Chennai, Feb 15 (IANS) Scoring two wins and a third place finish, British driver Rupert Svendsen-Cook went past championship leader Tio Ellinas from Cyprus on the MRF Challenge 2013 series leaderboard at the MMRT circuit here Saturday.
While Svendsen-Cook enjoyed a fine afternoon pipping Ellinas in the first of the five scheduled races of the final round and then grabbing a hard-fought third in the second before finishing off with a brilliant win to take his tally of points to 185 points with two more races to be run Sunday.
In contrast, Ellinas, starting the first race from pole, yielded ground in a close race to finish second, but got tangled with India's Raj Bharath in the next outing to draw blank. In the third race, Ellinas could manage only a fifth place, allowing Svendsen-Cook to get a jump on him in the championship standings.
Thus, with three of the five races completed, Svendsen-Cook leads Ellinas by nine points to set up an exciting Sunday battle for the championship title.
Belgium's Sam Dejonghe scored a merited win in the second race ahead of Britisher Harry Tincknell and Svendsen-Cook after a hectic tussle that went all the way to the wire.
While the big boys were involved in a fight for the title, India's first Formula One driver Narain Karthikeyan, entered as a guest driver, thrilled the huge gathering by finishing third behind Svendsen-Cook and Ellinas, but pulled out of the next two races due to engine problems.
Karthikeyan, starting third on the grid, dropped to fourth as Oscar King got a jump on him in the very first lap.
However, the vastly experienced Karthikeyan bided his time before slipping past King with a daring move to regain third spot.
"I had a poor start and lost one position, but later, I managed to move back into third. There were some issues with the engine, but I am happy that I raced in front of my home crowd," said Karthikeyan who is all set to race in Japan's Super Formula series this season.
The other Indians in the fray, Raj Bharath, Vikash Anand and Gaurav Gill, the 2013 Asia Pacific Rally Champion, did not fare as well as expected. Bharath finished sixth and 10th besides a non-finish, while Anand failed to finish two races and had a ninth in the day's last outing.
Gill finished seventh in the first race behind Bharath, but did not score any points in the other two outings in one of which he was penalised for a jump-start and subsequently not classified although he completed the 10 laps.
MRF Challenge (F2000): Race -1 (15 laps): Rupert Svendsen-Cook (UK) 1 (23mins, 52.841secs); Tio Ellinas (Cyprus) 2 (23:54.272); Narain Karthikeyan (India) 3 (23:56.507); Oscar King (UK) 4 (23:59.928).
Race 2 (10 laps): Sam Dejonghe (Belgium) 1 (16:02.824); Harry Tincknell (UK) 2 (16:08.470); Rupert Svendsen-Cook (UK) 3 (16:16.238).
Race 3 (15 laps): Rupert Svendsen-Cook (UK) 1 (24:06.163); Harry Tincknell (UK) 2 (24:06.886); Dylan Young (Australia) 3 (24:40.656).
MRF F1600 (10 laps): Tarun Reddy 1 (15:36.595); Advait Deodhar 2 (15:37.031); Karthik Tarani 3 (15:42.710).