TATIANA IGNITES TITLE CHALLENGE WITH DUBAI VICTORY

Tatiana Calderón launched herself to the forefront of the title battle in the MRF Challenge Formula 2000 championship with an outstanding first victory of the season at the Dubai Autodrome.

Having established herself as one of the true protagonists of the Indian-based series during the previous rounds in Abu Dhabi and Bahrain, Tatiana picked up where she left off at Dubai, another circuit with which the Colombian rising star had little trouble familiarising herself – as evidenced by her competitive showing in free practice, placing third at the end of the second session.

A major handling imbalance nonetheless prevented Tatiana from replicating that pace when it came to qualifying, leaving her an unrepresentative seventh on the grid for the opening race of the weekend. But a strong start and some typically assured racecraft allowed her to climb to fourth by the chequered flag.

The second race was a confusing affair, as an incident between several rivals lower down the order brought out the red flags. Tatiana was fifth for the restart, quickly making her way up to third before seizing the lead with a superb double overtake on the battling duo of Tarun Reddy and Nikita Troitskiy.

Pulling away thereafter, Tatiana was unchallenged at the chequered flag, but was initially denied her victory as she was two tenths behind Reddy on combined times from the two parts of the race. But, this injustice was rectified when Troitskiy lodged an appeal against Reddy, the Indian’s 20 second penalty making Tatiana the rightful winner of a race that she had commanded.

Starting sixth for the third race, Tatiana had gained two places when the red flags made an unwelcome return, preventing her from climbing any higher than fourth as the race was not restarted. This left the 22-year-old third on the grid for the fourth and final race, although a tangle with Harrison Newey in their battle for second demoted her to fourth at the finish.

But, when Troitskiy was excluded from third for running with an illegal ride height, Tatiana found herself promoted to her sixth podium finish in 10 races, keeping her firmly in the hunt for the coveted MRF Challenge championship title.

Tatiana Calderón: “It’s a great feeling to have finally won a race again after such a long time! Having taken the chequered flag first, I felt I was the rightful winner of the race anyway, but of course it’s nice to be officially recognised as the winner. The extra points for the championship are also very valuable, and I can now head to the final round in with a real chance of winning the title. But before then, it’s time for me to return home to Colombia for some well-earned rest before I start to prepare myself for what will be an exciting climax to the championship!”

As a result of her Dubai success, Tatiana moves up to second in the points standings, trailing leader Pietro Fittipaldi by 18 points with four races remaining at Chennai, India, on 30-31 January.

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Twitter: @Tatacalde

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