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Sports Illuminated Vol. 1 No. 6

Sep 1, 2017
Achievement Points

May 2031
Vol. 1 No. 6
Motorsports News

Levantx Grand Prix

The Levantx Grand Prix remains an unique and classic event on the Grand Prix Racing calendar. The shortest circuit on the calendar, Levantx is also one of the slowest in terms of raw pace, weaving through tight streets that test the "3 car widths" regulation of track sizes. Indeed, the slowest corner of the year is the famous "Espinla" hairpin turn in front of the famous Mirabèl Hotel. The 170° is in the middle of a more than 40 m (130 ft) drop in elevation from turn 5 to turn 8. This sequence is followed by a long and fast straight through a tunnel and in front of the harbour which takes drivers to one of the fastest corners of the year: the "New Chicane," a mere kink in the road which nevertheless has proven challenging for drivers to negotiate over the years. Due to the short length, drivers will have to negotiate these sections a total of 80 times to complete the race distance.

Unsurprisingly, the Levantx street circuit has proven to be one of the most dangerous tracks to race over the decades since its first race in 1954. Regardless, the circuit holds a place in the hearts of many drivers and fans as it is said to truly test the personal ability of each driver rather than the hardware they sit in. Levantx's famous sunny skies and cool ocean breeze equally tend to give a sense of levity and both the breeze and sunshine promised to stay with us for the 2031 event.
The first qualifying sessions gave teams their first impressions of the new Target Motorsports team as their two rookie drivers pulled their cars around the circuit. Despite having emerged from the Kistani junior series, both drivers have previously participated in two or three of the various invitational events which are frequently held in the city and therefore were fortunately able to bring some experience to the difficult circuit. The team remained the main story in the first couple days of the weekend. Impressions were mixed as the car was clearly set up for low downforce, showing impressive pace down the straights, but sacrificing the ability to carry as much momentum into the corners resulting in visibly cautious turning on the part of both drivers.

The story shifted violently in the final practice session mere hours before qualifying. A six-car collision through the hairpin section red flagged the session and severely damaged the cars of both Force Pukhgundi cars, Anghel Octan's Gion Hilaire, O'Shea's Henri Meusart, Quicksilver's Bo Gelema, and Imperial Cola's Daniel Richards. Gelema was leading a train of cars on an outlap through to the turn 6 hairpin, but spun out just behind the corner after accelerating too soon out of the corner. Blind to the car parked around the other side, the train piled up one by one, unable to evade each other. As cars and debris littered the track, the session was ended to clear out the cars. Saturday's qualifying was kept on schedule, however, though only Odashi's Force Pukhgundi was repaired in time to participate. Assuming the other cars could be repaired in time for the race on Sunday, they would have to start in the pitlane in the order of the fastest practice laptime over the past couple days.

Qualifying itself proceeded in an orderly fashion albeit with a reduced field. Despite returning in time to participate, Odashi had significantly reduced pace and qualified in a definitive 11th. Carla Helvet qualified in first with Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq clocking in a mere 0.008 seconds slower on his home Grand Prix. The spotlight once again returned to the Target team however as Bronn Helde split the gap between the two, 0.002 seconds faster than the count. Hermès's Silva had a disappointing result as did the second deBedecq driver which promoted the remaining Target and O'Shea cars into high positions for the race start.

Final Qualifying Results:
  1. HEL (Anghel Octan) 1:13.626
  2. HLD (Target) 1:13.632
  3. VAL (deBedecq) 1:13.634
  4. ASA (Hermès) 1:13.678
  5. VER (Imperial Cola) 1:13.685
  6. CRI (O'Shea) 1:13.707
  7. WAL (Target) 1:13.907
  8. SIL (Hermès) 1:15.973
  9. ALB (deBedecq) 1:19.281
  10. SAW (Quicksilver) 1:21.780
  11. ODA (Force Pukhgundi) 1:52.806
  12. HIL (Anghel Octan) DNQ
  13. BAS (Force Pukhgundi) DNQ
  14. MEU (O'Shea) DNQ
  15. RIC (Imperial Cola) DNQ
  16. GEL (Quicksilver) DNQ
In the early afternoon as the cars lined up on the grid, it was an odd spectacle with almost a third of the cars were mostly out of sight in the pitlane. Unable to take part in the formation lap, the cars simmered under the heat of their engines waiting for the last car to pass the first corner before they'd be allowed to leave the pitlane and join the action. The beginning of the race was poor for Bronn Helde who lost out in the drag to the first corner to the two cars behind him after a poor launch. The leader nevertheless retained her lead and with a large portion of the cars queued up in the pitlane the early-race congestion which frequently claims a few victims was minimized allowing for the cars to form an orderly train through the tight circuit. Despite a poor start, Helde was able to successfully attempt several aggressive passing attempts by Verstellus behind him who tried to intimidate his way past the rookie, holding his line through the corners, Helde was able to maintain position close behind Valsoix. At the back of the race, Hilaire carried the train of pitlane cars through the opening of the race and by the time they encountered the slow corners of turn 5 through to turn 8 they had already reached the pack. Hilaire's sudden catch-up to the cars ahead cost him however as he had to brake suddenly allowing Meusart to slip past him and Basuda who had stopped abruptly behind him as well. Gelema equally was able to take advantage of the sudden halt by slipping past following Meusart's path. Richards chose poorly as he attempted to duck left whereas the others had ducked right and the wide right turns of Hilaire and Basuda in turn 5 had closed the door utterly on that path relegating him to the back of the pack.

Helvet capitalized on her lead to pull away from the pack in the early stages of the race. The low degradation of the track meant that optimally each driver would only have to make a single stop and it was evident that Helvet would attempt to pit early to get the stop out of the way if she had a sufficient gap. Meanwhile, Hermès driver Alequé Silva pulled ahead of both the Target and O'Shea cars ahead of her on laps 5 and 7 respectively. The race remained mostly static for the remainder of the opening with the exception of the extensions of several gaps.

On lap 15 Vertellus caught Helde through the outside of turn 13, but the lead over the Kistani driver was shortlived as the rookie pulled ahead of the Caphiravian driver by holding the line through the next two turns to come out ahead out of turn 16 despite cornering significantly slower than the Imperial Cola car behind him. Continually nipping at the Target's heels, Verstellus would continue to be frustrated by this battle throughout the race. This exchange allowed Silva in her red Corse Hermès car to catch up to the group and pull ahead of the Imperial Cola car along the main straight, only to then overtake the Target car in turn 1 putting her into fourth overall just behind her teammate. A couple laps later some of the teams began to strategize for pitstops.

Just ahead of Silva, teammate and championship leader Jacob Asana ducked from 3rd place into the pits, hoping to undercut the lap times of the two cars ahead. Helde followed suit and Verstellus followed thereafter to avoid an undercut. This strategy proved unwise as all three emerged just ahead of Hilaire, both Imperial Cola drivers frustrated by their inability to pass the drivers ahead of them. The questionable strategy led to the delaying of subsequent stops, but subsequent laps saw further gaps emerge between drivers. The second round of pitstops was initiated on lap 31 as the other Target driver pitted after pulling some good pace out of the clear track ahead of him on his final laps on his current set. With a cleaner run and after setting a fastest lap record for the current race, Walsh emerged from the pits only two positions down just ahead of Sawders. Both deBedecq drivers pitted subsequently with the further along of the two dropping behind Silva. Alba, however, suffered an issue in her pitbox as the team did not have the new tires ready for her by the time she had reached the box. The slow stop put her behind Asana.

With fresh tires, the cars that had pitted at the back were beginning to be able to make up ground on those on holder tires putting pressure on those ahead leading to the stops of Gelema, Meusart, and the three cars at the back. The two ahead fell behind the group at the back until their stops, but Gelema was able to execute an overtake on Meusart at turn 3-4 after the stop. The two leaders, Helvet and Silva, were able to maintain pace out front and pit without consequence on lap 42 to the chagrin of Valsoix who found himself overcut by the two women. Cristophe, now running just ahead of Walsh, was unable to build a large enough gap and slotted his O'Shea in behind the Target car after his pitstop, swapping their places. Sawders and Oda also pitted without consequence, though many large gaps had been reduced and the track was more or less running in a train again.

The tight corners of the track and few opportunities for passing kept the race static again for the next phase though fans watched with excitement as gaps between cars waxed and waned and various drivers made daring if futile attempts to pass. One such attempt created a heavy shake-up late in the race, however. On lap 64, Sawders and Odashi both managed to pass Armand Cristophe in turns 4 and 5. Catching up to Walsh at the hairpin, Sawders collided into the rear of Walsh only for Odashi to hit Sawders's rear. Odashi and Sawders suffered front wing damage which Walsh had a rear-right puncture. All three cars pitted and were able to keep running, albeit at the back of the pack except for Walsh whose tire change was quicker than the nose replacements. He emerged just behind Meusart. A safety car was quickly sent out to lead the cars as debris was cleared on the tight corner.

The race resumed two laps later which saw Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq gain rapidly on Silva going into the first corner from the main straight. Ultimately Silva held her ground, though the count kept sustained pressure over the final few laps. His rival, Verstellus, was inversely unable to keep within a second of Helde whom he had been doggedly following for most of the race while the Target driver was beginning to pressure the other deBedecq driver, Alba, ahead of him. At the end of lap 80, Helvet came through the field with a comfortable six-second lead over Silva while the latter and Valsoix finished within a second of each other in a drag race down the main straight, Silva only just clinging to her second place finish and relegating the count to the third step on the podium.

Helvet retook the Drivers Championship lead and took out a significant gap from Asana who finished in a mere fifth behind Armand Cristophe who almost doubled his team's point total with his fourth place finish, the best of the year and a personal best for the Burgundian driver. Anghel Octan Racing maintains their Constructors Championship lead, though the non-points finish of Hilaire and the nevertheless strong showing from the Corse Hermès S.A. drivers narrowed the gap to 4 points. Bronn Helde was also praised for obtaining a points finish in his and his team's first ever entry in Grand Prix Racing putting him ahead of his teammate and a point away from Bo Gelema who edges out Helde in the standings after picking up 2 points for his 9th place finish.

Final Classification:
  1. HEL (Anghel Octan) 1:41:55.113
  2. SIL (Hermès): +6.313
  3. VAL (deBedecq): +6.503
  4. CRI (O'Shea): +10.160
  5. ASA (Hermès): +13.979
  6. ALB (deBedecq): +14.143
  7. HLD (Target): +14.966
  8. VER (Imperial Cola): +17.489
  9. GEL (Quicksilver): +24.516
  10. MEU (O'Shea): +25.303
  11. WAL (Target): +27.253
  12. HIL (Anghel Octan): +29.681
  13. BAS (Force Pukhgundi): +36.313
  14. RIC (Imperial Cola): +36.585
  15. SAW (Quicksilver): +1 lap
  16. ODA (Force Pukhgundi): +1 lap
Championship Points:

Drivers Championship:

69 Carla Helvet
58 Jacob Asana
46 Alequé Silva
40 Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq
39 Gion Hilaire
38 Daniel Richards
33 Maxim Verstellus
20 Brigida Alba
18 Timo Basuda
13 Armand Cristophe
08 Henri Meusart
07 James Sawders
06 Odashi Kimi
05 Bo Gelema
04 Bronn Helde
00 Lucian Walsh

Constructors Championship:

108 Anghel Octan Racing
104 Corse Hermès S.A.
071 Imperial Cola Racing
060 Racing Grand Premi deBedecq
024 Force Pukhgundi Works
021 O'Shea HIS Motorsports
012 Quicksilver Racing
004 Target Motorsports

Grand Prix Racing will be treated to the inaugural Kazirstan Grand Prix in a fortnight's time in what will certainly prove to be an exciting race full of surprises for the drivers on a new circuit.