Fuji Speedway, Japan: India`s Narain Karthikeyan managed to finish seventh after starting 11th on the grid in the rain-hit third round of the Super Formula championship, here on Sunday.
The race became dramatic when rain started to lash the circuit in lap 45, 10 laps from the finish. Karthikeyan was running eighth at that time having picked his way through from 11th, passing the likes of reigning Super Formula champion Naoki Yamamoto around the outside of turn one after an intense battle.
Last year`s winner Yuji Kunimoto was also dispatched at the same spot, this time with a late dive on the brakes on the inside. As the rain came down, some cars opted for wet tyres while others stayed out hoping that the rain would subside and the track would dry out giving them an advantage over the wet tyre runners.
Despite being on slick tyres in the rain, Karthikeyan used his experience and wet weather expertise to make up positions while other drivers tiptoed trying to keep their cars on the circuit. He fought his way up to third in a span of three laps, and his maiden Super Formula podium seemed in sight.
The call to stay out looked like paid off, especially after the Safety Car came out following a few spins and car crashes. But the rain intensified thereafter, and the safety car went in with four laps of the race remaining.
From then on, it was a struggle to hold track position with cars on wet tyres charging from behind. But despite a few moments, Karthikeyan managed to hold on and finish seventh, behind this year`s 24 hour Le Mans winner Andr` Lotterer.
"It was one of the craziest races I`ve ever been in, no one really knew what the weather would do and any call you took was a gamble. We were third for a few laps and then the safety car came out and elected to stay out on wets like the two cars ahead of us, but eventually it didnt pay off," Karthikeyan said after the race.
"It was one of those races where any call that you make is more likely to be wrong than right, if we had switched to wets and the race was red-flagged or finished behind the safety car, we would have ended up outside the points. It`s a shame that the podium got away, but we still managed to keep it together and bring home the points," he added.
Round four of the Super Formula championship is scheduled at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit on August 24.
I`ve always said the person who wins the world championship this year is the person who does the best job on the circuit, but that does not seem the way it is at the moment.