The refurbished Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT) is all set to witness the cream of two-wheeler racing talent when it hosts the fourth round of FIM Asia Road Racing Championship commencing here Friday.
A bunch of seasoned campaigners who are no strangers to the MMRT besides a clutch of teenagers will be parading their talent over the weekend in SuperSport 600cc, Asia Production 250cc and the Underbone 150cc categories, alongside two support events, the Idemitsu Honda India Talent Cup (CBR 250, Open) organised by MMSC and the TVS One-Make Championship (Open, Apache R310).
"It has been barely 11 months since we last hosted an ARRC round, but during this period, the MMRT has undergone a sea change. A new paddock, with 20 spacious garages, a viewing terrace, VIP hospitality suites to accommodate nearly 400 people, a second paddock on the western side with its own circuit and a drag strip have all sprung up at a cost of about Rs 20 crore," MMSC president Ajit Thomas said in a statement.
"It is an edifice we all are proud of. Yet, these are just baby steps in our long-term plans to transform MMRT into a truly world-class facility. I am sure, the ARRC family will have a far more comfortable stay at the MMRT this weekend than at any time in the past!"
Ron Hogg, Director, Two Wheels Motor Racing, the promoters of ARRC, said he was amazed at the new infrastructure made available for this weekend's races and the progress made.
He said he would be happy to see two rounds in India in the future since he felt most comfortable with the professional approach of the MMSC.
On the track, the spotlight will be on the premier SuperSport 600cc category that has the familiar faces of veterans Anthony West (Australia), Decha Kraisart (Thailand), Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman (Malaysia) and Tomoyoshi Koyama (Japan) apart from a clutch of young, hungry racers who have been keeping the established stars on their toes.
Current Championship leader West, who competed in the World Championship for over a decade, and last year's champion Karmaruzaman, a former Moto2 rider, who trails the Aussie star by 12 points, will no doubt start firm favourites, but as in the previous three rounds in Thailand, Australia and Japan suggested, nothing is quite as straightforward.
Also in the mix are two Japanese riders, 35-year old Koyama and Keisuke Kurihara, 20, and Yuki Ito, 27, who won Race 2 in Australia.
From India's perspective, Chennai's Rajiv Sethu, 20, and Bengaluru-based Anish Damodara Shetty, 24, will be keenly followed in the Asia Production 250cc category that Indonesian Rheza Danica Ahrens has dominated with four consecutive wins in six races.
The two Indians are part of the Idemitsu Honda India Racing team along with Japan's Taiga Hada, 19, who is competing in the 600cc class.
Shetty, in his debut ARRC season, managed to pick up two points by finishing 15th in both the races in Australia while Sethu is still in quest for his first points in his second season. Hada is 13th in the 600cc class with 24 points.
Shetty will also be figuring in the two races of the Idemitsu Honda India Talent Cup (CBR 250, Open) organised by MMSC which he leads with 86 points from Coimbatore's Senthil Kumar (63), both having won two races apiece in the previous two rounds.
The TVS One-Make Championship (Open) has also been very competitive with four races thus far over two rounds throwing up different winners.
The top three riders -- Chennai duo Deepak Ravikumar (70) and Vivek Pillai (61), and Bengaluru's Yashas RL (58) -- are involved in a three-way battle with Hyderabad's Peddu Sriharsha (46) and Amarnath K Menon (45) from Kozhikode not far behind.
Malaysian brave-hearts Md Helmi Azman (94) and Md Izzat Zaidi (93) are locked in a fierce battle in the Underbone 150cc category which attracts the most number of entries and dishes out nail-biting finishes.