Shameem Fahath took the lead in race one while Aditya Raghav won race two
The first round of the Indo-Ceylon Virtual GP, held in association with the Federation of Motors Sports Clubs of India (FMSCI) and Ceylon Motor Sports Club (CMSC), and supported by Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) Action for Road Safety, was kicked off with race one taking place at the Red Bull Ring, Speilberg, Austria, and race two at the Fuji International Speedway in Oyama, Japan. Indian racers Shameem Fahath and Aditya Raghav set a dominant first round, taking the wins in races one and two respectively.
The Indo-Ceylon GP was held on the Gran Turismo Racing platform. As with most other virtual races, the GT3-class cars were all running a fixed setup, with medium-soft tyres. However, adding in a dimension of difficulty, racers had to keep a keen eye on the condition of their tyres and their fuel level, as tyre wear was set to eight times quicker and fuel depletion seven times the normal speed as compared to a full-distance race. Further, the race progress was scrutinised by stewards, ensuring all four wheels on track, with penalties for actions like corner-cutting.
Race one was a 10-lap race, held at the 4.318km long Red Bull Ring. The track, built in 1971 was initially christened the Osterreichring, and held F1 races till 1987. After that it was shortened, rebuilt and renamed the A1-Ring (A Eins-Ring), hosting the Austrian Grand Prix from 1997 to 2003. When Formula One outgrew the circuit, parts of the circuit including the pits and main grandstand were demolished, before the entire track complex was purchased by Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz and rebuilt, renamed the Red Bull Ring, and reopened in 2011.
Aditya Raghav qualified on pole with a time of 1:27.04 minutes, followed by Ravikiran who was 0.592 seconds behind. Shameem Fahath was P3, while Huzeifa Jafferjee from Sri Lanka was P4.
Race 1 –
As the lights went green, Prateek Benya was able to take the early lead, followed by Shameem Fahath, with Ravikiran in third and Aditya Raghav in fourth place. Going into Remus (Corner 2 after the long straight) Shameem took the lead, pushing Prateek down to second place. Meanwhile, the third place was still Ravikiran, though Pradyumna Prakash from seemingly the back of the grid made his way up to fourth place. At the end of Lap 1, it was Shameem in the lead, with Prateek in second and Ravikiran in third place.
Coming in to Lap 2 and the top three places were knit closely, with Shameem still in the lead, about 0.244 seconds ahead of Prateek, and Ravikiran 0.159 seconds behind him in P3. Going again into Remus, and Shameem was able to increase his lead to over half-a-second, while Ravikiran was almost knocking on Prateek’s door from just a tenth of a second away.
Out of Schlossgold (Corner 3) and into Rauch (Corner 4), Shameem’s lead over Prateek went down marginally to 0.495 second. Meanwhile, Pradyumna Prakash dropped to P4 after being passed by Aditya Raghav. Coming back into the start-finish straight and Prateek was given a slow down penalty (used in the Gran Turismo racing platform to deter ‘dirty racing’) of half-a-second.
Going past the Niki Lauda curve (a corner during the shorter loop races) Amith Kutti passed Pradyumna Prakash from the outside, relegating him to P6. Huzeifa Jafferjee ran wide into Remus, and was unable to gain the lead. Meanwhile both Kutti and Prakash were running almost side by side, with Prakash regaining the lead, but barely. Their proximity, however, meant a chance contact from Huzeifa saw Kutti ploughing into Prakash, causing both of them to go off the grid. Meanwhile, Huzeifa was now in P5 with the field behind him sparse, as a few other racers also went off track as well.
At the start of Lap 4, and the top four racers were very close, with just over a second separating them. Shameem was still leading the pack, with Prateek just half-a-second behind. Aditya Raghav tried to pass Ravi Kiran when going past the Niki Lauda curve, but his advances were fended off. However, by taking the inside line and braking in late for Remus, Raghav was able to get past Kiran. For his part, Huzeifa was still in P5, but not close enough, though he got his chance when Ravikiran went in for his pitstop.
At the halfway point, Huzeifa was in the second spot, just behind Shameem, with Raghav in P3. With the front runners now all going into the pits, Thiyago Pereira was leading the race, however he too got a slow down penalty. Following Pereira was Thiran Pereira. Lap 7 and both Thiyago Periera and Thiran Pereira pitted, handing the race lead back to Shameem, with Ravikiran seven-tenths of a second behind him in P2, and Huzeifa in P3 keeping Aditya Raghav at bay.
Lap 8 and the gap between Shameem and Ravi Kiran had come down to four-tenths of a second. Though Ravikiran did try the inside line at Remus, he was suitably refuted by Shameem, who still maintained a three-tenths gap. Finally, Ravi Kiran was able to sneak past Shameem at Schlossgold, though they were almost bumper-to-bumper at Rauch and Wurth, the gap staying at just two-tenths of a second as they get to the start-finish straight, going into the penultimate lap. Just down the line, the battle for the last podium spot, between Raghav and Huzeifa, was heating up as well.
Coming back to the top two, and the gap was up to half-a-second between Ravikiran and Shameem as they came into Schlossgold. The gap stayed about the same, fluctuating around the half-a-second to four-tenths till Red Bull Mobile, where Ravikiran was yet again slapped with a 0.4-second penalty.
Going into the final lap, and Shameem’s difference from Ravikiran’s time at four tenths of a second, was identical to the penalty he had been slapped with, which meant Shameem still had a chance at the top spot on the podium. And stepping past Remus, luck favoured Shameem as he was able to get past Ravikiran. Going into Schlossgold it looked like Ravikiran had miscalculated braking distances and bumped into Shameem’s rear bumper, despite which Shameem held on to his line.
Going into the penultimate corner at Rindt, Ravikiran did try to go inside Shameem’s line, but was unable to do so. Ultimately, Shameem took the win in the first race at the Indo-Ceylon Grand Prix, with Ravikiran coming in second and Aditya Raghav in third place.
Race 2 –
Race 2 of the Indo-Ceylon GP was a reverse-grid race held at the Fuji international Speedway in Oyama, Japan. Just as the venue of the previous race, the Red Bull Ring, is owned by Red Bull, similarly, the Fuji track is owned by Toyota. Built in the 1960s and originally conceived as a Nascar-style oval, it was acquired by Toyota from previous owners Mitsubishi Estate, a sister concern of the Mitsubishi car brand. The 4.563km track has 16 corners and one of the longest straights, at 1.475km
The race started with Devin on pole, followed by Huzaifa in second place and Kaushalya in third. As the lights went green, Prateek and Pradyumna got a good jump off the line, pushing Huzaifa down to third place. However, Huzaifa fought back in the next corner, rising to second, while Pradyumna took the lead, with P3 going to Thiyago Pereira. Going into the Corner 4 right hander (100R), Pradyumna and Huzeifa took each other off the circuit, causing them to drop to P7 and P8 respectively, briefly giving the lead to Thiyago Pereira, before Aditya Raghav passed him in at Corner 6 (Hairpin).
In the next corner (Dunlop), Kaushalya Samerasinghe passed Raghav, while Aditya Bakshi made his way to P3. Soon Raghav regained his lead, with Bakshi right behind him, the arrangement continuing into the start-finish straight, with Pradyumna Prakash making his way to P3 and Huzeifa in P4.
Into Corner 7 of Lap 2, and last race’s winner Shameem was in P5, with Thiyago Periera in P6 and Amith Kutti in P7, with less than a second’s gap between the two. Soon, Kutti was able to pass Pereira. Meanwhile, stewards warned Pradyumna in P3 for causing an incident with Huzeifa (P4). Up ahead, Aditya Raghav was in the lead, a hefty 4.399 seconds ahead of Aditya Bakshi.
Shameem, now in P5, was doing his best to catch up with Huzeifa, who had reduced his gap with Pradyumna to just 0.483 seconds. Soon, Huzeifa was able to pass Pradyumna, going into the start-finish straight, and before long, Shameem as ahead of Pradyumna as well.
At the halfway point, Huzeifa went into the pits to refuel. Pradyumna tried to get ahead of Shameem in Corner 1, and not only was he refuted, but Amith Kutti also took advantage of the gap, pushing Pradyumna further down, to P5. Throughout the duration of the lap, Shameem and Amith were vying for P3, however, Amith was able to definitively push Shameem back in the final few corners, and as the racers entered the start-finish straight, Pradyumna was handed a 10-second penalty for causing an avoidable incident, which would definitely add up in the final results. By the end of Lap 5, the five front runners (Aditya Raghav, Amith Kutti, Shameem, Pradyumna Prakash and Aditya Bakshi) jumped into the pits, giving the lead momentarily to Delvin Hindle, who was followed by Thiyago Periera and Prateek.
After a lightning-fast pitstop, Aditya Raghav was back in the lead, followed by Amith Kutti and Aditya Bakshi. Meanwhile Shameem, Thiyago, Pradyumna and Prateek were refuelling. Getting back out, and Shameem slotted in after Huzeifa (P4), and was followed by Pradyumna and Ravikiran. Throughout Lap 6, Shameem and Huzeifa were engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse with both of them passing each other more than once, before Shameem was finally able to get ahead entering the Netz corner, the penultimate corner before the start-finish straight. While this was going on, Amith Kutti was able to get past Aditya Bakshi, and into P2 behind Aditya Raghav, who set yet another fastest lap, with a time of 1:37.661 minutes.
With three laps to go, Amith Kutti went in for refuelling, once again letting Aditya Bakshi get to P2, and slotting in after him. A little further, Prateek pulled a deft inside-line overtake on Huzeifa coming out of the start-finish straight, relegating him to P7. Up front, Aditya Raghav had a mammoth lead of 9.560 seconds over Aditya Bakshi, who himself was 2.308 seconds ahead of Amith Kutti. .
Lap 8, and the top three were all Indian racers, namely Aditya Raghav, Aditya Bakshi, and Amith Kutti. Behind them were Shameem in P4, Pradyumna in P5 and Prateek in P6. With two laps to go to the finish, there was still no real picture on how proceedings were to end, as drivers like Amith Kutti and Pradyumna Prakash were already on the stewards’ radars, for penalties like Huzeifa was handed the last time around. Stewards were chiefly watching for offences like excessive weaving, avoidable collisions, and corner cutting.
The penultimate lap went without incident, with Aditya Raghav, Aditya Bakshi and Amith Kutti maintaining the status quo. For his part, Aditya Raghav bettered his fastest lap record, setting a new time of 1:37.422 minutes. Going into Netz, Amith Kutti seemed to step out of line, before somehow settling all four wheels back into alignment.
The final lap had Aditya Raghav in a comfortable lead, after a superb display of aggression at the start, climbing to the lead from all the way back in P12, to an almost 11-second gap over Aditya Bakshi in P2. The stewards, meanwhile, were still undecided on the quantum of penalty on Amith Kutti, though he was still a good 4.710 seconds ahead of Shameem, in P4. And in an exciting final lap, final corner move, Amith Kutti, after feigning a weave, took the inside line pass on Aditya Bakshi.
Ultimately, it was Aditya Raghav who took the win in race 2 of the Indo-Ceylon Grand Prix, with Amith Kutti taking the second place, a whopping 12.347 seconds behind, and Aditya Bakshi rounding off the podium in an almost photo finish-worthy gap of 0.067 seconds.
Additionally, Aditya Raghav’s performance – a third-place finish in race 1 and a win in race 2 – puts him at the lead in the championship with 16 points, with Shameem Fahath in second place and Amith Kutti in third.
Round two of the championship will be held soon, and will promise equally exciting racing action, so stay tuned!