The first piece of our new series of concise reviews for regional championships will be dedicated to MRF Challenge, an India-based single-seater series which is held throughout the winter.
The series welcomes drivers in various stages of their career and has attracted some high-profile names in the past – among them Conor Daly, Jordan King, Tio Ellinas or Arthur Pic.
The 2014-15 edition consisted of three rounds at the tracks of Losail, Sakhir and Chennai with four races held on each given weekend.
The biggest talking point prior to the season was Mathias Lauda and Freddie Hunt, sons of former F1 rivals, signing up for the series. However, in terms of results, others fared better.
MSV F3 Cup champion Toby Sowery made an electrifying start to the season with two victories at Losail and two third places, taking a confident early lead in the standings.
The Indian duo of Protyre Formula Renault regular Tarun Reddy and MRF returnee Raj Bharath both took wins while GP3 regular Ryan Cullen and South African Kyle Mitchell, who returned to the race tracks after a lengthy absence, completed the quartet of Sowery’s chasers.
The next weekend started with a similarly dominant showing, this time from Cullen. Stealing the race lead from pole-sitter Bharath, he kicked off with a win, followed by a third place in the reverse-grid race two and another win in race three.
While Cullen was the man to beat, Sowery, Bharath and Mitchell all remained firmly at the front. The other two wins, however, went to part-time driver Struan Moore and Lauda, who converted a reverse-grid pole to claim his first major single-seater victory.
Going into the final round, the top four of Sowery, Cullen, Bharath and Mitchell were all within 31 points of each other, thus promising a close title battle. But Sowery had little interest in keeping intrigue alive and, with two Saturday wins, clinched the title early.
Cullen would return to winning ways on Sunday, before guest drivers Oscar King, Matt Solomon and Gustavo Myasava locked out the podium in the final race.
So, in the end, was a dominant campaign from Toby Sowery, who took his second single-seater title in his second championship in a well-deserved fashion, as he finished every race in the top five.
Cullen and Bharath both enjoyed their best single-seater campaigns in second and third respectively and it was an impressive return to cars for Mitchell, who ended up in fourth despite missing the finale.
Sowery’s superb debut year in cars has yielded him an Auto GP testing opportunity with Virtuosi, but his plans for the main 2015 season are as of yet unconfirmed. Neither have they been announced for runner-up Cullen and third-placed Bharath. However, some of the other MRF race winners and podium finishers have already secured their drives.
Race winner Reddy will do the inaugural MSA F4 season with Double R Racing. Solomon will also race with Double R – in the FIA F3 European Championship. Lauda, meanwhile, will be back to GT racing in the World Endurance Championship with Aston Martin.
Part-timer Moore will move to Japan to contest the national F3 series with KCMG. World karting vice-champion Nikita Mazepin, who took a career-first podium at Losail, has already completed a campaign in the Toyota Racing Series and will contest FR2.0 NEC with Josef Kaufmann.