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Vol. 1 No. 9
Motorsports News

Pukhgundi Grand Prix

Round 8 of the IRF Grand Prix Racing series takes us to the city of Pradesh in Pukhgundi, a nation that has long had a passion for racing. Located on the northwestern coast of South Punth, Pukhgundi is an economic up-and-comer which boasts one of the highest GDPPCs of the continent following rapid development which continues to elevate the country and its more than 42 million citizens. Grand Prix Racing first came to Pukhgundi in 2020 following the success and advocacy of Force Pukhgundi team owner Viswanathan Chandhok. With a successful ten year anniversary last year which saw plenty of overtaking and on-track action, expectations are high for the capacity crowd which has turned out for the race weekend.

The Buddh Circuit itself is just over 5 km (3 mi) in length and features 16 corners, most of which are taken at high speed. Drivers will be keeping their feet firmly on the gas for approximately 70% of each of the 60 laps. Weather forecasts for the race are hot and humid as is typical, though winds are projected to be very calm over the weekend. Quicksilver, O'Shea, Anghel Octan, and the home team all brought significant aerodynamic upgrades and many speculated going into the weekend that Carla Helvet might regain the Drivers Championship lead if she could fend off Silva from a strong finishing position.
Practice sessions proceeded uneventfully save for mechanical failures which required gearbox changes for both deBedecq cars, incurring 6-place penalties for each on their qualifying results for the race start. While they didn't experience any mechanical failures, both Quicksilver drivers were noticeably irate as the apparent performance upgrades seemed to have little if any positive effect on the car's pace. On the other hand, both O'Shea cars, as well as the two Force Pukhgundi cars, showed immense pace, particularly through the second and third sectors.

On Saturday, the increased pace of the upgraded teams shone through, bringing both O'Shea cars into the Q3 session and bringing Timo Basuda in his Force Pukgundi up onto the second row alongside Carla Helvet. The Anghel Octan Racing upgrades for their part enabled Hilaire to take his first pole position of his career. Lining up alongside him was the Imperial Cola Racing car of Daniel Richards. Richards's teammate, Verstellus, had a miserable qualifying result as his best attempt at a quick lap to take himself out of Q1 was thwarted by Alba who accidentally blocked him while she was on an outlap. Verstellus ended up in 15th while Alba was assigned a further 3-place penalty on top of the 6 places for her gearbox. Through a combination of grid penalties and improved pace, this was the first time in the 20th century that both O'Shea cars outqualified both deBedecq cars. Target Motorsports and Conglomo Grand Prix Team both had strong results as well while the Hermès cars underdelivered, possibly due to general wear and tear on engine components over the season thus far.

Final Qualifying Results:
  1. HIL (Anghel Octan) 1:24.147
  2. RIC (Imperial Cola) 1:24.235
  3. BAS (Force Puhkgundi) 1:24.246
  4. HEL (Anghel Octan) 1:24.343
  5. MEU (O'Shea) 1:24.391
  6. WAL (Target) 1:24.412
  7. TER (Conglomo GP) 1:24.764
  8. CRI (O'Shea) 1:24.870
  9. SIL (Hermès) 1:24.971
  10. HLD (Target) 1:25.035
  11. ASA (Hermès) 1:25.156
  12. KIM (Conglomo GP) 1:25.258
  13. VAL (deBedecq) 1:24.789 + 6 places
  14. ODA (Force Puhkgundi) 1:25.820
  15. VER (Imperial Cola) 1:26.001
  16. SAW (Quicksilver) 1:26.098
  17. ALB (deBedecq) 1:24.876 + 9 places
  18. GEL (Quicksilver) 1:26.461
Late on Sunday afternoon, the cars lined up on the grid for the 11th Pukgundi Grand Prix. As the cars took off from the line, Basuda immediately had a poor start, losing out to Helvet and Walsh, who also jumped Meusart off the start, while Hilaire and Richards maintained their positions, pulling away into the first corner. Further back, Alba had a strong start despite her altogether 9 place penalty, jumping ahead of Sawders and sneaking behind Verstellus as he passed Odashi Kimi heading into the first corner. This placed both Quicksilver cars, even after their upgrades, at the back of the pack before the first corner.

Despite conservative starts, the two Corse Hermès S.A. drivers began to make up spaces in subsequent laps as Silva overtook Cristophe and Terboven into the turn 4 hairping on laps 4 and 5 respectively while Asana varied his approach, pulling ahead of Helde and subsequently Cristophe as well through the long curve on turn 10-11 and turn 5 respectively on laps 5 and 6 respectively. For his part, Verstellus moved further up the field, overtaking Valsoix and Kim Shengtu on lap 8. The first of those two moves allowed Alba to also overtake her teammate who was running a more conservative strategy. Vertellus's teammate at the front of the race was jockeying for position with the leader, Hilaire, though he failed to gain an edge in the opening stages of the race.

On lap 16, Armand Cristophe's hopes to improve on his position went up in smoke, specifically a puff of smoke emanating from his gearbox, the third failure of the race weekend. As the car cruised to a runoff exit for safe retrieval, the smoke slicked the surface of the turn 14-15 straight, making the track slippery, though the car was able to be removed under yellow flags and a safety car wasn't necessary. This was Cristophe's third retirement in a row and the 6th out of 8 races. Both times he has finished a race he has done so in the points, but mechanical issues continue to impede his progress this season. One lap later, Verstellus executed a pass on Helde after struggling behind him for some time. Verstellus now had a somewhat large gap to close between himself and Asana who currently occupied third place in the Drivers Championship, but only 9th in the race.

The first round of pitstops came around lap 20, during which time Asana executed an undercut on Terboven, the former already a second ahead as the latter exited the pitlane. Basuda experienced a painfully slow pitstop which dropped him back from 5th to 12th, behind Kim Shengtu. The disappointment of the teams' hometown crowd was audible as the screens around the track displayed the pit crew struggling to place the rear left tire onto the car. Gelema, who had been running last since the first lap also made up time in the pitstops, managing to jump his teammate with an overcut as well on Odashi Kimi. On lap 23, Verstellus had caught up to Terboven and executed a pass after making up time with a record 2-second pitstop, but his approach to Asana and Silva was further stymied after the Hermès drivers both slipped past Meusart who had thus far taken full advantage of the O'Shea's upgrades to maintain his position.

The race stabilized for the next dozen or so laps. On lap 36, Meusart suffered a power failure, and he pulled over to the side of the track as his engine shut down. However, the second O'Shea driver's race wasn't over after all as he was able to restart his engine and rejoin the race, albeit emerging behind Basuda having lost 5 places. On lap 40, in a move which shocked fans around the world, Bo Gelema made a daring move, out-braking the Count of Valsoix into turn 16 and taking a place from the experienced count who was having a rather dismal race.

Lap 44, however, may have been the most impactful in terms of the final race standings. Hilaire and Richards, who had been jockeying for position came upon James Sawders who had been taking up the rear since being passed by his teammate. Blue flags were waved for the slower car to allow the leaders through, though after letting Hilaire, the leader, through Sawders reasserted himself on the optimal racing line and collided with Richards, sending both of them into the barriers and ending their races. Sawders claimed after the race that his team was to blame, not having made it clear that he had to let two cars through. However, the IRF stewards declined to issue a fine to the team, instead reprimanding Sawders for not effectively using his mirrors and assigning 4 penalty points to his super license and a 5-place grid penalty for the next race. The crash necessitated a safety car to clear up, neutralizing the race for a few laps.

However, just three laps after the collision, Odashi Kimi who was now running in last place committed an unforced error and crashed out on his own at turn 5. While the safety car was extended a couple more laps, the wreck was cleared without too much trouble. Racing resumed on lap 49. Off the restart, Verstellus overtook Conglomo GP's Terboven and looked to threaten Asana, though the Insuian driver defended adequately. While there were several attempts by various drivers down the grid, no other overtakes were successful on the restart.

The closing stages of the race were more muted, but also controversial, particularly on the last lap. Despite having raced extremely well in his own right, Hilaire received instruction from his team to allow Helvet to pass, allowing the latter to take lead of the drivers championship with the 5 more points conferred by placing first over second. Ultimately, Hilaire complied and Helvet crossed the line in first. Further at the back, Alba was caught out by the slick surface on the turn 14-15 straight just off the racing line and crashed, DNF'ing on the final lap.

Prior to the podium ceremony, the two Anghel Octan drivers were extremely muted and avoided contact with reporters bombarding them with many questions. While not forbidden, team orders to sacrifice one team member's points for the other's championship hopes is looked down upon, though Anghel Octan still emerged with a 1-2 finish, taking home the maximum amount of points on offer for the second time this season and in the team's history. On the podium ceremony proper, the drivers effectively made their only statement as Helvet pulled Hilaire onto the top step with her for photos.

The race effectively finished with three major stories: the Sawders-Richards incident, the Anghel Octan team orders incident, and the success of Lucian Walsh from Target Motorsports who thus far had failed to score any points yet finished on the podium in third place after a strong yet conservative performance. In the end, Helvet retook the lead of the championship by two points while Hilaire nevertheless climbed from 7th to 4th in the championship standings due to the poor performance of the drivers around him. Richards's DNF equally allowed his teammate to overtake him in the overall standings, while the double-points finish of the Conglomo GP drivers rounded off points for every driver, meaning no drivers remained who had failed to score points this season.

Final Classification:
  1. HEL (Anghel Octan) 1:35:35.137
  2. HIL (Anghel Octan) +1.504
  3. WAL (Target) +3.181
  4. SIL (Hermès) +5.036
  5. ASA (Hermès) +6.309
  6. VER (Imperial Cola) +7.069
  7. TER (Conglomo GP) +27.886
  8. HLD (Target) +28.945
  9. KIM (Conglomo GP) +32.671
  10. BAS (Force Puhkgundi) +34.339
  11. MEU (O'Shea) +34.921
  12. GEL (Quicksilver) +45.722
  13. VAL (deBedecq) +46.817
  14. ALB (deBedecq) DNF
  15. ODA (Force Puhkgundi) DNF
  16. RIC (Imperial Cola) DNF
  17. SAW (Quicksilver) DNF
  18. CRI (O'Shea) DNF
Championship Points:

Drivers Championship:

98 Carla Helvet
96 Alequé Silva
84 Jacob Asana
67 Gion Hilaire
65 Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq
55 Maxim Verstellus
50 Daniel Richards
26 Brigida Alba
23 Bronn Helde
22 Timo Basuda
13 Armand Cristophe
12 Lucian Walsh
09 Henri Meusart
09 James Sawders
06 Odashi Kimi
06 Bo Gelema
04 Terboven Guo
02 Kim Shengkun

Constructors Championship:

180 Corse Hermès S.A.
165 Anghel Octan Racing
105 Imperial Cola Racing
091 Racing Grand Premi deBedecq
035 Target Motorsports
028 Force Pukhgundi Works
022 O'Shea HIS Motorsports
015 Quicksilver Racing
006 Conglomo Grand Prix Team

After a controversial race, we remain in South Punth for one more race in Shanjin before heading to Roseney for the last race of the Punth leg in the IRF Grand Prix Racing series.
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