with Fahad Kutty alongside on the front row. As the lights went out, Imran shot into the lead with Fahad close on his exhaust. The latter managed to go past Imran earlier on in the race and managed to build a humungous lead as Imran managed to hold off the pack consisting of Vishnu, Karthik, Saliesh and Parth.
Sailesh’s race ended thereafter when he tried to pass Imran around the big loop in the last section of the track and made contact, damaging his suspension and sending him off track. Meanwhile Fahad, who had managed to pull away cleanly from the pack, had disappointment in store for him as he was penalised 30secs by the stewards for overtaking during the formation lap- dropping him to fifth. This promoted Karthik Shankar, who was running second with Vishnu right on his case, to top slot.
Parth Ghorpade, who had started in fourth alongside Alisha Abdullah in P3 managed to make his way past her, albiet in a questionable manner. A small bump under braking was enough to unsettle the rookie Alisha and the Kolhapur driver quickly made his move and proceeded to hold off the pack behind him, finishing third. The Chennai racer then lost even more places as the rest of the field made their way past her, with lots of bulldozing involved- extremely unsporting to say the least.
It is high time our drivers learn to drive clean and play fair if they wish to make a mark in the long term, more so internationally where the protocols are extremely unforgiving. The officials here should also take notice of these aspects and ensure that unsporting actions on the track are extremely punitive, even if no protest or objection has been raised by another driver. This will lead to youngsters learning the importance of discipline on the track- extremely critical in their racing infancy.
Two podium finishes including a win sees Karthik Shankar lead the overall standings post round two.
The Polo Cup has proved its essence as a true-blue one-make spec series. The entire field of drivers was within a second of each other as far as the best lap times were concerned- driving home the point that the Polo Cup car can be easily maximised by a seasoned racer and a rookie alike. Therefore, we can expect the rookies to give a tough fight to the top seeds in the coming rounds. Round three will return to the KMS in Coimbatore on 28-29 August. Don’t miss it.