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MRF Challenge 2017: Lady luck smiles on Rinus van Kalmthout on dramatic race-day

Rinus van Kalmthout had a brilliant day in the first two races of the MRF Challenge by finishing third and first while championship leader Felipe Drugovich had a dramatic last corner battery failure to endure a bittersweet day.

other sports Updated: Dec 08, 2017 21:00 IST
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Siddharth Vishwanathan
Hindustan Times, Dubai
MRF Challenge 2017,Rinus van Kalmthout,Felipe Drugovich
Rinus van Kalmthout celebrates after winning the second MRF Challenge 2017 race in Dubai.(HT Photo)

During the free practice session on Thursday, Dutch driver Rinus van Kalmthout had said that he needed a lot of luck to do better at the Dubai Autodrome after mixed results in Bahrain. On Friday, luck was definitely with the 17-year-old van Kalmthout as he finished third in the first race and secured a dramatic victory in the second race in the ongoing MRF Challenge 2017 tournament.

Van Kalmthout’s day was made even better with championship leader Felipe Drugovich suffering a battery failure on the last corner of the second race to slip from third to ninth. Earlier, the Brazilian driver had continued his magnificent form by winning the first race of the day.

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The glee on van Kalmthout’s face was evident after he closed the gap with Drugovich to two points. “I feel luck is with me. If I keep this up, it will be a great championship,” the Dutchman said after the race.

Starting from third place in the second race, van Kalmthout maintained the pressure and he took the lead in the third lap. The 18-year-old notched up the best lap time of 1:57:128 and extended his lead over the rest of the field to finish 11 seconds ahead of France’s Louis Gachot. Van Kalmthout said the team had to take a big chance in order to put in a good show.

“We tried something in the first race which was better but not good enough. We did a very risky change in the second race and the car worked out amazing.”

‘Battery failure’

The second race was dramatic not just for van Kalmthout’s solid performance, but also for Felipe Drugovich. Having started sixth on the grid, Drugovich aggressively passed the field and by the end of the fourth lap had reached fourth position. As the race neared the end, Drugovich had passed two more cars and had moved to second.

Just as the Brazilian looked set to extend his lead in the championship, disaster struck on the final corner of the last lap as he suffered a technical failure and slowed down drastically. Due to this failure, he managed a ninth-place finish. So disappointed was Drugovich that when asked as to what happened, he dourly replied, “It was a battery failure.”

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Drugovitch’s disappointment in the second race is in stark contrast to the first race when he put in a magnificent display. In the opening lap, he passed Indonesia’s Presley Martono who was on pole to register his third win of the season.

Heading into the last two races in Dubai on Saturday, the pressure is on both Drugovitch and van Kalmthout. However, van Kalmthout is confident that his performance on Friday, plus Drugovitch’s failure in the second race makes the next round of races on Saturday interesting.

First Published: Dec 08, 2017 21:00 IST