The MRF Challenge is a 4 round 16 race championship that takes place throughout India and the Middle East. The competition offers young drivers a chance to prepare themselves during the off-season and the 2016-17 title was hotly fought between F3 graduates Harrison Newey, Joey Mawson, and Mick Schumacher. Interestingly the trio used to be teammates at Van Amersfoort in the 2015 German F4 championship and know each other very well. Mawson was comfortably the strongest of the three back in 2015 but he no longer enjoys the same advantage. They all went into the final round of the MRF season in Chennai with a shot at winning the championship.
Mick Schumacher had the fewest points so had to take the most risks. With that in mind his championship chances ended against the barriers in the penultimate race leaving Newey and Mawson in a straight fight for the championship in the final.
Mawson held a narrow points lead so could guarantee himself the title with first or second. He was looking good when he assumed the lead from pole position but with 5 laps to go the championship fight turned on its head. Newey had been piling the pressure on Mawson from second place and here he describes the crucial turning point.
“I think he dropped one wheel on the dirt but just didn’t have the best exit. Obviously I was close to him always but it just put me a bit closer. He half defended and thought I was too far back so he came back out of it, and when he came back out I just went for it and obviously went quite deep into the corner which allowed Mick to get past as well.”
Taking the lead wasn’t enough for Newey – even with Mawson dropping to third – because he also required two bonus points for fastest lap to make up the deficit. This created an interesting situation where Newey had to push to the limit all the way until the finish and the championship wouldn’t be decided until everyone had seen the chequered flag.
When the dust settled, Newey and Mawson finished on the same number of points, but Harrison was crowned champion courtesy of taking more wins throughout the series. It is his first major trophy. Mawson was understandably gutted but there is no doubting Newey was a deserving champion.