The MRF Formula Championship is a stepping stone to the higher levels of motorracing

Negotiating a fast corner in an odd section of the Irrungattukotai circuit that is bumpy, Jordan King strains every sinew to keep the open-wheel car straight. After going through the punishing practice session, King is glad he took his father's advice. Having competed in premier go-karting championships across Europe for three years, the 16-year-old Briton was getting familiar with Formula Renault, when his father suggested he enroll for the MRF Formula Championship (the Chennai leg is on February 5, 6, 12 and 13).

Coping successfully with an unfamiliar and challenging circuit has provided him great excitement, and driving an efficiently-built 1.6 litre racing car has inspired him with confidence. In Europe, Formula Renault 1.6L (one of three levels) is an entry-level championship that takes youngsters to the higher gears of motor-racing.

“Designed and built by international experts, the MRF Formula 1600 cc is as good an entry-level machine as any other in the world,” says Anthony Rodricks, head of motorsports, MRF. Participation of Jukka Honkavuori from Finland, who has already raced in Formula Renualt 2 litre Euro Cup, and four other European racers seems to confirm this.

Designed by Elan Motorsports, this racing car was built with imported critical parts, including a Ford Duratec 1.6. litre engine, Hewland gearbox and AP braking system. “Under the leadership of Peter Allnutt, a bunch of engineers from abroad were on the job,” says Rodricks.

The project was jump-started three years ago by reports that Formula One would come to India. We wanted to provide a car and a championship that would be the stepping stone to the sanctum sanctorum of racing, Formula One,” says Rodricks.

The diligent and purposeful work has been rewarded in an unexpected manner. The final two rounds of the MRF Formula Championship will be held as support race of the Formula One Grand Prix of India on October 29/30 at the Jaypee International Race Circuit in Greater Noida.

“We took the project step by step,” says Rodricks. “When the Championship kick-started in 2010, we restricted participation to Indian drivers. With 22 cars having been built now, we have made it international. You can expect us to upgrade the car and the championship in the future.”

J. Anand of JA Motorsport, whose facility in Coimbatore was the birthing bed for the car and which maintains the 22 machines during race and off seasons, says international drivers are getting to drive a world-class car for a dreadfully low entry fee. Participation in the championship entails a cost of Rs. 15 lakh. “If you set this against 7,500 to 8,000 pounds a day for testing with top racing cars, you will know what we are talking about.”

With Rodricks and Anand hinting at the possibility of radical upgradation, including installing a 2000 cc engine with attendant modifications and making the car compliant with FIA's new safety standards that will come into force only in 2012, the championship is likely to net bigger international names in racing in the future. Another exciting possibility is an MRF school for car racers.