Playing it safe
Stressed out after his bike's battery burst due to overheating about 20 minutes before the qualifying session, Mathana played it safe and clocked a best lap of 01:56.423 to slot himself into seventh position on the grid.
Balappa, who has virtually clinched the championship in the Novice (Stock 165cc) category with five wins from eight starts for an unassailable 58-point lead, kept his cool during the qualifying session when he got stuck in traffic to clock a best lap of two minutes, 06.072sec to spearhead a front row sweep for Axor Sparks Racing.
Mysuru's Varun Nanjundegowda (02:06.188) and Rohan Ramesh from Coimbatore (02:07.219) were placed second and third, respectively.
Earlier, seasoned pro Rajini Krishnan (RACR Castrol Power1), who is chasing his 11th national career title, warmed for this weekend's double-header in the premier Pro-Stock 301-400cc Open category with a flying lap of 01:51.639 ahead of Petronas TVS Racing pair of Deepak Ravikumar (01:52.159) and Jagan Kumar (01:52.494).
The promoters MMSC -- celebrating their 70th anniversary -- have put together a 20-race card for the weekend.
"It has been an exciting season thus far with India's top riders and two-wheeler manufacturers, Honda, TVS, Yamaha and KTM, battling for honours, with our sponsors, MRF Tyres, providing invaluable support. The final weekend should see a continuation of the trend of close races that has kept everyone on the edge of the seat," said MMSC President Ajit Thomas.
Growing in stature
Since its humble beginnings in 1953, the MMSC has grown in stature as the hub of motorsport activity in India.
Having moved its racing activities from Sholavaram to its present location, the MIC (earlier MMRT), in Sriperumbudur in 1979, MMSC has kept pace with changing times by upgrading facilities.