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Sarah Moore claims another top-5 in Indian Racing League

After becoming the first woman to win in Indian Racing League, Sarah Moore secured another top-five finish at Chennai at Round 2 and now leads the championship standings, in an otherwise very unfortunate round for the other female drivers.

Sarah Moore, Bangalore Speedsters, Indian Racing League 2023, Madras International Circuit
Photo credits: Akhil / IRL

Indian Racing League returned to the track at Madras International Circuit for the second round of the 2023 season, the second in the series' history.

With its innovative format - which features an exciting mix of talented international drivers, male and female, as well as up-and-coming local racers in double headers as part of the Indian Racing Festival - the series is aiming to establish itself as the new benchmark in Indian motorsport, with now the support of F4 India as well.

At the season opener, female drivers took centre stage in race 2, as Gabriela Jílková led most of the race driving masterfully in awful weather conditions - but it would be Sarah Moore, at her return to racing after over a year away from race cars, to snatch the win on the final lap, making history as the first ever female winner in the series.

Racecar rookie Laura Camps Torras also made headlines, as the Spaniard completed her first ever race in cars bringing home a remarkable fifth place with a flawless run in torrential rain.

Four weeks later, the second round proved to be more challenging for the women of the series - also joined by 2023 F1 Academy driver Chloe Chong, who teamed up with Akash Gowda at Speed Demons Delhi for the rest of the season. Chong, 16, stepped up from karting to race cars earlier this year and was the youngest driver on the F1 Academy grid, where she collected six point scoring finishes. Her experience, though, has been limited to the F4 machine and, having seen the Chennai racetrack for the first time this week, the young British-Canadian driver focused on learning the platform.

The start of the second round, though, was heavily disrupted by weather, as heavy rain severely limited running time throughout Thursday - resulting in a big hurdle for the drivers aiming to learn the car and the track.

A few reliability issues for several cars further translated into close to no track time ahead of qualifying on Friday, also following a wet practice.

Raoul Hyman (Goa Aces) claimed pole position by a huge 1.3 second margin over Oliver Webb (Bangalore Speedsters), in a first qualifying session interrupted by two red flags. Kyle Kumaran and Alister Yoong followed, with Fabienne Wohlwend securing a top five on the starting grid with a solid lap, less than one tenth of a second behind the two cars ahead - and three tenths faster than Le Mans legend Neel Jani, at his return to the series.

Gabriela Jílková was eighth fastest, and preceded Laura Camps - who was struggling with a technical issue since practice and barely put a lap together in between the red flags.

Sanjay, Kumar and Chloe Chong couldn't complete representative lap times and rounded out the grid.

Chloe Chong, Speed Demons Delhi, Indian Racing League 2023, Madras International Circuit
Photo credits: Akhil / IRL

Four female racers therefore took the start of Race 1 - and it was a brilliant start for many of them, including Fabienne Wohlwend, who was up to fourth place with a great launch and looked strong from the get go.

From pole, Hyman was unchallenged, although Oliver Webb was his closest rival on a mostly dry but tricky track.

Despite only clocking a handful of laps throughout the week in a car several seconds per lap faster than F4 machinery, Chong adapted well and showed great pace: after a superb start, the teenager was up to eighth place from last on the grid.

Again hampered by technical issues that marked her second round, Laura Camps had to retire the #9 Hyderabad Blackbirds machine in the early stages. Despite several components being changed after qualifying, the issue struck again and the Spaniard pulled into the pits.

While making good progress, Chong spun out of the race with 16 minutes to go, bringing out the sole Safety Car of the race. With no time to test and a total of five laps before the start of the race, Chloe was improving rapidly and her pace felt very promising - which makes a mistake fully understandable in the conditions.

While the leading duo tried to pull away, Fabienne Wohlwend was also on the move and had speed to challenge for the podium just before the safety car: while a technical issue took her out at the season opener, Fabienne was eager to show her potential - but bad luck struck again the driver from Liechtenstein, as an engine issue slowed her down at the restart of the race. Wohlwend lost positions and then had to call it a day.

"I had a mega start, went up to P4, had the pace to attack for third but then after the safety-car I lost power and had to retire" - Fabienne commented.

From eighth on the grid, Jílková was again on a positive trend: the only female driver remained on track moved up to seventh place in the early stages, then emerged as the winner of a few elbows-out battles that eventually saw the Goa Aces machine slotting into P6 at the end - securing 8 valuable points for the championship.

Raoul Hyman controlled the race and took victory by 1.3 seconds over Oliver Webb, while Kyle Kumaran was a distant third - in a very important podium for Sarah Moore's teammate, who continued to score big points after the victory in round 1 - having held off highly experienced Neel Jani. Sai Sanjay gained five spots to claim a top-five and preceded a solid Gabriela Jílková in sixth.

Fabienne Wohlwend, Godspeed Kochi, Indian Racing League 2023, Madras International Circuit
Photo credits: Hoogram / MachineTrackers

The second race was scheduled for Saturday, but the schedule was again affected by heavy rain which delayed the program. Qualifying eventually went underway as soon as the track dried up enough to make it drivable and Nikhil Bohra clocked a 1:48.807 that put the Godspeed Kochi driver on top in Q2. Speed Demons Delhi's Mitchell Gilbert was second fastest, less than one tenth ahead of Ruhaan Alva. Wohlwend's teammate shared the second row of the grid with 2022 series champion Akhil Rabindra, in one of the closest fields to date that also saw Jon Lancaster 0.028 of a second behind.

Despite a technical issue Thursday, Sarah Moore rounded out the third row with a 1:51.369 that put the race winner ahead of Ashwin Datta, Amir Sayed, Anindith Reddy and Akash Gowda.

Also on a very limited track time for the whole weekend, Nicole Havrda had one of the least amount of laps throughout the field entering her race. She struggled to adapt to the mixed conditions and was eleventh, ahead of Sohil Shah.

Another rainstorm during the F4 race meant another delay - and again very green track conditions, with the Madras International Circuit being completely flooded in between every session. High temperatures, though, allowed the asphalt to dry up just enough and to get race 2 underway.

The start was just as troubled as the previous days, as a technical issue for Datta and then the field not correctly bunched up on the formation lap led to an aborted start - although the top half of the pack accelerated away until the red flag was eventually shown and cars brought back to the pitlane.

The green flag finally waved for a shortened 20 minute race: Bohra held the lead from Lancaster, who had a rocketship start on new tyres and demoted Gilbert as well as Alva, who had a great launch as well but had to take to the grass on the main straight and dropped all the way down to tenth - also after another issue on the first lap.

Sarah Moore was up to fifth after a clean getaway, while Havrda battled between tenth and eleventh on the first lap. The Safety Car was deployed on lap 5, when Anindith Reddy spun out in the grass and beached the Hyderabad Blackbirds machine he shares with Laura Camps. From last on the grid, Sohil Shah had a stellar first lap to slot into sixth before the race was neutralized.

At the restart, Bohra kept a safe margin to Lancaster and Gilbert, as Sarah Moore tried to challenge Rabindra while at the same time watching her mirrors from the fast Goa Aces' car driven by Shah. Nicole Havrda also tried to put pressure on Gowda, but settled in tenth. Havrda then gained a position from Alva, who had spun on lap 5, handing ninth to the young Canadian.

Bohra and Lancaster pulled away - as the latter had pace on the fresher tyre to challenge the Godspeed Kochi leader. Bohra, though, set the benchmark lap and held off his rival with 5 minutes to go.

On lap 7, Alva again caught Havrda and claimed the position back. A mistake for Shah at the final corner resulted in the Goa Aces teammates swapping places: Sayed, Shah and Gowda battled for sixth, with Moore now seven seconds up the road and focused on catching Rabindra.

Jon Lancaster reclaimed the fastest lap and got closer again to Bohra, but the Chennai Turbo Rider driver eventually ran out of time and - after a spectacular final lap, Bohra took his first win of the season ahead of Lancaster and, 20 seconds behind, Mitchell Gilbert.

The Malaysian racer, though, received a 10 second post race penalty which dropped him to fifth, promoting Akhil Rabindra to the podium and Sarah Moore to fourth place.

By adding 12 points to their tally, Moore and Kumaran now sit at the top of the drivers' championship standings, having collected 62 points, three more than Lancaster/Sanjay.

But there will be limited time to celebrate, as teams will be back on track tomorrow, with the third double-header of the season scheduled for Sunday 3rd December, again at Madras International Circuit.



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