Indian Sim Racing League: Abdul Azim, Abdul Fattah bring in surprise victories
A chaotic pair of races at the Texas Motor Speedway saw two first-time winners upset proceedings, while Sai Prithvi was able to inch his way ahead in the overall standings
Round four of the the Indian Sim Racing League, in association with the Mumbai Falcons and Volkswagen Motorsport India, moved to Texas Motor Speedway for the penultimate round of the campaign. For the race, the 2002 version of the track had been selected. This version of the track was 3.67km long and significantly bumpier, with 10 turns for the road course section and 24 degrees of banking at both ends of the speedway. Additionally, it allowed drivers to use the majority of the speedway, including the apron section and quad oval and all the way to the back straight, where the infield section pops in. Additionally, there was a guest driver taking part today: Jeffrey Kruger from South Africa, who is the European and South Africa VW champ, and had also taken part in the previous season of the Indian Sim Racing League.
As always, the 20-minute race consisted of 12 laps, with the champion driver getting a cash prize of Rs 15,000, along with a chance to test with a Volkswagen Motorsport racecar. Meanwhile, the runner up gets a cash prize of Rs 10,000, along with a two-day training session in 4-stroke karting from Rayomand Banajee and his team, as well as sponsored race in the upcoming season of the Indikarting Clash of Karts. The second runner-up gets Rs 5000 as well as a sponsored race, and VW motorsport merchandise. Besides, the fourth and fifth-placed drivers now stand to win Rs 4000 and Rs 3000 cash prizes as well.
Thus far in the season, Amith Kutti was at the top, with a tally of 280 points, followed by Abdul Azim who at 228 points, Sai Prithvi with 205, and Abdul Qadir with 191 points.
The drivers had four qualifying laps, and a total of ten minutes to set their best times. Sai Prithvi qualified with a time of 1:12.332 to head the starting grid, with the second place going to Amith Kutti who was just 0.024 seconds behind him. The second row of the grid had Abdul Fattah and Abdul Azim.
Sai Prithvi held his lead as the lights went green. Much of the field dove into the apron (Corners 1 and 2), to stay away from the 24 degrees of banking, with no changes in positions. Heading towards the road course section, Kutti braked later than Prithvi, which led to significant contact and took them both out of the race.
Along with the crash, a few other racers including Abdul Qadir and Abdul Hadi also lost control coming out of Nascar 2. Abdul Azim was able to snatch the lead, before a safety car period, the first one this season. After the safety car ended and the racers were getting ready for rolling start, there was yet again a crash between Raymond Samervel and Mudit Grover. Due to the crash, the restart of the race was briefly deferred, as there was debris spread across a large area.
When the race finally restarted, Azim got a good lead over Abdul Fattah, who in any case was nursing a broken rear wing. Going into the road course, Fattah spun out, crashing into Chewang Lama and a few others. Kaushick Mohanraja also momentarily lost control in the infield section. Meanwhile Azim was still in the lead, with Vikash Anand now in second place, his best performance so far, with Divyang Dodia in third place.
Soon, both Prithvi and Kutti had joined the race, and the battle for the lead was in the process of heating up. Divyang Dodia was able to get ahead of Anand, before Anand tried an adventurous move on Dodia, ending with both going into the wall and demolishing their suspensions. Kruger, too, was collected into the ensuing chaos. The crash, however, moved Karan Kowshik to the second position, while Azim was far ahead, further solidifying his lead to 7 seconds.
The battle, however, was still going on for second place. Meanwhile Sai Prithvi was now in fourth place, and raring to get back onto the podium. Just outside draft range, Yadav was just three-tenths of a second behind third-placed racer Swaraj Yadav. Going into Nascar 1, Prithvi dived into the turn, snatching the third place from Yadav. Prithvi was still pushing a considerable pace, and had his mind set on taking away the second place from Karan Kowshik, who was within range. Going back to the Speedway oval and Prithvi once again took the inside line, this time besting Kowshik.
Sai Prithvi won four of the five rounds last season, but seemed to be in a tough spot this time around, with only one second-place finish. Despite being the fastest car on the track in this moment, he was still over 8 seconds behind race leader Azim. For his part, Azim was doing his best, in an attempt to make this a fruitful round, and garner enough points for a favourable position in the overall standings, especially considering the upcoming finale.
Down the line, Kutti was able to catch up to Raut, to take up the ninth position, moving into the outside line and taking the slipstream. His tactic, however, did not pay off, as he came very close to the tyre barrier as he made his way into the infield sector, and lost quite a bit of time as well.
With five laps to go, the fastest lap was in the low 1:12-minute span. Meanwhile, P3 was up for grabs by Swaraj Yadav, who was a mere four-tenths of a second behind Karan Kowshik. With Kruger pulling into the pits and the next driver a good 35 seconds behind, this has now truly become a battle among just the top four.
For his part, Kowshik was doing his best to get ahead, though Samervel was fiercely guarding his spot. However, while moving into the sharp left hander that leads back to the Speedway, Yadav hit the back of Kaushik’s car, shearing off his back wing. Now, though Kaushik was able to get out of the shunt relatively unhurt, an absent rear wing meant he spun out just some distance ahead and went hard into the fence, handing the third spot to Yadav.
Now in third spot, Yadav was still a good ten seconds behind Prithvi who was P2, and himself about 6.5 seconds behind leader Azim. With under a minute to go on the clock, Azim was well within range to lap Kutti, who was about 1:11 minutes behind Azim in total time.
Ultimately, Abdul Azim won race one, managing to keep the car clean and dominating the length of the race for his first ever round victory. Sai Prithvi came in at second place, while Swaraj Yadav rounded off the podium. Amith Kutti, who has dominated the season so far, could only manage an eighth-place finish.
As before, the second race of the round had the first 12 racers in reverse grid, with a rolling start. Divyang Dodia was leading the grid, followed by Najeeb Ahamed in second place, Raymond Samervel in third, Rohit Raut in fourth, Amith Kutti in fifth, Abdul Fattah in sixth, Abdul Raqeeb in seventh, Mudit Grover in eighth, Karan Kowshik in ninth, Swaraj Yadav in tenth, Sai Prithvi in eleventh and Abdul Azim in twelfth. Vikash Anand, Jeffrey Kruger, Avinash Gupta, Chewang Lama, Kaushik Mohanraja, Oshan Kothadiya, Abdul Hadi, Abdul Qadir and Sunil Kukde made up the rest of the places, till 21.
When the green flag dropped, Dodia reacted quick, aiming to make the most of his lead, with Ahamed staying within drafting distance. Turning into the infield, and it was a repeat of race one, with multiple cars either colliding or spinning out. Ahamed, Samervel, Qadir and Raqeeb were among the ones involved, while others like Fatah spun out, and were spared the damage.
Dodia was still in the lead, with Fattah second. Lap 2 started with Fattah taking the race lead, with Sai Prithvi taking P2. Meanwhile, Kaushick Mohanraja was able to move up to fifth. It had been a disastrous run for Kutti, who was right behind Chewang Lama on the track, and had an incident requiring him to get back to the pits for a fast-repair, a move sure to open up a scrap for the top spot in the season finale.
In the battle for sixth place, Yadav was able to get the better of Chewang Lama, although it took Lama just a few moments to fight back, aggressively going into the inside for the turn leading back to the Oval section. However, Lama’s manoeuvre led to contact with Yadav, sending him out of the track and into the barriers.
At the front, it was Abdul Fattah doing his best to stay ahead from Prithvi, who was now a significant 2.467 seconds behind. Down the grid, Kaushick Mohanraja was under attack by Oshan Kothadiya, just 0.550 seconds behind. Going out of the infield section, Mohanraja spun out, allowing Kothadiya to get ahead and set his sights on Karan Kowshik, and fifth place. The next time into the infield section, and Kothadiya was able to get the inside line and slip out from under Kowshik.
Kowshik, however, made a few mistakes going into the infield section the next time around, which caused him to drop to P9, before reaching a high enough speed on the oval section which let him take the inside line off Kruger and get back to P8.
With half the race remaining, Mohanraja hit Kowshik, flipping him over. In the ensuing chaos, Vikash Anand was able to sneak ahead, and gain a quick five seconds. Up in front, Kothadiya was able to make up time from his fight with Kukde, with a lead of close to three seconds. All the while, Fattah continued to dominate at the front, his strongest overall performance this season. His pace was comparable to Prithvi's, even outpacing him in a few sections.
Fifth-placed Kothadiya was also setting 1:13-minute timings, which is about an eight of a second off the race leader’s pace. Amith Kutti, meanwhile, was in the tenth spot, with race 1 winner Abdul Azim just behind him.
With seven minutes remaining on the clock, Kukde collided with Anand, but somehow still managed to hang onto P6. Sai Pritvi, meanwhile, set the fastest lap of 1:12.3 and was now gradually reeling in the draft from the race leader. In the mean time, Rahul Raut was in third place, trying to up his pace, setting faster times than Dodia and even Fattah at the moment.
With five laps to go, and another three-tenths closed in by Sai Prithvi, looking at his first win of the season. Bringing his gap down to 1.3 seconds, Prithvi was able to gain another tenths going into the infield off Nascar 3, setting another fastest lap of 1:12.345 minutes. His championship rival Kutti was languishing in ninth place, close to two seconds behind Kruger.
At the front, Fattah was desperately trying to stay ahead, as the Prithvi had reduced the gap to 1.1 seconds, with three laps to go. Heading to the infield, Kutti gained another tenth of a second, and was back inside the slipstream of the race leader. However, getting to the entry into the Oval section, Prithvi overshot the corner, losing about half-a-second and his shot at the win in one fell swoop.
With two laps to go, Kutti was trying his best to pass Kruger and get to the eighth spot. Kruger was the first car who had to come in for a fast-repair this race, and had not had any major incidents, though, throughout this run. Going into the final lap, Prithvi was back to a 1.2-second gap behind Fattah, but with 30 seconds on the clock, his chances of getting onto the top spot of the podium were bleak.
Ultimately, Abdul Fattah bagged the victory at the Texas Motor Speedway, his first win of the season, with Sai Prithvi coming in second and Rohit Raut in third place. Amith Kutti, so far the season champion, came in at ninth place in race two, dropping a spot down from his previous race finish, while Abdul Azim, who won race one, had to make do with the tenth spot this time around.