Indian Racing League opening races postponed
The inaugural weekend of the new Indian Racing League - which features six international female drivers - was halted after a practice incident and the opening races have been postponed to the upcoming weekend at Chennai.
The inaugural weekend of the Indian Racing League – a new series that aims to become India's premier championship and raise the interest for the sport locally – hosted the country's first ever street circuit over the weekend, providing a glimpse of what the Hyderabad Street Circuit could look like ahead of next year's planned Formula E race in the city.
Six teams – which represent India's biggest cities, in an attempt to drive Indian communities to root for their respective cities – each featured one international male driver, one international female driver and two local drivers. The format therefore made IRL one of the few racing series globally to require at least one female driver in each team's line up.
Several female elite racing drivers were contracted: GT4 ace Gabriela Jílková (Goa Aces), Nürburgring specialist Célia Martin (Speed Demons Delhi), young F4 talent Lola Lovinfosse (Hyderabad Blackbirds), Canadian racer Nicole Havdra (Chennai Turbo Riders) and two W Series drivers – Filipina star Bianca Bustamante (Bangalore Speedsters) and Fabienne Wohlwend (Godspeed Kochi), a pole-sitter and front-runner throughout the 3 seasons of the all-female championship.
While a few drivers had visa issues in the weeks leading up to the start of the championship – and some had to be replaced at the last minute – most of the drivers gathered at Chennai for pre-season testing at Madras Circuit. Despite the rainy conditions, testing got underway and the drivers had a first taste of the Wolf GB08 Thunder – a lightweight single-seater prototype also used in the Italian Sports Prototype Championship and with a power to weight ratio of 1.71.
Action got underway on Saturday and, after a few delays due to the expected logistical challenges of a first-time track, cars took to the track for FP1.
For many drivers – such as Lola Lovinfosse – it was their very first experience of a street circuit and the 2.8 km track layout going through the Lumbini Park provided some scenic backdrop.
Unfortunately no results for any of the sessions were published or made available, but it is believed that endurance racing legend and 24H of Le Mans winner Neel Jani – sharing the #9 Hyderabad Blackbirds car with Akhil Rabindra – set the fastest time in the opening session. The Goa team showed some great pace, with Amir Sayed/Sohil Shah and Gabriela Jílková/Raoul Hyman also following closely.
A second practice session got underway later in the day; again no times were made public, but Goa Aces possibly led the timesheets with Jílková, as Bianca Bustamante also had a good run.
Due to delays, qualifying and the races were postponed to Sunday, when two sprint races – one for each driver – and a 45 minute endurance race with driver change should have taken place.
Unfortunately, the event was then marred by an accident, which forced the organizers to halt the sessions.
"There was an incident during a practice session with one car, and as a matter of abundant precaution and advice from the stewards and the FMSCI along with the organizers, we have postponed the races to further investigate the incident", the statement reads.
Neither the identity nor the conditions of the driver were released, but Racers can confirm that none of the female drivers were involved or injured.
The decision to postpone the races is nevertheless commendable, as drivers' safety remained paramount.
"As a precaution with advice from FMSCI and the organisers the race was suspended" – the drivers posted on social media.
The upcoming weekend at Madras International Circuit therefore will become the first championship-round: teams have already arrived at Chennai and are looking forward to some more track time on the permanent circuit on 26-27 November.