Now part of the MRF National Racing Championship as the 'Ameo Class', Volkswagen Motorsport India's Ameo competitors put up a good show in the first race of the 2019 season opener.
After hosting the first round in February 2019, the MRF MMSC FMSCI Indian National Car Racing Championship (INCRC) resumed in Coimbatore this weekend at the Kari Motor Speedway. With categories like the F1600 and the MRF Challenge being present in the first round, the second round paved the way for the inaugural rounds of the Volkswagen Ameo Class and the Indian Touring Car (ITC) category. Well, until last year, Volkswagen Motorsport India (VMI) ran the Race Ameos in its dedicated one-make championship called the Volkswagen Ameo Cup. However, just a few days back, the said championship received a 'national' status, much like the other categories of MRF INCRC: ITC, FLGB 1300, Super Stock, etc. As a result, it will now run as the 'Ameo Class' in the 2019 MRF INCRC and its winner, from this season onwards, will be recognised as a 'National Champion'.
After Friday being dedicated to practice, proceedings began with the qualifying round the next day. This year's grid consists of 18 drivers, 9 of whom are new to the VW Ameo Championship and the other 9 have been retained from the previous season. However, the championship follows the same format as last year, with the 18 competitors competing in three categories: Pro, Junior and Overall. The final qualifying times left everyone gobsmacked as Hyderabad's Jeet Jhabakh (#5), who topped the timesheet with a lap time of 1:09.571, was ahead of Pune's Pratik Sonawane (#7) by just 0.003 of a second! Last year's championship runner-up Saurav Bandyopadhyay (#4) qualified third.
As Race 1 started, Sonawane was not able to find the right starting strategy for his Ameo and as a result, he dropped back to fourth place. Meanwhile, Jhabakh led the pack early.on, followed by Delhi's Anmol Singh (#6) and Saurav Bandyopadhyay. While the racers ahead ran a largely incident-free race, it was at the back where things were a bit more tricky and difficult. As all competitors were running on slick tyres, on a damp track with intermittent drizzle, most newcomers found themselves struggling for grip. While three racers failed to cross the finish line, quite a few of those who did, came back to the pits with damaged bodywork.
Mumbai's Ayush Tainwala (#18) made contact with defending Junior Champion Shubhomoy Ball's (#19) car, which ended the latter's race almost immediately. However, a few laps later, Tainwala himself fell victim to the incident as his steering, damaged in the Ball incident, gave away completely and he ended up in the barriers. His car incurred significant damage. Jhabakh, who had been leading the race, opened his 2019 innings with a solid victory. Behind him, Singh held off Bandyopadhyay to take the second spot. Sonawane, meanwhile, was unable to mount an attack on Bandyopadhyay, which only fetched him a fourth-place finish.