Grand Prix Racing returns to Palmeria this weekend for the 95th time. It has been an exciting time for sports in Palmeria as the nation is also hosting the 2031 Community Cup with matches occurring concurrently with the Thursday and Friday free practices and the Saturday qualifying. Corse Hermès S.A. and their driver Jacob Asana are leading the constructors and drivers championships respectively going in to this race.
The 4.655 km Circuit de Bartalunya is more distant from the equator from last outing's Insuian Grand Prix, however temperatures are similar as the race and the pre-race sessions are held around midday. Forecasts project clear weather all weekend which should mean optimal conditions for clean racing.
...Practice sessions and qualifying went smoothly for the most part. The Comte de Valsoix reversed his fortunes from last week and topped the pole with a blistering lap only to defend his lead in the second round by mere tenths of a second with another lap after being caught up by both Imperial Cola drivers who started second and third on the race day. Both Hermès drivers also placed mere tenths away from the pole-sitter. Henri Meusart achieved a good qualifying result as did Bo Gelema, however the latter will start at the back of the grid in accordance with the six place penalty he incurred for causing a collision. Considering his result in the last race, Timo Basuda's tenth place qualifying result was a severe disappointment.
Following the qualifying, Maxim Verstellus, the Caphiravian driver for Imperial Cola who qualified second and is the youngest driver on the grid at merely 19 years old, made some derisive comments about the aged pole-sitter Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq stating that "the old man really surprised everyone considering you'd think he'd be more at home in a nursing home than a driver's seat." When asked about the comment from the young driver, the Comte de Valsoix took it in stride and claimed that "while youthful energy, endurance, and technical ability are vital elements of a great driver, experience and wiliness will take a driver far." The Comte has had the longest career of any driver in Grand Prix Racing's history and rumours abound that he knows most of the old tracks so well he could drive them blindfolded even if his reflexes might be inferior to those of his younger rivals.
Final Qualifying Results:
- VAL (deBedecq): 1:27.958
- VER (Imperial Cola): 1:28.101
- RIC (Imperial Cola): 1:28.124
- SIL (Hermès): 1:28.220
- ASA (Hermès): 1.28.398
- HEL (Anghel Octan): 1:29.329
- ALB (deBedecq): 1:29.358
- MEU (O'Shea): 1:29.570
- BAS (Force Pukhgundi): 1:29.874
- HIL (Anghel Octan): 1:29.986
- CRI (O'Shea): 1:30.105
- SAW (Quicksilver): 1:30.156
- ODA (Force Pukhgundi): 1:33.927
- GEL (Quicksilver): 1:29.543 (6 place grid penalty)
Attendance over the race weekend had suffered due to the ongoing Community Cup matches, but come race day the venue was sold out with spectators. The cars arrived on the grid at 11:50, twenty-five minutes before the race start in the midday heat.
As the five red lights illuminated in sequence and then extinguished, the cars took off for the second time of the 2031 season. Off the main straight, Basuda overtook Meusart. The pack rounded the first corner without incident, but on the second corner Alequé Silva attempted an overtake on Daniel Richards only to not leave enough room and bounce over the Pauldustllahani driver's front wing with the Insuian's left rear tire. The collision resulted in minimal damage for the Imperial Cola racer, but punctured Silva's tire. With more than three quarters of the lap remaining, the Hermès driver fell to the pack as the car limped back to the pitlane. The ensuing journey severely damaged both the bare rim and the floor of the car, causing the team to retire the car on the first lap. During an interview during the race, Silva maintained that enough room was given and that the puncture was the result of Richards's recklessness. The IRF stewards reviewing the race determined that the collision was merely a racing incident and no fault could be attributed.
The rest of the race opening was relatively uneventful aside from some tight battles in the midfield between Cristophe, Hilaire, and Meusart in which Cristophe pulled ahead of the other two. Hilaire complained of power issues in the beginning of the race as his engine was over-revving very rapidly between gear changes. In the front of the pack, the Imperial Cola drivers did not allow deBedecq to gain much of a lead.
Most cars began the race on "soft" grade tires which are rated to last 22-27 laps before requiring a change. At lap 23/66, the Comte de Valsoix pitted onto a second pair of soft tires, illustrating that he planned to make another stop before the end of the race and increase pace relative to the Imperial Cola drivers. Despite being several places behind in sixth, the other deBedecq driver, Brigida Alba, mirrored this strategy. On lap 24 and 25, Imperial Cola executed its own pit stops and put each of its cars on the slower but more durable "medium" grade tires which were projected to last until the end of the race. The Comte de Valsoix would therefore have to build a sufficient gap to pit safely later in the race. However, Verstellus set the fastest lap of the race following his change, proving that the medium tires still had great pace. DeBedecq found himself under threat as he struggled to pull away from the pursuing cars on his theoretically faster tires.
In the midfield, Basuda managed to pass Alba on lap 33 through the chicane at turn 14/15. The two O'Shea cars followed by Hilaire in the second Anghel Octan car also caught up to Alba, whose tires appeared to be prematurely degrading. Hilaire managed to resolve his power issues following a series of engine-mode resets and began gaining rapidly on the O'Shea cars. On lap 38, Hilaire executed an exceptional triple overtake through the main straight going from tenth to seventh behind Timo Basuda.
On lap 40, Alba pitted for her second tire change onto another pair of softs to complete the race. However, there was an incident in the deBedecq pit. The mechanism by which a car is released from the pit following a tire change is through a human observer and a series of electronic sensors which detect whether the wheel-nuts are tightened. The observer in the garage observed the tire changes and as all sensors showed tight bolts, he released the car and Alba left the pitbox. However, the rear left wheel sensor was only displaying as tightened because the original wheel had not been removed due to difficulties with the pneumatic gun. The car was therefore released with pit crewmembers still on the car and upon release a crewmember was impacted by the car. Medical personnel rushed to the deBedecq pit and Alba was advised to stop without knowing why. As the team could not refit Alba's car, they were forced to retire it as the crewmember was rushed to hospital.
As the pit crew was now understaffed, deBedecq's race engineer radioed the race leader to inform him that he would no longer be able to pit due to the narrow gap between himself and the Imperial Cola drivers and that Alba had retired following a pit stop issue. While neither of these were false, the engineer omitted mentioning the injured crewmember and that the shortstaffing now meant that a pit stop was physically impossible to avoid worrying the Comte, who would now have to carry his set of tires to the end of the race: virtually double their maximum life expectancy. The Comte was outwardly unconcerned by this development, but later stated that he was severely panicked considering the amount of wear already on the tires and the risks of driving on tires past their lifespan including severe loss of grip and/or violent blowouts.
For the final portion of the race, Max Verstellus continued to make slight gains on the Comte in front as the leader was forced to drive conservatively and the Imperial Cola cars were in top shape. The young Verstellus managed to come within striking distance of deBedecq several times over the remaining laps, but each time the leader managed to pull ahead by making strategic use of his battery-charged energy recovery system and skillfully defended in some of the more difficult corners of the track. Despite significantly slower pace, the Comte de Valsoix was in his element on a track he has raced on more years than he hasn't. The final laps were even more tense as Verstellus pushed heavily on the leader who was miraculously still on the track despite his severely worn tires and lack of grip. On the penultimate lap, Verstellus pushed too hard and ran wide on turn 5, losing momentum on the grass and allowing his teammate to pass him. Richards attempted his own pass on deBedecq at turn 10, but equally failed to gain a line around the Comte.
As Franc-Jean Hippolyte crossed the line at the end of lap 66, winning the Palmerian Grand Prix, he nonchalantly expressed his surprise that he was able to stay on track as he felt he was "driving on a sheet of shear ice for the past 10 laps." No sooner had he uttered these words than the two right tires simultaneously detonated sending the car careening into a barrier on the outlap. The winner was shuttled to the podium ceremony on a golf cart while he was briefed on the deBedecq mechanic who was injured. Following a brief and sober podium ceremony, the Comte de Valsoix visited the mechanic in hospital who was in stable condition, having suffered a clean fracture of both his tibia and fibula under the wheel of Alba's car.
Commentators were deeply impressed by Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq's drive and many were eager to label it a defining drive of his career. Likewise, the young Maxim Verstellus suffered a hit to his reputation for failing to backup his comments prior to the race. Hermès's Jacob Asana and Anghel Octan's Carla Helvet drove clean races to come home in fourth and fifth respectively and Hilaire's triple overtake was voted as "Move of the Race." Alba and Silva both expressed disappointments at their DNFs, Alba particularly as she has failed to complete a race twice in a row through no fault of her own.
- VAL (deBedecq): 1:32:01.940
- RIC (Imperial Cola): +0.699
- VER (Imperial Cola): +6.512
- ASA (Hermès): +1:02.234
- HEL (Anghel Octan): +1:15.046
- BAS (Force Pukhgundi): +1:39.024
- HIL (Anghel Octan): +1 lap
- CRI (O'Shea): +1 lap
- MEU (O'Shea): +1 lap
- SAW (Quicksilver): +1 lap
- ODA (Force Pukhgundi): +1 lap
- GEL (Quicksilver): +1 lap
- ALB (deBedecq): DNF
- SIL (Hermès): DNF
30 Jacob Asana
26 Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq
23 Carla Helvet
19 Daniel Richards
18 Timo Basuda
12 Gion Hilaire
12 Maxim Verstellus
10 Alequé Silva
04 Henri Meusart
04 James Sawders
03 Armand Cristophe
00 Brigida Alba
00 Odashi Kimi
00 Bo Gelema
40 Corse Hermès S.A.
35 Anghel Octan Racing
31 Imperial Cola Racing
26 Racing Grand Premi deBedecq
18 Force Pukhgundi Works
07 O'Shea HIS Motorsports
04 Quicksilver Racing
Once again, we are a mere two weeks away from the next Grand Prix Racing event, this time in Monteangelo.