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Indian Racing League: Fabienne Wohlwend claims double podium in Chennai

"Today has been amazing, I'm so happy with my performance" - Having set no time in qualifying, Fabienne Wohlwend and teammate Ruhaan Alva fought back to a double podium finish in both sprint and feature race in Chennai, moving into second place in the standings after the opening Indian Racing League round.


Photo credits: Shameem Fahath & Team

The first day of racing for the brand-new Indian Racing League brought plenty of interesting points, with the first qualifying and sprint race being completed at Madras International Circuit on Saturday 26th November.


The Indian series pioneered many interesting features: six city-based teams are in fact lining up one male international driver, one female international driver and two local drivers – becoming one of the few championships to require the presence of a female racers in each team, as well as providing important opportunities to local talents to learn from established athletes.


The qualifying format was also particularly interesting, with one driver effectively qualifying the car for their teammate in each of the 20-minute sprint races, ahead of the 35 minute feature race with driver change; this resulted in a proper team effort also in the sprint races, where both teammates cooperated to the final result.


On Saturday, the first sprint race was dominated by sportscar ace Neel Jani (Blackbirds Hyderabad), followed by Godspeed Kochi's Alister Yoong and Speed Demons Delhi's Mitchell Gilbert, who shares the wheel with Célia Martin. The French racer was in fact the first female racer to step on the podium.


Action resumed on Sunday morning with a warm up session that confirmed Goa Aces' speed: Gabriela Jílková and Raoul Hyman – who showed outstanding pace in practice but were hampered by technical issues on Saturday – were back on top of the timing sheets. Behind them, Ali Mohsin and Akash Gowda preceded race 1 winners Jani/Rabindra, while Bianca Bustamante and her teammate Rishon Rajeev had another strong run in fifth place.

But soon it was time to race once again.


SPRINT RACE 2

Following Saturday's qualifying 2, Neel Jani had put Akhil Rabindra in the best possible position for the start, ahead of everyone, alongside Bianca Bustamante and Fabienne Wohlwend. The fastest racing driver in Liechtenstein was initially fourth after her teammate's Ruhaan Alva's one lap performance, but an issue just before the start for Speed Demons Delhi's Célia Martin meant that yesterday's podium finisher could not line up on the grid in time and had to start from the pit lane.


In a sterling start, Wohwlend was straight into second position at lights out; Fabienne chased Rabindra, while Bianca Bustamante was down to fourth after Jon Lancaster also had a brilliant getaway and passed the Filipina racer around the outside of Turn 1, having started from ninth. Bustamante then had to defend from Raoul Hyman and Nikhil Bohra.


Having started from the pits, Célia Martin tried to recover and passed Parth Ghorpade for P11. Goa Aces' Raoul Hyman made an aggressive pass on Bustamante and forced her wide on the grass, sending the #3 Wolf into the path of Bohra and Ali Mohsin. While everyone luckily avoided collisions, Bustamante dropped to sixth.


With 11 minutes to go, Yash Aradhiya came to a halt on track, bringing out the SC – which was bad news for Akhil Rabindra, who had meanwhile opened a 4 second gap in the lead.

The race restarted with 7 minutes to go with another perfect restart from Rabindra; Wohlwend retained second, while Hyman pulled a perfect move at Turn 1 on Lancaster to snatch third. Hyman would take second before the end of the lap, as also Lancaster took the opportunistic chance to pass Fabienne.


The red flag, though, stopped the action one lap later, when Raoul Hyman rolled over at speed and ended his race in the run off. The former FIA F3 driver was able to climb out under his own power and was unhurt, but the #7 Goa Aces machine was badly damaged.

Célia Martin had an outstanding recovery drive, making up 6 positions before the stoppage.


The cars lined up behind the safety car for a 5 minute + 1 lap restart: Rabindra again timed the restart perfectly, as Wohlwend held off Lancaster and Reddy. Rabindra, though, was not able to pull away this time, as Fabienne Wohlwend and Jon Lancaster remained at striking distance. On the final lap, Célia Martin was unfortunately off and into the barriers; while there was significant damage to the rear of the car, the Frenchwoman was uninjured.


Akhil Rabindra was able to hang on and took a back to back sprint race victory for Blackbirds Hyderabad, ahead of a brilliant Fabienne Wohlwend – who kept at bay former ELMS champion Jon Lancaster.


"Today has been amazing - I'm so happy with my performance, especially after qualifying where we could not set a time." – Fabienne Wohlwend told us on Sunday.

"I had a mega start today, from P4 to P2 and I could hold up to the pressure. We had a little shocker with the accident of Raoul [Hyman], but then at the restart I could even fight for the win, as the leader was slightly in the grass."


"We brought it home safely, with good points for the championship and for the team, so I think we can be happy with that", Fabienne said.

1

9

Rabindra/Jani

Blackbirds Hyderabad

46:48.660

2

1

Wohlwend/Alva

Godspeed Kochi

+0.723

3

6

Lancaster/Kumar

Chennai Turbo Riders

+1.303

4

10

Reddy/Lovinfosse

Blackbirds Hyderabad

+4.061

5

3

Bustamante/Rajeev

Bangalore Speedsters

+8.008

6

8

Sayed/Shah

Goa Aces

+8.603

7

12

Martin/Gilbert

Speed Demons Delhi

+3 laps

8

7

Hyman/Jílková

Goa Aces

+6 laps

9

11

Ali Mohsin/Gowda

Speed Demons Delhi

+6 laps

10

2

Bohra/Yoong

Godspeed Kochi

+8 laps

11

5

Ghorpade/Havrda

Chennai Turbo Riders

+8 laps

12

4

Aradhiya/Gandhi

Bangalore Speedsters

+10 laps


Photo credits: Shameem Fahath & Team
Feature RACE

A few minutes after the podium celebrations for the second Sprint Race, Akhil Rabindra lined up on pole position in the #9 Blackbirds Hyderabad team, ahead of Alister Yoong (Godspeed Kochi) and Shahan Ali Mohsin (Speed Demons Delhi) for the first ever feature race. From fifth place, Bianca Bustamante was also back in the driving seat for the endurance race, while the #12 and the #7 machines of Gilbert/Martin and Jílková/Hyman could not take the start for the damages sustained in race 2.


Rabindra and Yoong went side by side into Turn 1 at lights out and things got messy: Yoong went around and collected the Chennai car of Lancaster. Bianca Bustamante had a great start and avoided all chaos unfolding ahead to slot into second spot, with also Fabienne Wohlwend moving from tenth to fourth. Speed Demons Delhi's Ali Mohsin picked up damages at the start and pitted, while the Safety Car was deployed.


"As we couldn't set a time in quali yesterday, the positions were then combined from both qualifying sessions", Wohlwend explained, "so I had to start tenth."

"I had a mega start and after Turn 3 I was already up to P4. It was followed by quite a bit of safety car, because two cars crashed at the start."


The race went back to green with 26 minutes to go and Rabindra was unchallenged at the restart once again; Fabienne Wohlwend was quickly in the rear view mirrors of Yash Aradhiya – which gave Bustamante free space to push in second place. Reddy pitted for the driver change as soon as the pit window opened – and Lola Lovinfosse got behind the wheel of the #10 Blackbird Hyderabad machine. Wohlwend pitted with 20 minutes to go and handed over to Ruhaan Alva – as one of the most promising driver pairings in the championship.


Akhil Rabindra and Bianca Bustamante meanwhile extended their stints; the Filipina W Series racer pitted one lap later and Rajeed took over. 16 year-old Canadian Nicole Havrda was in for her stint with 16 minutes to go as well – with only two cars still having to pit for the mandatory driver swap.


The race leader finally took the way of the pit lane with 15 minutes left on the clock; Neel Jani got in for the final stint and retained the lead by 5 seconds. Wohlwend's teammate Ruhaan Alva, though, was up to second place, ahead of Lola Lovinfosse. Bustamante's teammate Rishon Rajeev was therefore down to fourth after the round of pit stops.


"I got hold up a bit and then I decided to pit a bit earlier than planned" – Wohlwend summed up. "We had an amazing pit stop and we could gain two positions with our great strategy and Ruhaan did a great job as well. He drove it clean and safe home."


The battle for third was on fire and Rajeev attacked Lovinfosse, but dropped a wheel off the racing line and spun.


Sohil Shah set the fastest lap – over two tenths faster than Le Mans winner Neel Jani – and hunted down Lovinfosse for the podium. Having caught up with the 17 year-old French driver on the final lap, Shah made a late move and collided with Lovinfosse at Turn 5, ending the race of the #10 Blackbirds Hyderabad driver.


Neel Jani took victory in a clean sweep at the Chennai round; Jani/Rabindra won all sprint and endurance races, clinching the top of the championship standings.

Ruhaan Alva and Fabienne Wohlwend were again second – in a brilliant day for the Liechtenstein's racing star.


"Another second place just feels amazing", Fabienne continued. "Two podiums in a day, standing next to Neel Jani – a Le Mans winner. He literally gave me a trophy when I was 10 years old" – she recalled.


Sohil Shah eventually finished third after the last lap incident; Anshul Gandhi was fourth, preceding Nicole Havrda – who claimed a really solid top five. Rajeev/Bustamante were sixth and Lovinfosse/Reddy were ultimately classified seventh.


The Indian Racing League teams and drivers will return to the track next weekend again at Madras International Circuit, for the penultimate round of the championship.


"This weekend we've proven that we're really fast and great as a team" – Wohlwend concluded. "I'm really excited for the next two weekends."

1

9

Rabindra/Jani

Blackbirds Hyderabad

36:55.401

2

1

Wohlwend/Alva

Godspeed Kochi

+12.556

3

8

Sayed/Shah

Goa Aces

+28.106

4

4

Aradhiya/Gandhi

Bangalore Speedsters

+1:00.010

5

5

Ghorpade/Havrda

Chennai Turbo Riders

+1:22.078

6

3

Bustamante/Rajeev

Bangalore Speedsters

+1:39.984

7

10

Reddy/Lovinfosse

Blackbirds Hyderabad

+1 lap

8

11

Ali Mohsin/Gowda

Speed Demons Delhi

+8 laps

9

2

Bohra/Yoong

Godspeed Kochi

+18 laps

10

6

Lancaster/Kumar

Chennai Turbo Riders

+19 laps

11

12

Martin/Gilbert

Speed Demons Delhi

DNS

12

7

Hyman/Jílková

Goa Aces

DNS


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