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Vol. 1 No. 8
Motorsports News

Xingkaipese Grand Prix

The first race in Punth of the 2031 Grand Prix Racing season was set to occur in mid-June in the midst of the wet season in Xingkai'pei. While the event typically varies between relatively warm and cool temperatures, forecasts for the weekend suggested the higher range in comparison with the chilly Kazirstani Grand Prix two weeks ago with temperatures hovering around 30 °C for most of the weekend. Despite the heavy cloud cover, intermittent winds brought the chance for a dry race on Sunday, but the inconsistency of the gusts made ascertainment difficult.

However, the story that remained on everyone's lips was the Corummese Conglomo Grand Prix Racing Team which made its debut, mirroring the emergence of Target Motorsports just two races ago. While Conglomo has been well-known as a large Corummese corporate entity, their presence in a more global environment, as well as the development of a racing team, came as a surprise to many. After the official announcement of the team's debut, several drivers and key team personnel came forward recounting that they had recently been contacted by the Conglomo GP team organizers in an effort to recruit them. Despite this late call, the team appears to have fielded a race-ready car in what some have deemed a "suspiciously short" amount of time. While they were unsuccessful in poaching drivers, the team brought two Corummese drivers, rookies to the highest level of competition and relatively unknown, but both obtained super licenses through the Corummese junior series. The two drivers are Terboven Guo and Kim Shengkun. Many suspect that a framework for a Corummese team has existed for some time now, but the success of Target Motorsports both on the track and in terms of marketing value accelerated the process immensely.

While a throng of foreign tourists attended the race, numerous officials and rich private citizens of the developing nation attended the race, many hoping to court the attention of foreign investors and businesspeople. The race has gained notoriety for its associations with land sales and manufacturing contracts. In fact, over the past few decades, the Xingkaipese has developed the habit of listing public land sales in the week running up to the Grand Prix, hoping to seal the deal with buyers with a glass of champagne over the track as the drivers race to take home their own gilded trophies.

The approximately 5.5 km purpose-built track is itself a 20 km drive from the downtown of the growing nation's capital. Featuring 15 turns, overtaking is difficult in the first two sectors before opening up with two long straights separated by a hairpin before powering through to the start/finish line. With its wide corners, overtaking by out-braking is most common at the hairpin, but overtakes through turns 1 and 2 are also possible if defenders aren't vigilant. The track surface has varied in quality over the past decades, but with the threat of rain hanging perpetually over the event, tire strategy seemed relatively straightforward.
While the end of the weekend remained uncertain, practice and qualifying sessions were wet for the second race in a row. The opening sessions of the weekend were relatively and the steady rain remained light enough for all sessions to proceed as scheduled, albeit with intermediate tires as the only sensible option.

Qualifying began with a heavy wind which both compromised the stability of the cars over the open straight between turns 14 and 15 but also promised to blow away the rain before the end of qualifying. Throughout the sessions, Quicksilver showed good pace after bringing an upgraded aerodynamic package, news which was overshadowed by Conglomo GP's arrival and similar strong performance, bringing both cars into the top 10. Anomalies throughout the grid included Bronn Helde, who carried his car into fourth place as well as the poor showings by Verstellus and Asana who failed to qualify within the top 10. Alba and Hilaire likewise performed poorly compared to their teammates. Contributing factors included few laps run overall and fewer opportunities to put in fast laps as these drivers found themselves waiting for the rain to clear before the end of the qualifying sessions; something which ultimately didn't occur.

Final Qualifying Results:
  1. SIL (Hermès) 1:31.570
  2. VAL (deBedecq) 1:31.634
  3. RIC (Imperial Cola) 1:31.888
  4. HLD (Target) 1:31.906
  5. HEL (Anghel Octan) 1:31.961
  6. SAW (Quicksilver) 1:32.037
  7. KIM (Conglomo GP) 1:32.304
  8. GEL (Quicksilver) 1:32.969
  9. TER (Conglomo GP) 1:33.453
  10. WAL (Target) 1:33.659
  11. HIL (Anghel Octan) 1:33.758
  12. VER (Imperial Cola) 1:34.222
  13. BAS (Force Puhkgundi) 1:34.350
  14. ODA (Force Puhkgundi) 1:34.509
  15. MEU (O'Shea) 1:34.702
  16. ALB (deBedecq) 1:35.463
  17. ASA (Hermès) 1:35.686
  18. CRI (O'Shea) 1:36.180
By race day the track had at least momentarily dried up and after the full qualifying occurred on intermediate tires teams had full choices for race strategy, but little to no current data for how the tires would react on the tarmac this year. This led to conservative tire choices for most of the field. Hilaire, Verstellus, and Asana each elected to start on softer tires, hoping to regain positions early in the race. While not guaranteed, rain in the latter part of the race was considered a possibility.

Off the line, the trio on softer tires made up several positions each. Turns 1 and 2 were cleanly navigated by the pack. Both the new Conglomo GP drivers and Helde were able to maintain their positions in the race opening while Meusart was overtaken by fellow Burgundian Alba. As the pack spread out through the opening laps, the midfield cars became easy prey for Hilaire, Verstellus, and Asana who were outclassing their opponents easily on their softer tires. Throughout, Hilaire and Verstellus were also battling each other, closely matched and trading the advantage from lap to lap. Cristophe remained at the rear following a poor qualifying and start. On lap 6 he retired following a transmission failure. After the race, the team filed a complaint with the International Racing Federation regarding the regulations on the number of engine and gearbox components used over the season. Due to the limitations, Cristophe had entered the race with a compromised gearbox. While the complaint was taken under advisement, O'Shea's actions in fielding a car with a compromised transmission also came under investigation by the IRF.

On lap 13, Bo Gelema managed a high speed overtake in his Quicksilver on the Conglomo GP car of Kim Shengkun along the turn 14-15 straight, slotting in behind his teammate and placing Kim ahead of teammate Terboven. Two and three laps later respectively Asana executed passes on Basuda and Walsh respectively. Subsequently, the poor pace of the Force Puhkgundi Works cars became apparent as they slipped behind Alba and Meusart over the next few laps.

At the midway point of the 56 lap race teams began to bring in cars for pitstops. Ultimately no positions were gained through the pitstop process, but Bo Gelema led the first lap for Quicksilver Racing in several years before pitting in himself and ceding the lead back to Silva, slotting in behind his teammate. However, shortly after pitting, the new Conglomo GP cars had to slow down to save fuel. While the new entries showed surprising pace, it came at the cost of high fuel consumption. By lap 35, both cars had been overtaken by Hilaire, Verstellus, and Asana who were continuing their charge to the front of the pack. Despite their performance upgrades, the Quicksilver cars likewise fell to the charge of the three who came up behind the current driver's championship leader Helvet on lap 42. With ten laps to go in the race, Helde who had been closely following the Imperial Cola car of Richards in third managed to execute a pass, managing to outbreak him in the turn 15 hairpin, going far deeper into the corner than either wanted, but managing to pull his Target car onto the straight before the Imperial Cola driver could accelerate through his shallower angle to stay ahead.

Meanwhile, Hilaire was gaining on teammate Helvet who, although had raced more conservatively, had struggled to keep pace with the harder compound tires leading to haemorrhaging lap times. On lap 54, Hilaire passed his teammate to move into 5th, but Helvet remained diligent in ensuring Verstellus would not also be able to pass her as well. Despite this, the two battled for the next lap at which point the marshal in the control tower waved the checkered flag. This was, in fact, a lap early though the drivers did not mistake this for the race end due to near-constant radio communication with their engineers and the race proceeded to its scheduled conclusion after 56 laps during which Verstellus was able to pass Helvet before the race end.

Silva crossed the line in a solid first place, having equally done the fastest lap of the race on lap 56; her second win in a row and fourth podium, projecting her into the lead of the driver's championship as well. Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq drove a clean race to come home in second, his third podium of the season, while Bronn Helde managed to bring his Target Motorsports car onto the podium in third after a hard-fought race with Daniel Richards, giving himself and his team their first podium and managing to do so in their inaugural season. While Richards and Hilaire closed out the fourth and fifth positions, sixth position was subjected to a controversy shortly after the race had ended.

While Verstellus had managed to complete a pass on Helvet on lap 56, due to the mistake with the checkered flag the official result of the race would only be counted up until lap 55. This meant that both Verstellus's pass and Silva's fastest lap were nullified. The difference was a single championship point between the two drivers and a $150,000 prize which ultimately went to Asana rather than Silva.

Final Classification:
  1. SIL (Hermès) 1:26:31.377
  2. VAL (deBedecq) +7.376
  3. HLD (Target) +8.360
  4. RIC (Imperial Cola) +9.282
  5. HIL (Anghel Octan) +20.892
  6. HEL (Anghel Octan) +26.667
  7. VER (Imperial Cola) +27.184
  8. ASA (Hermès) +34.560
  9. SAW (Quicksilver) +42.920
  10. GEL (Quicksilver) +52.202
  11. KIM (Conglomo GP) +73.094
  12. TER (Conglomo GP) +1
  13. WAL (Target) +1
  14. ALB (deBedecq) +1
  15. MEU (O'Shea) 1:34.702 +1
  16. BAS (Force Puhkgundi) +1
  17. ODA (Force Puhkgundi) +1
  18. CRI (O'Shea) DNF
Championship Points:

Drivers Championship:

86 Alequé Silva
83 Carla Helvet
76 Jacob Asana
65 Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq
50 Daniel Richards
49 Maxim Verstellus
47 Gion Hilaire
26 Brigida Alba
21 Timo Basuda
20 Bronn Helde
13 Armand Cristophe
09 Henri Meusart
09 James Sawders
06 Odashi Kimi
06 Bo Gelema
00 Lucian Walsh
00 Terboven Guo
00 Kim Shengkun

Constructors Championship:

162 Corse Hermès S.A.
130 Anghel Octan Racing
099 Imperial Cola Racing
091 Racing Grand Premi deBedecq
027 Force Pukhgundi Works
022 O'Shea HIS Motorsports
020 Target Motorsports
015 Quicksilver Racing
000 Conglomo Grand Prix Team

Join us for the next race as we continue the Punth leg of the Grand Prix Racing calendar in Pukhgundi.
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