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IRL: Gabriela Jílková close to a podium finish in Round 3 race 1

Updated: Dec 10, 2023

In finally a dry race at Madras International Circuit, Gabriela Jílková battled for the podium in Indian Racing League's first race of the weekend, topping her best result of the season to date and scoring a good haul of points for Goa Aces.

Gabriela Jílková, Goa Aces, Indian Racing League 2023
Photo credits:Akhil Puthiyedath

Indian Racing League resumed its on-track operations after relocating its third round from the Chennai Formula Racing Circuit to the permanent Madras International Circuit, where the previous two rounds also took place. The disruptions caused by the weather in the opening two race weekends of the series culminated with widespread damage caused by the Michaung cyclone, with floods in Chennai city obviously putting the preparation for the street circuit on hold.

The Indian series - which runs in conjunction with the brand-new Indian Formula 4 championship under the Indian Racing Festival event - successfully held a test day on the following Friday, as weather allowed for smoother sessions. For several drivers, it was the first day in the car in dry conditions after heavily disrupted rounds 1 and 2.

On Saturday morning, clear skies welcomed the drivers at the 3.717 km circuit for the first race day of the third round, as 12 of the drivers will take on a practice session, a qualifying session and the first 25 minute +1 lap race, before their teammates will repeat the format on Sunday. Championship leader Sarah Moore and Gabriela Jílková were the female drivers to contest race 1.

Having taken a spectacular win at her series debut, Moore continued to score big points in the second round and, with a fourth place, she had retained the championship lead. Strong runs from Hyman/Shah, Lancaster/Sanjay and especially Bohra/Yoong meant that the Bangalore Speedsters racers would have to maximise the opportunities into round 3.

Bohra (Godspeed Kochi) led the official practice session ahead of Goa Aces' Sohil Shah, followed by Jon Lancaster and Ruhaan Alva. Jílková immediately showed she would be battling for the top five with a 0:53.775 that put her P5, while Sarah Moore followed in eighth.

FP1 positions proved to be quite representative as Shah, Alva and Bohra were again the top three after the 10 minute qualifying 1: Shah claimed his second pole position of the season with a 0:54.101 that gave the Goa Aces driver the upper edge on Ruhaan Alva, second by a little over a tenth of a second. Wohlwend's teammate, though, had a three place grid drop to serve and would line up in fifth place. Bohra was therefore up to second, while Anindith Reddy and Gabriela Jílková shared the second row of the grid. The Czech racer had in fact another great session and was definitely in the mix for a strong result - in an attempt to bounce back after the denied victory in round 1.

2022 drivers' champion Akhil Rabindra followed in sixth, with Kumar, Gowda, Moore and Ryan in the top-10. From the fifth row, Sarah Moore would have to work a bit harder in the race after a difficult qualifying; the British racer, though, had often shown great pace and had recovered many positions in the previous races at Madras. From the very back of the grid, Jon Lancaster also had his eyes on a recovery drive.

Sarah Moore, Bangalore Speedsters, Indian Racing League 2023
Photo credits:Gopinath Venugopal & Machine Trackers

In finally a dry race, Shah had a good start and defended from Bohra, while Alva battled Jílková for third. The Godspeed Kochi driver dropped all the way down the order on the first lap, leaving Jílková in fourth - albeit under pressure from Rabindra. Jon Lancaster had a blistering start and had already got past 5 cars after the first corners but had contact and spun. With Datta and Gowda also hitting trouble, Sarah Moore was up to seventh after the opening lap.

Lancaster was on a mission and, barely a lap later, he had recovered to eighth, hunting down Moore. The Chennai Turbo Riders driver found a way past Moore, who was struggling a bit for pace and also had to defend from Mohammed Ryan. Fabienne Wohlwend's championship hunt got a lot more difficult as her teammate Alva parked the car after 6 laps and retired.

Ahead, Shah had just over a second gap to Bohra, while Reddy, Jílková and Rabindra followed five seconds down the road. Just as Shah was looking comfortable in the lead, he made a mistake in turn 1 and went through the grass, allowing Nikhil Bohra past with 11 minutes to go. A yellow flag at turn one for the stranded car of Akash Gowda meant that Lancaster had to back off from a move on Rabindra for fifth. Moore, who had caught up with Kumar, also had to slot back behind.

The Safety Car was then called into action to retrieve Gowda's car - just as Shah slowed down on the main straight and fell down the order for a technical issue that shuffled the classification with 7 minutes to go. Bohra's margin was neutralized and both Anindith Reddy and Gabriela Jílková were back in contention.

The safety car pulled into the pits for the final 2 minutes of racing; Jilkova had a great restart and tried to attack Reddy for second, while Lancaster made a spectacular move stick aroud the outside of the hairpin to snatch fourth from Rabindra. Eventually, Lancaster found a way past Jílková at the final corner and, as both ran wide, Gabriela had to fend off Rabindra but kept the foot down and held on to fourth.

After a terrific race, Nikhil Bohra took victory in race 1, ahead of Anindith Reddy and Jon Lancaster. Reddy's second place was also great news for his teammate Laura Camps, as the duo bagged a great haul of points in race 1.

With fourth place, Jílková just missed out on a podium but topped her best result of the season - improving from a sixth and a seventh places. The result gained her 12 points and the #7 Goa team advanced to eighth in the standings.

Jon Lancaster's third place was also particularly important from a championship perspective, as the #33 team took the championship lead by 7 points. Sarah Moore gained two places from the start and crossed the finish line in seventh and now holds second in the standings ahead of race 2.

Having led most of the race, Sohil Shah was then able to recover from last to eighth after the safety car restart, and retained the extra point for the fastest lap. Ryan and Datta completed the top ten, while Gowda and Alva were unfortunately out of the race.

Chloe Chong, Laura Camps, Fabienne Wohlwend and Nicole Havrda are set to take the start on Sunday, when they'll have an extra practice session in the morning, followed by Q2 at 12:00 local time. Race 2 is currently scheduled for 15:30 local.



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