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IRL: Outstanding drives go unrewarded for Bianca Bustamante

Having stood on the Indian Racing League podium for the first time on Saturday, Bianca Bustamante was the star of the day on Sunday, with two heroic drives that would have gained her more top-3 finishes but unfortunately went unrewarded for a series of penalties.

Despite an unlucky round, Fabienne Wohlwend scored good points and remains third in the championship standings.


Photo credits: Shameem Fahath & Team

The brand-new Indian Racing League was off to a great start last weekend at Madras International Circuit, Chennai, one of India's top motor racing venues which saw the opening three races of the Indian-based championship.


Featuring a really interesting and innovative format, Indian Racing League put together 24 talented drivers – 12 international and 12 local racers – who are teaming up in six city-based teams. Each team also has to line up one female driver – resulting in IRL becoming one of the few international championships to require the presence of women on the grid.


With drivers of the likes of Fabienne Wohlwend, Bianca Bustamante, Lola Lovinfosse, Gabriela Jílková, Célia Martin and Nicole Havrda, notable results were quick to come in: Martin and Wohlwend were on the podium in the first points-paying weekend, as the racing star from Liechtenstein claimed two second place finishes in both the Sprint and Feature races. One week later, it would be Lola Lovinfosse and Bianca Bustamante to step on the rostrum.


The Indian Racing League weekend format features two 20 minute + 1 lap sprint races and one 35 minute + 1 lap feature race with driver change; the unique innovation, though, sees drivers qualifying the cars for their respective teammates – making both the sprint races real team efforts as well.


Having qualified the car for her Bangalore Speedsters' teammate Rishon Rajeev, 17-year-old Filipina Bianca Bustamante was second in Race 1 on Saturday; with a brilliant drive, Lola Lovinfosse, also 17, was the star of the first race day and clinched a third place for Blackbird Hyderabad, surviving extremely tricky weather conditions when a sudden rain shower flooded the track.


On Sunday, though, there were more opportunities up for grabs at the technical Chennai racetrack, with the second sprint race and the feature race that awards double points.


Photo credits: Shameem Fahath & Team

SPRINT RACE 2

With Akash Gowda taking a surprise pole position in Saturday's wet Q2, Shahan Ali Mohsin lined up his #11 Speed Demons Delhi's Wolf Thunder on pole position for the second sprint race alongside Jon Lancaster's Chennai car, previously qualified by his teammate Sandeep Kumar.


Starting from the second row in P4, W Series racer Bianca Bustamante would try to repeat her Race 1 result and claim a second podium in the series. Further behind, two-time podium finisher Fabienne Wohlwend took the start from P8.


A technical issue for Oliver Webb (Bangalore Speedsters) prevented the British driver from taking the start of the race, which left the two bright green Blackbird Hyderabad cars at the bottom of the grid, with championship leader Neel Jani having to charge through the field.


At the rolling start, Ali Mohsin held off the attack of Jon Lancaster who tried around the outside of the first right-hander, while Bianca Bustamante had a perfect getaway and slotted into third place. Kevin Mirocha went off at Turn 1 but could rejoin. The drivers of the #7 Goa Aces Wolf have in fact been battling with a difficult car since the start of the weekend.


Protagonist of some great starts last weekend, Wohlwend again gained positions at the green flag and moved up to sixth in the first lap. Le Mans winner Neel Jani was also making up ground and tried to catch up with Wohlwend. Despite his experience, Jani made a mistake and locked up, hitting Fabienne Wohlwend at Turn 3 and sending her into a spin with 12 minutes to go. Jani was then handed sixth by his Blackbird Hyderabad's teammate Anindith Reddy, but did not receive a penalty for the contact.


Bustamante had a fantastic run all race and held off Nikhil Bohra for third. The 17-year-old Filipina raced flawlessly and endured the massive pressure from Bohra until the chequered flag.


Meanwhile, Jon Lancaster could not get within the one second gap to Ali Mohsin, who took an impressive win for Bangalore Speedsters, ahead of the Chennai car of Lancaster and Bustamante. Unfortunately, she ended up with a 20 second penalty for a "jump start" which demoted her to eighth, just before the podium ceremony. Nikhil Bohra therefore was classified third, while Célia Martin's teammate Mitchell Gilbert charged from last to fourth.

1

11

Ali Mohsin/Gowda

Speed Demons Delhi

23:04.788

2

6

Lancaster/Kumar

Chennai Turbo Riders

+1.962

3

2

Bohra/Yoong

Godspeed Kochi

+8.797

4

12

Gilbert/Martin

Speed Demons Delhi

+16.368

5

8

Sayed/Shah

Goa Aces

+17.737

6

9

Jani/Rabindra

Blackbirds Hyderabad

+18.157

7

10

Reddy/Lovinfosse

Blackbirds Hyderabad

+23.068

8

3

Bustamante/Rajeed

Bangalore Speedsters

+28.196

9

1

Wohlwend/Alva

Godspeed Kochi

+38.531

10

5

Ghorpade/Havrda

Chennai Turbo Riders

+49.207

11

7

Mirocha/Jílková

Goa Aces

DNF

12

4

Webb/Gandhi

Bangalore Speedsters

DNF


Photo credits: Shameem Fahath & Team
Feature RACE

Skies cleared and drivers got ready for the 35 minute + 1 lap feature race later in the afternoon. Shahan Ali Mohsin was again in charge of starting from pole position, ahead of Jon Lancaster and Bianca Bustamante. From ninth on the grid, Fabienne Wohlwend was in the driver seat of the #1 machine, while Célia Martin took the start from P12.


Bustamante had another stunning start and went alongside Jon Lancaster at Turn 1, but the Brit held second and Ali Mohsin could retain the lead. Fabienne Wohlwend gained one position on Anshul Gandhi who spun on the first lap, as Célia Martin also made up positions – before she made contact with Kevin Mirocha. Both cars went through the grass run off but eventually rejoined, albeit the Goa Aces car lost the engine cover and Martin's #12 Speed Demons Delhi car sustained front bodywork damage.


Bustamante's pace allowed the Filipina to close in on Lancaster, opening a gap to fourth-placed Amir Sayed. The latter then had to defend from the recovering Alister Yoong. All these battles gave the opportunity to Shahan Ali Mohsin to stretch his legs in front, as the winner of the second sprint race set the fastest lap of the race.


Célia Martin and Kevin Mirocha pitted with damages – just as the pit window opened for the mandatory driver change. Jílková got behind the wheel for her first feature race stint and her car was fitted with a new engine cover, while Célia Martin, unfortunately, had to retire.


Photo credits: Shameem Fahath & Team

Having held on to third throughout her stint, Bustamante pitted and handed over to Rishon Rajeev, while Ali Mohsin and Lancaster went longer in their stints. Fabienne Wohlwend also opted to extend her stint – until she took the way of the pit lane with 17 minutes to go, pitting from fourth.


Ninth after her driver change, Lola Lovinfosse stopped on track with a gearbox issue; the parked car triggered the safety car, which messed with the teams' strategies: Ali Mohsin, Lancaster and Rabindra in fact all pitted under caution. Chennai Turbo Riders' Sandeep Kumar emerged as the new leader after the pit stops, ahead of Neel Jani and Akash Gowda – effectively gaining a full lap for the safety car intervention.


The race went back to green with 7 minutes to go: Rishon Rajeev found himself leading the pack – but was technically in fourth place. Kumar and Jani, in fact, were catching up with the rest of the field and the Swiss racer managed to overtake Kumar for the overall lead at Turn 1. When the championship leader tried to make his way past the lapped cars, Havrda collided with her teammate Gowda and spun.

The hectic final minutes were once again interrupted by the Safety Car with 2 minutes to go, when the correct order was restored.


Just when the cars were ready for a one-lap shootout, Sandeep Kumar's Chennai Turbo Riders car came to a halt on track: Neel Jani therefore took his second feature race win in Indian Racing League, ahead of Akash Gowda/Shahan Ali Mohsin and Rishon Rajeev/Bianca Bustamante.


But there was again no glory for Bustamante: the #3 Bangalore car was found a few seconds short of the minimum pit stop time. For the second time today, Bustamante lost the podium for a post-race penalty, having arguably driven some of the best races in her racing career.


"Hard to describe how I feel today", she wrote. "On one hand, I drove the best I ever have, making big gains in each session and scoring my first two podiums of my career with P3 in two races, both the individual and partnered main races."


"On the other hand, we lost both of those podiums today, one to a jump start due to a driver having technical issues causing him to fall behind, the second to a short pitstop under the mandatory pit stop time", she explained.


"It literally left me in tears as I gave it my all both on and off the track this weekend. It really was the best drive to date in my career. Regardless, I'm just thankful for the opportunity to get lots of seat time and most importantly learn from those mistakes that cost us today."


After two championship rounds, Neel Jani and Akhil Rabindra lead the championship standings; with 76 points, Fabienne Wohlwend remains in third position with today's fifth place in the feature race. Gabriela Jílková was also handed a post-race penalty for a pit window infringement, but still scored points with two seventh place finishes after a very unlucky start of her season. Similarly, Célia Martin's streak of bad luck continued with a DNF.


Indian Racing League will now get ready for its season finale in a week's time, with teams heading to the Hyderabad Street Circuit.

1

9

Rabindra/Jani

Blackbirds Hyderabad

41:20.848

2

11

Ali Mohsin/Gowda

Speed Demons Delhi

+0.536

3

8

Sayed/Shah

Goa Aces

+2.201

4

2

Bohra/Yoong

Godspeed Kochi

+2.543

5

1

Wohlwend/Alva

Godspeed Kochi

+3.122

6

3

Bustamante/Rajeed

Bangalore Speedsters

+9.755

7

7

Mirocha/Jílková

Goa Aces

+1:03.556

8

5

Ghorpade/Havrda

Chennai Turbo Riders

+1 lap

9

6

Lancaster/Kumar

Chennai Turbo Riders

+2 laps

10

4

Webb/Gandhi

Bangalore Speedsters

DNF

11

10

Reddy/Lovinfosse

Blackbirds Hyderabad

DNF

12

12

Martin/Gilbert

Speed Demons Delhi

DNF


Photo credits: Shameem Fahath & Team

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