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Vol. 1 No. 7
Motorsports News

Kazirstani Grand Prix

The sixth round of the Grand Prix Racing series brings us to Kazirstan for the first time ever before the circus makes its way through Punth for three races. Despite the usual warmth of June, Kazirstan remains chilly relative to almost every other venue in the series. The Ai'thii-Zii'chanthooyuh Autodrome located in the capital of Karakol saw chilly winds and damp spray hanging in the ocean air for most of the weekend. The brand new circuit was entirely unfamiliar for the drivers making the practice sessions vital for drivers to come to grips with every turn and straight. Tire selection was conservative for the weekend with hard and medium compounds made available to teams in addition to one or two sets of softs for the practices in addition to the ever-ready intermediate rain and full wet tires.

The nation of Kazirstan maintains a cold relationship with much of the western world. The beginning of the racing venue has raised both hopes and fears of greater interaction and cooperation on the world stage, but details of the contract between the Kazirstani government and the International Racing Federation are confidential and rumours (frequently unsubstantiated) have circulated suggesting that the event would not be long-standing. Nevertheless, the lead up to the race weekend proceeded without a hitch and drivers, spectators, and media found themselves welcome in a strange country for the weekend
The Kistani team, Target Motorsports, are only in their second race of the season and hoped to capitalize on the general lack of experience on the part of all the drivers on this track to gain some traction in the standings. Unfortunately, the first practice session was red-flagged only seconds after starting when championship contender Jacob Asana slid hard into the wall when swerving out of his pitbox to get to the track. The impact scattered debris across the exit of the pitlane which prevented the other cars from getting on track. While the damaged car was ultimately repaired in time for the third practice session, the reduced time in the first session exacerbated the drivers' lack of familiarity with the track. No penalty was assigned for the incident though Asana received a reprimand from the race stewards. The other two practice sessions also proved to be problematic as driver's struggled to warm up their tires against the track sufficiently to partially melt the rubber and provide grip. In the cold and damp Anghel Octan Racing attempted a few practice laps on intermediate tires, but while they provided more grip they were no match in terms for the pace of the slippery hard and medium tires.

In qualifying the field was shaken up to the surprise of many. Despite being a relatively new track, the Autodrome still theoretically relies upon high-performance hardware to extract the maximum pace and even though teammates were lapping at similar times in practices sessions, the stress of qualifying in the difficult conditions saw the more proficient drivers exceed expectations.

Despite being shortlisted as a contender at the end of last year, Imperial Cola Racing driver Maxim Verstellus took his first pole position of the year and considering the power of his car many thought that his place at the top of the podium was already secure. However, qualifying a mere 0.003 seconds behind him was his main rival, Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq to complete the first row. On the second row, Verstellus's teammate Richards lined up behind him in third beside Jacob Asana who had recovered gracefully from missing two practice sessions and put in a solid qualifying lap time. Asana's teammate lined up behind him on the third row next to Bronn Helde who managed to pull his slippery Target car into fifth. Behind Helde and Silva was championship leader Helvet in seventh; her teammate failing to qualify due to a gearbox issue which was resolved too late to put in a lap.

Final Qualifying Results:
  1. VER (Imperial Cola) 1:33.412
  2. VAL (deBedecq) 1:33.415
  3. RIC (Imperial Cola) 1:33.516
  4. ASA (Hermès) 1:34.509
  5. HLD (Target) 1:35.154
  6. SIL (Hermès) 1:36.02
  7. HEL (Anghel Octan) 1:36.87
  8. ODA (Force Puhkgundi) 1:38.54
  9. GEL (Quicksilver) 1:39.09
  10. MEU (O'Shea) 1:41.301
  11. SAW (Quicksilver) 1:42.414
  12. ALB (deBedecq) 1:43.388
  13. BAS (Force Puhkgundi) 1:45.752
  14. WAL (Target) 1:48.966
  15. CRI (O'Shea) 1:49.305
  16. HIL (Anghel Octan) DNQ
The weather on race day resembled that of the rest of the weekend, varying between 15 and 18 °C (59 and 65 °F) in the air and perhaps a couple degrees warmer on the surface of the track. Nevertheless, the cars all lined up on the grid excepting Hilaire who would start from the pitlane for the second race in a row. With a substantial downpour of rain expected in the second half of the race, the drivers all aimed to pull ahead as quickly as possible in the first half to be able to pit onto intermediates or full wets as cleanly as possible. With that in mind, the drivers prepared to launch as the five red lights lit up and were extinguished. Off the line, Verstellus had a good start but so did the deBedecq next to him. Though the Count of Valsoix was able to pull ahead on the outside of turn 1, Verstellus pulled back into the lead through the inside of turn 2 and got clear of deBedecq's front wing along the straightaways leading to and from turn 3. Elsewhere in the pack Cristophe was having trouble. Though the O'Shea had no issues on the formation lap, he stalled in his launch at the beginning of the race proper and failed multiple times to restart the car. The issue was finally rectified, but not before Hilaire was waved through the pitlane (typically a car starting in the pitlane must wait for all cars to clear the first corner before joining). Already dropping into last place and a great deal behind, Cristophe had a lot of time to make up.Also losing out within the first few laps of the race were Odashi Kimi, James Sawders, and Bo Gelema who each dropped a couple places while Alba, Basuda, and Meusart pulled ahead. Closer to the front Alequé Silva hopped the fast but unstable Target car of Bronn Helde for fifth behind her teammate Asana.

On lap 11, Helvet had closed in behind Helde, seemingly able to pull heat into her tires faster than the Kistani, but had difficulty finding an opportunity to pass. In the closing turns of the lap Helvet somewhat controversially passed the Target driver on the inside for turn 14. After pulling to the outside of turn 13 to get a clean run through the straight to turn 14 Helde had kept pace with the championship leader and rather than pull back in behind the Kistani, Helvet partially cut the corner only barely keeping her left wheels within the white lines of the track. Helde and his team immediately complained, but these complaints were waved off by the race stewards who took no action regarding the incident. After the race, the team principal of Target Motorsports stated to Kistani media that had it been another driver on the grid who cut the corner they would immediately have been required to cede the place back or receive a penalty and that the race stewards were simply showing preference for the championship leader. In their response, the stewards stated that they "did not wish to discourage passing and that car 6 (Helvet) had no choice as car 39 (Helde) did not leave sufficient room on the inside effectively forcing car 6 off the track." This statement was not well received by many foreign viewers and along with the lack of penalty for Asana in the first practice session became sticking points for fans complaining that the stewards were biased in favour of those at the front of the championship fight.

On lap 16 the first droplets of rain began to fall over sector 2 of the track. Meanwhile, Basuda passed teammate Odashi following team orders which were perhaps equally controversial. While data coming back to the team from the cars as well as any spectator's eye was showing Basuda was faster, Odashi argued that the imminent rain could drastically change the situation. After two laps of arguing, however, the position was ceded. A few laps later Brigida Alba executed a clean pass on fellow countryperson Henri Meusart along the turn 2 to 3 straightaway. With his teammate out of his way, Basuda was soon making ground on the O'Shea car and likewise passed Meusart on the same straight on lap 20. By this point, light droplets were falling on all sectors of the track and while the surface remained dry under the heat of passing cars it was coming close to the time for teams to consider readying intermediate tires.

By lap 26, the rain had intensified and the track had become the slickest it had been all weekend. The two leaders were the first to pit in for intermediate tires, effectively giving the lead of the race to Imperial Cola driver Richards until he himself pitted. The two Corse Hermès cars also pitted quickly; Silva entering first as Asana waived his first chance in order to take advantage of the slipstream behind Richards first. However, Richards hit a patch of accumulated water at a low point in the track in turn 5. Gliding over the water on his slick-surfaced medium tires caused Richards to spin wide and onto a concrete runoff, ceding his position to Asana who pitted immediately. Helvet now led the race having pulled well ahead of Helde as Verstellus, Valsoix, and Silva slotted in behind her. Asana emerged from the pits behind his teammate Asana, having lost time evading the spinning Richards who after recovering and rejoining the track had nevertheless lost a great deal of time and was now in eighth place behind Alba. Helvet for her part pitted a couple laps later onto intermediates along with the rest of the field. She emerged in fifth behind Asana. Pitting for intermediates finished on lap 30 except for Cristophe who retired the car when he pitted in as he was already two laps down on the field and not improving in terms of pace.

The race proceeded more confidently from this point on as conditions suited the tire selection more closely than previously, though the pace was quite reduced and drivers were cautious around the wet track. Few overtakes occurred in the latter half of the race except for Walsh on Sawders on lap 34 and Basuda whoi made an overtake on Meusart on lap 35 and then a struggling Richards on lap 40. Richards's pace was severely reduced from earlier and it's suspected that he sustained damage to his suspension when he spun but did not wish to retire the car, believing he could at least nurse it home to score some points. It was around this time that the rain intensified leading some teams to question if the full wet tires would be necessary. As Verstellus and deBedecq continued to lead the race, many looked to them to see how the strategy for the race would turn out. As the rain intensified, spectators watched as specialists for each team measured the rainfall and ran the numbers. Would the intermediates which can disperse 30 L (8 gal) of water per second be sufficient or would the full wets with almost triple the dispersion be called for.

These questions would be answered with ten laps to go as Verstellus pitted for a set of full wets followed immediately by the Count of Valsoix. The two slotted in behind the two Corse Hermès cars, but to the shock of the two former leaders, publicly-aired radio broadcasts to the Insuian drivers advised each of them to maintain track position despite the difficult conditions and attempt to come home for the win. With less at stake at the back of the pack, there was another scramble to pit in for full wet tires; a scramble which was ignored by Hilaire who equally found himself at the head of a freshly pitted train. Due to some confusion however, when Odashi Kimi pitted in for his tires, he found his pitbox abandoned with no mechanics ready to service the car. It wasn't until a solid 15 second wait that the Force Pukhgundi team realized that their driver had pitted and got to work on his car. The Mutsutori expat's expletive-filled tirade over team radio as he left the pits in last place was broadcasted to the amusement of many internationally, though perhaps he was right to feel betrayed twice-over by his team this race.

For the final laps of the race the six cars which had pitted on to full wet tires showed greater pace and grip than the ten that hadn't, but the difference was too slight to effect a pace and with drag reduction systems disabled in the slick conditions, the order remained constant to the checkered flag. Alequé Silva crossed the line for her second victory of the season; her teammate just behind her to make it a 1-2 victory for Corse Hermès S.A. while Verstellus nevertheless claimed a podium position in third. The 1-2 pulled Corse Hermès ahead of Anghel Octan in the Constructors standings and though Helvet's fifth place finish kept her in the lead of the Drivers championship the gap was once again significantly narrowed between her and Asana.

Final Classification:
  1. SIL (Hermès): 1:29:51.909
  2. ASA (Hermès): +7.336
  3. VER (Imperial Cola): +17.013
  4. VAL (deBedecq): +17.127
  5. HEL (Anghel Octan): +18.822
  6. ALB (deBedecq): +23.667
  7. HLD (Target): +24.331
  8. BAS (Force Pukhgundi): +24.839
  9. RIC (Imperial Cola): +25.317
  10. MEU (O'Shea): +1:09.013
  11. HIL (Anghel Octan): +1:09.864
  12. GEL (Quicksilver): +1:10.461
  13. WAL (Target): +1:14.823
  14. SAW (Quicksilver): +1 lap
  15. ODA (Force Pukhgundi): +1 lap
  16. CRI (O'Shea): DNF
Championship Points:

Drivers Championship:

77 Carla Helvet
73 Jacob Asana
66 Alequé Silva
50 Franc-Jean Hippolyte deBedecq
45 Maxim Verstellus
40 Daniel Richards
39 Gion Hilaire
26 Brigida Alba
21 Timo Basuda
13 Armand Cristophe
09 Henri Meusart
08 Bronn Helde
07 James Sawders
06 Odashi Kimi
05 Bo Gelema
00 Lucian Walsh

Constructors Championship:

139 Corse Hermès S.A.
116 Anghel Octan Racing
085 Imperial Cola Racing
076 Racing Grand Premi deBedecq
027 Force Pukhgundi Works
022 O'Shea HIS Motorsports
012 Quicksilver Racing
008 Target Motorsports

Join us in another two weeks as we continue our racing adventure in Punth starting with the Xingkaipese Grand Prix!
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