While current title favourite Ashwin Dutta extended his championship lead by six points, second-placed Karthik Tharani's sensational performance earned him two victories from his three podium finishes over the weekend.
Round 3 of the JKNRC 2018 proved to be a gruelling and challenging round for the competitors. While Day 1 of the race weekend was marred by numerous accidents and collisions in multiple races, Day 2 turned out to be more forgiving because of which we got to witness some clean racing without much intervention of the Safety Car.
After a favourable qualifying session on Saturday, Nayan Chatterjee started the first race of the day on pole position. Behind him, Karthik Tharani, Ashwin Datta and Yash Aradhya had managed secure second, third and fourth grid positions, respectively. However, Nayan was quickly overtaken by Tharani at the start of the race. Eager to win back his position from Tharani, Nayan made an attempt to pass Tharani on the outer side at C1 but, while doing so, he ended up hitting a bump and went off the track. As the impact resulted in a damaged steering column, Nayan Chatterjee was forced to retire which earned him a DNF. In all this tussle up front, Ashwin Datta managed to take the lead and went on to win the race. Half a second behind him, the battle for second place was won by Tharani who was under constant pressure from Brayan Perera. Perera tried with all his might to go for the second place but ultimately, he had to settle for the final spot on the podium. Datta also managed to put on board the best lap time of 1:01.422.
The second race of the day saw the top six finishers start the race in reverse grid order, which meant a pole position start for Yash Aradhya. Yash continued to lead the pack in the first four laps of the race, followed by Nirmal Uma Shankar in P2 and Sudarshan Karwal in third place. Nayan, who had started the race from 11th, had managed to get into the seventh position by this time. At the end of Lap 9, Shankar's overtaking manoeuver on Yash Aradhya went south which forced the latter off the track. Despite a quick recovery, Yash lost his lead. However, Shankar's brief run in P1 came to an end as Karthik managed to overtake him and went on to win the race with a margin of nearly 1.7 seconds from second-placed Shankar. Nayan fought his way up and managed a podium finish by clinching the third spot.
Race three on Sunday began with the start order determined by the finish of the previous race. This meant that Tharani was the pole-sitter, followed by Uma Shankar in second and Nayan in third. With a good start, Tharani built a sizeable lead over Shankar on the first lap alone. But, the proceedings took a turn for the thrilling when Nayan passed Shankar for the second position. This paved the way for his showdown with Tharani. Nayan was able to close in on Tharani in no time, however, it was only in lap 14 when he could manage an overtaking manoeuver on Tharani. Despite an impressive chase, Nayan's attempts were no match for Tharani's smartly-covered lines which made sure that Nayan did not get enough space to overtake. Eventually, Tharani crossed the finish line with a gap of 0.9 seconds from Nayan and earned his second consecutive victory of the round. Ashwin Datta secured third place in the race.
Once again, with the reverse-grid formation coming into effect for the fourth and final race of round three, Aradhya started the race from pole. Meanwhile, Shankar had overtaken Brayan Perera to take over the second position. The top order remained this way until lap 10 when Perera and Shankar began to gain on race leader Aradhya. With a better exit on the final corner, Shankar made his pass on Aradhya to take the lead. This exposed Aradhya to a charging Perera in P3. On the last lap, Perera managed to overtake Aradhya while Shankar posted a convincing win with a lead of 3.1 seconds. This was Shankar's first win of the 2018 season.
As the penultimate round of the JKNRC 2018 concluded today in Coimbatore, the championship standings are as follows:
1st - Ashwin Datta: 74 points
2nd - Karthik Tharani: 68 points
3rd - Nayan Chatterjee: 66 points
4th - Brayan Perera: 63 points
5th - Yash Aradhya: 39 points
(Values mentioned above are after round three)
The final round of JKNRC 2018 will take place at the Buddh International Circuit in Greater Noida from 16th-18th November 2018.