Sakhir (Bahrain): Bent Viscaal of the Netherlands pulled off a fine win in Race-1 of the FIA-approved MRF Challenge at the Bahrain International Circuit here today, pushing pole-sitter German David Schumacher to second spot with Denmark’s Valdemar Eriksen completing the podium.
The originally scheduled 10-lap race was reduced to nine laps of which five were run behind the Safety Car following a crash at the start involving Indian-American Yuven Sundaramoorthy whose stalled car and was hit from behind by India’s Chetan Korada. Both were forced to retire from the race.
The lengthy Safety Car period effectively reduced the race to a hectic sprint. Viscaal, having moved from second to first with a great start, held position and also posted the fastest lap of the race which earned him a further two points, while Schumacher overcame a poor start to finish second. Eriksen started sixth on the grid, but made four spots to move to second in the very first lap before being passed by Schumacher.
Behind the trio, there was a hectic scramble for positions as Australian Dylan Young moved from eighth to eventual fourth ahead of Britain’s Joshua Mason, Japanese-American Reece Ushijima, who had qualified third, championship leader Michelangelo Amendola from Belgium, Denmark’s Largim Ali and Jordanian Manaf Hijjawi, in that order.
“I made a good start to get to P1, but about four laps behind the Safety Car meant I didn’t get enough of racing which was a shame. I think we have taken a big step forward with the car and I thank my race engineer and the team,” said the 20-year old Viscaal.
Schumacher, 18, was disappointed with his start and said: “I didn’t get used to the clutch which is very hard. So, I nearly stalled the car when the lights went out. The race was also not quick enough. Let’s see what we can do in the next race.”
In contrast, Eriksen, only 16, was happy with his podium finish. “I had a great start, moving from P6 to P2, but on re-start after the Safety Car period, I was passed by David. Thereafter, I just cruised home. Hopefully, I will do better in the future,” he said.
Earlier, the 30-minute qualifying session in overcast conditions with wet patches in some of the corners following overnight rains, witnessed a straight shootout between Schumacher (01:59.765) and Viscaal (01:59.918), both of whom ducked under the two-minute barrier, thus bettering last year’s pole position timing of 02:00.248 set by Max Defourny.
At one stage, Viscaal looked set for pole position with about seven minutes left on the clock, but Schumacher, who was quickest in last night’s Free Practice-2, came up with a hot lap, about four minutes from close of the session to upstage the Dutch youngster.
One of the surprises of the session was Ushijima (02:00.815) who moved up the grid to third spot with a late flier while Hijjawi (02:00.905) came in fourth to complete the second row. Sundaramoorthy (02:01.000) did well to finish fifth ahead of Eriksen (02:01.034), and the pair was followed by Mason (02:01.174), Young (02:01.243), Amendola (02:01.264), Ali (02:01.608) and Korada (02:03.218).
Race-1 (9 laps): 1. Bent Viscaal (Netherlands) (23mins, 52.460secs); 2. David Schumacher (Germany) (23:54.517); 3. Valdemar Eriksen (Denmark) (23:59.008). Fastest Lap: Viscaal (02:00.349).
Qualifying: 1. Schumacher (01:59.765); 2. Viscaal (01:59.918); 3. Ushijima (02:00.815); 4. HIjjawi (02:00.905); 5. Sundaramoorthy (02:01.000); 6. Eriksen (02:01.034); 7. Mason (02:01.174); 8. Young (02:01.243); 9. Amendola (02:01.264); 10. Ali (02:01.608); 11. Korada (02:03.218).