Aditya Raghav steamrolls the competition in round 2 of the Indo-Ceylon Virtual Grand Prix
After an exciting Round 1 of the Indo-Ceylon Virtual GP, Held on May 18, Round 2 started off with race one taking place at the Nurburgring in Germany, followed by a reverse-grid race two at the Brands Hatch, the UK. As before, the Indo-Ceylon GP was held on the Gran Turismo Racing platform, will all the cars being GR2 cars i.e. cars based on those competing in the GT500 class in the SuperGT, running a fixed setup, with medium-soft tyres. Additionally, tyre wear was set to eight times quicker and fuel depletion seven times the normal speed as compared to a full-distance race. There were six racers from India and Sri Lanka each. Further, the race progress was scrutinised by stewards, ensuring all four wheels on track, and penalty for actions like corner-cutting.
Race 1 was a 10-lap race, around the famed (or infamous) Nurburgring, albeit in the shortened GP-Strecke, which was completed in 1984 and is 5.2km long with 13 corners.
At the end of the 10-minute qualifying session, Aditya Raghav had set the fastest time of 1:45.995 minutes, followed by Pradyumna Prakash and Sri Lanka’s M Riyaz. In fact, after the first two Indians, places 3 to 7 were all Sri Lankan drivers, namely M Riyaz, Thiyago Pereira, Sabry Salam, Thiran Pereira, and Huzeifa Jafferjee.
Pradyumna Prakash went wide in the first corner of Lap 1, letting Sabry Salam squeeze through into second place. However, he was soon being mobbed by Riyaz and Thiyago Pereira. In fact, Pradyumna was unable to catch a break, going wide or sustaining contact with a fellow racers, and dropping to P8 by the end of the lap.
Lap 3 and Aditya Raghav was still in the lead, with Sabry Salam a good 7 seconds behind. The order stayed unchanged, with Thiyago Pereira, Thiran Pereira and Prateek Benya making the list till P5. Meanwhile Pradyumna got some respite, as Huzeifa Jafferjee ran wide on Corner 4, pushing him up a spot.
Another lap down, and Aditya Raghav was 10 seconds ahead of Sabry Salam, who was himself building up a lead of just over 2 seconds on P3 Thiyago Pereira. Meanwhile Pratik Benya in P5 was nudged away by Riyaz who took the inside line going past Corner 2. This essentially again meant Sri Lankan domination from P2 to P5, and not missing a beat, Pradyumna too passed Prateek going into Corner 6.
With four laps to go, tyres close to depletion, fuel at usually quarter tank and no racer yet wanting to pit, Thiran Pereira made a mistake which pushed him down to P7, pushing Riyaz, Pradyumna and Prateek up a spot. Soon, however, Thiyago was taken out, inadvertently, by Riyaz, causing him to drop to P6, with Riyaz giving him company in P5. This moved Pradyumna to P3 and Prateek to P4.
With three laps to go, racers placed 2 to 7 went into the pits to refuel and change tyres, while Aditya Raghav, now 21 seconds ahead of the rest, stayed out for another lap. Coming out of the pits, Sabry Salam was back to P2, with Riyaz P3, Prateek P4, Pradyumna P5, Dillon Zacharia P6 and Hzeifa Jafferjee P7. This came as a big advantage to Riyaz, as he had gained two spots in one fell swoop, though he needed to stay focussed with Prateek Benya now just half-a-second behind him.
Aditya Raghav went into the pits while in lap 8 (for him, as he was at least half a lap ahead of the group), and was out with almost no loss to his daunting lead. Down the pack there was a heated battle for P3 between Pradyumna, Prateek and Riyaz, with Pradyumna now snatching the spot away from Riyaz. For his part Riyaz made a mistake coming out of the Michael Schumacher S and slid out, falling to P6 as Prateek and Thiyago sneaked past.
With two laps to go and everyone having finished their pitstops, it was now a dash to the finish. Leader Aditya Raghav now had a comfortable 22 seconds on Sabry Salam, with Pradyumna in P3. As the penultimate lap came in, the grid all the way till P7 seemed to be getting closer and closer. The final lap saw both Sabry Salam and Pradyumna Prakash holding onto their positions (P2 and P3 respectively), while Aditya Raghav took a comfortable win.
Moving now to the reverse grid race, held at Brands Hatch circuit. It was a rolling start, with Aadam Junaid, barely 12 years old, leading the gird. Following him were Aashan Silva, Ashvin Lakhwani and Dillon Zacharia. However, soon it was Gaurav Vel in P2, scarcely a second behind the leader.
However, Gaurav overcooked the corner going into Druids (Corner 1), dropping multiple places and putting Aashan Silva and Ashvin Lakhwani back to P2 and P3. Meanwhile, Pradyumna Prakash, Sabry Salam, and M Riyaz were already making their way up from the back of the grid, now in P7, P8 and P9 respectively.
In the middle of Lap 2, Aashan was now leading with Ashvin right behind. Aadam Junaid seemed to have disappeared and perhaps dropped out of the race due to a bad connection. Meanwhile, Thiyago Pereira in P3 was being hounded by Huzeifa and Pradyumna, who had now climbed to P4.
In Lap 3, Pradyumna made yet another move, climbing to P3 after a slick inside-line pass on Thiyago Pereira in Westfield (Corner 6). Thiyago was meanwhile struggling and almost slid out going past Stirling (Corner 8), giving Riyaz the jump into P4, while he dropped to P7, as race 1 winner Aditya Raghav got past him on the Pilgrims drop straight. Up ahead, Pradyumna was closing in on Ashvin Lakhvani.
Lap 5, and Ashvin Lakhvani was gaining up to Aashan Silva, about a second differentiating the two. But going into Surtees, Pradyumna was able to pass Ashvin, and prop himself momentarily to less than a second from the leader. Two corners later, and there was just over half-a-second between the top three!
At the halfway mark, Aditya Raghav had inched past Sabry Salam to bag P5. Up front Aashan had built up some breathing room, getting about half-a-second ahead of Pradyumna. As Aashan went into the pits, Pradyumna picked up the lead, followed by Riyaz, with Aditya Raghav now in P3.
With three-fourths of the race done, most of the front-runners (Aditya, Pradyumna, Riyaz and Sabry) went into the pits. Once out of the pits, Riyaz took the lead, followed by Aditya, Pradyumna and Ashvin. The order remained mostly unchanged for the next lap as well, though Aditya was putting in blazing fast lap times.
With two laps to go, the battle had devolved to India versus Sri Lanka, with Aditya doing his darndest to spook Riyaz. On more than one occasion it looked like Aditya would be able to pass through, only to be fended off at the last moment by Riyaz. It was only in the penultimate lap that Aditya was able to pass, that too after Riyaz went too far out past Hawthorns (Corner 5).
Riyaz then went on to go wide again out of Westfield (Corner 6), which saw him fall to P3. Going back on track and Riyaz was immediately under attack by Ashvin, with Thiyago Pereira just behind him as well. Going into the final lap Riyaz went wide again, losing out hopes for the last podium spot.
Ultimately it was Aditya Raghav winning race 2 as well, followed by an equally determined Pradyumna Prakash, with Ashvin Lakhvani rounding off the grid, once again bringing in an India 1-2-3 finish.