Bahrain: Raj Bharath gave the Indian audience a moment to cheer with a podium finish in the fourth race of the MRF Challenge Round 2 at the Bahrain International Circuit here on Saturday.
Austria’s Mathias Lauda (28:24.680), son of racing legend Niki Lauda, took the Race 4 honours ahead of South Africa’s Kyle Mitchell (28:24.680) and Bharath (28:27.475).
Bharath started fourth but overtook championship leader Tobey Sowery on the sixth lap to hop on the third spot. Thereafter the Bengaluru boy did not look back.
Earlier, pole-sitter Ryan Cullen (25:09.821) came with another scintillating performance topping Race Three ahead of Mitchell (25:13.842). Sowery (25:16.826) from Great Britain was third followed by Bharath, who missed the podium by 1.069s.
It was a third consecutive podium for British boy Cullen, and that has added more drama to the championship. Cullen (126) is catching up with Sowery (151) on the points table while Bharath is third with 112 points.
“I knew the track well and I took the lead and converted it into a win. I did not commit a mistake right through the race,” said 23-year-old Cullen.
The crash-marred race saw five drivers — Laura Tillett, Tarun Reddy, Vikash Anand, Struan Moore and Hunt — drop out of the race. Vikash and Reddy smashed into each other while Tillett, Moore and Hunt drove into them to make the situation worse.
Cullen dominated the race from the word go and led all the 12 laps but it was heartbreak for Bharath. The Bengaluru lad maintained his second position till the fourth lap but eventually slipped to third in the next two laps, Mitchell overtaking him with ease. In the seventh lap Bharath was pushed further down to fourth by Sowery and could not find his way back. Other Indians in contention, Delhi lad Lee Keshav and Advait Deodhar, took ninth and the tenth respectively. The last leg of the championship will resume in Chennai on January 24 next year.