This race may not boast of track stars like Sebastian Vettel, but will have participants with stars in their eyes instead. We are talking about the lesser known, even lesser hyped, but no less important support races that are an essential part of every Formula One race globally.
Considered to be the breeding ground for future aces, the ‘support race’ takes place on the sidelines of the main F1 challenge. And, it is here that future stars get noticed by F1 managers and sponsors of the sport.
Running in its second year, the MRF Challenge Formula Series is the official support race for the Indian Grand Prix. While there are GP2 and GP3 races in Europe, the Indian chapter so far has only one support race. But already it is making a mark—the winner of last year’s Indian Grand Prix support race went on to win the British Formula 3.
And, not many would know it, but the cars for the race are fully developed in India, down to the last bolt, albeit with some technical expertise from abroad.
The company that makes the cars, Jayem Automotives, is based in Coimbatore and run by a car race driver, J Anand.
“Support comes from Italian chassis manufacturer Dallara Automobili, which gives us critical parts such as the carbon tub, and from Renault Sport, which provides us two-litre engines for our cars,” says Anand.
Batting for the home race, he says, “The support race is professionally run in India; they bring down engineers and mechanics from Europe to work and train Indian engineers and mechanics. The drivers come from all over the world and are, in fact, upcoming drivers in Europe, Asia and the US from various categories like British Formula 3, GP3 and Indy Lights. The idea here is to create an international series out of India.”
Adds Arun Mammen, managing director, MRF Tyres: “After the resounding success in our inaugural season, we are keen to build on it and further improve the show.”
This already seems to be happening, as the MRF Challenge Formula Series is going international this year. “After the Indian Grand Prix, we will be the support race for the World Endurance Championship in Bahrain,” says Mammen.
Equally upbeat is Narain Karthikeyan, India’s first F1 driver. “The MRF Challenge promises to be the hottest championship in Asia this year with a great driver line-up. This is a testament to the credibility the race has built in just a year.” For 2013, the race has a total prize money of R6,500,000 and will feature 18 cars.