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  • Writer's pictureRACERS

Laura Camps secures another top-10, Chloe Chong gets first point in IRL

The second race of the weekend rounded out the third Indian Racing League round at Madras with top ten finishes by both Laura Camps and Chloe Chong - who scored her first points in the series with very positive pace.

Laura Camps Torras, Blackbird Hyderabad, Indian Racing League 2023
Photo credits: Akhil Puthiyedath

Following a troubled start due to adverse weather, the 2023 season of the Indian Racing League finally hosted its fully dry weekend at Madras International Circuit, with the 24 drivers and 6 teams battling out for the second ever edition of the innovative Indian series.

At the third double header hosted at the 12-corner, 3.717 km circuit outside of Chennai, the battle for the championship titles entered a crucial stage, with one round to go.

With the format changes ahead of the 2023 season, each weekend now includes two sprint races - one per driver sharing the same car - instead of the two sprints and one feature of the previous season. This means that drivers compete in either Saturday or Sunday action - and it would be Gabriela Jílková and championship leader Sarah Moore to tackle the first race on Saturday.

Jílková had soon shown great speed in practice and carried momentum into both qualifying - where she was fifth but lined up in fourth after a penalty for Ruhaan Alva - before battling for the podium in race 1. With great pace, Jílková moved up to third after race leader Sohil Shah hit technical trouble, then had to defend from an outstanding recovery for Jon Lancaster who eventually snatched the podium on the penultimate lap. With fourth, Jílková was nevertheless the protagonist of a stellar first race which gained Goa Aces valuable championship points.

Having won the first race of the season at her return to the track after over a year, British racer Sarah Moore entered the third round in the championship lead following another top-4 last week. Combined with a series of strong runs for her teammate Kyle Kumaran, the drivers of the #70 Bangalore Speedsters machine continue to be in a good spot for the championship, although the third round proved to be more challenging than expected.

Moore had to settle for seventh on Saturday, maximising the potential of the car.

On Sunday morning, four more female drivers were set to race in the second 25-minute race that rounded out the weekend at Madras: Fabienne Wohlwend, Laura Camps Torras, Chloe Chong and Nicole Havrda. Wohlwend - initially scheduled to race on Saturday - was swapped with teammate Alva after being unwell, but made it to the track on day 2. Havrda, on the other hand, was not well enough to race and was replaced by Mohamed Ryan.

"I am so sorry to the whole team for not being able to race today", the Canadian announced. "On Friday I woke up feeling already unwell and it ended up getting worse over the few days. I woke up today morning feeling the worst of all the days and felt so unwell that I couldn’t get out of bed. I wish the team the best and again I really apologize that I couldn’t sit in the race seat today."

The drivers - who mostly had limited track time in the previous weeks due to heavy rains - had an extra 20 minute practice session in the morning, which saw Raoul Hyman topping the timesheets for Goa Aces - over half a second faster than Le Mans winner and sportscar legend Neel Jani. Oliver Webb followed in third, while Fabienne Wohlwend showed great potential with a fifth place, having clocked a best lap of 0:53.553. The driver from Liechtenstein has traditionally been very fast at Madras - having claimed podiums and the team's title last year - but a massive dose of bad luck has prevented her from capitalizing on her pace in this year's edition of the series.

Chloe Chong - the youngest driver on the F1 Academy grid in 2023 - was quickly up to speed on Friday, despite having missed the first round and having completed the least amount of laps in the car and at the track. At her first dry running, Chong felt increasingly comfortable and ran with top-five pace in testing. In FP2, the British-Canadian racer struggled a bit more with the car setup, but worked with the team to learn more about the platform and improve the vehicle's behaviour ahead of qualifying.

With one timed lap shaping the grid in the 10 minute qualifying format, Chong had her effort hindered by a car spinning just ahead and qualified P11. Laura Camps - who had scored an outstanding top five at her car racing debut at the season opener - was tenth fastest in qualifying, having recorded a 0:55.064, which was half a second off her best time in practice. There was no luck for Wohlwend, whose mistake left the #5 Godspeed Kochi machine last on the grid, without a representative lap time.

Oliver Webb took pole position in Q2 with a 0:53.466 lap that put the Bangalore Speedsters driver ahead of Raoul Hyman, Neel Jani and Alister Yoong. Subbing in for Nicole Havrda, Mohamed Ryan and was fifth fastest, but a penalty demoted him to last.

Chloe Chong, Speed Demons Delhi, Indian Racing League 2023
Photo credits: Akhil Puthiyedath

Oliver Webb and Raoul Hyman accelerated away at the start of race 2 - and with the pole sitter having to defend from a fantastic start from Jani on the inside line, it would be Hyman to snatch the lead at turn 1, while there was chaos further down the field where Wohlwend - who had a blistering getaway and had already passed several cars up into turn one - had contact with Sayed and went around, bringing out the safety car at the end of the first lap.

In an attempt to avoid the spinning #5 Godspeed Kochi machine, Laura Camps had to take evasive action through the grass but rejoined, as Ryan also spun. Chloe Chong just about avoided Wohlwend and moved up to ninth as the race was neutralized for the stranded car of Wohlwend, who was unfortunately out of the race.

Hyman perfectly managed the restart and kept Webb at bay, with Jani and Yoong not far behind. Chong had a clean restart and closed in on Sayed, while Ryan found a way past Camps on lap 6 and started his recovery. Chong had a good rhythm and, while she fell to tenth on lap 9, she kept up the pace and firmly stayed in the final point-paying position throughout the race.

Ahead, Hyman was unchallenged and, after setting the fastest lap with a brilliant 0:52.436, he pulled away and opened a 4 second gap to Webb, who had an equally safe margin to Jani. There was close action throughout, but positions eventually settled.

With one minute to go, just as she was about to secure her first point in the series, Chloe Chong had an off and dropped down the order - although she could rejoin 2 laps down.

Laura Camps gained two positions - as Mitchell Gilbert pitted with one lap to go and also retired with technical issues, in a highly unfortunate round for Speed Demons Delhi.

Raoul Hyman took a commanding win, 5.3 seconds ahead of Oliver Webb and over 15 seconds ahead of Neel Jani - as the latter had to defend the final podium spot from a quick charging Alister Yoong. Kyle Kumaran rounded out the top five, having held off the attacks of Sai Sanjay and Amir Sayed on the final lap. Ryan was eighth and Laura Camps was back in the points after an unlucky round 2. Despite a small issue that made her race harder pace-wise, Camps brought home a solid result that gained her eighth in the championship standings.

With tenth, Chloe Chong scored her first points in the series and showed great adaptability to a new car - significantly faster than the Formula 4 she had driven before - with exceptionally limited testing time. Chong's pace during the race was particularly impressive, as she put in great laps that would have positioned around the top six.

With six races now in the books, Raoul Hyman and Sohil Shah took over the top spot in the championship standings, four points ahead of Lancaster/Sanjay and five ahead of Bohra/Yoong. Moore and Kumaran remain in contention with 78 points, 9 adrift of the new leaders. Following the postponement of the Chennai street circuit event, series organizers have yet to announce the revised calendar for the closing races for the 2023 season.



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