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Close battle between team Mumbai Falcon and the Bangalore Racing Stars at the second and final round of the X1 Racing league in Chennai.
The first round of the X1 Racing League at the Buddh International Circuit was a commendable start to one of the most unique race formats to be executed. Both Armaan Ebrahim and Aditya Patel have worked tirelessly to reel in the best domestic and international racing talent. A downer, however, was that though the cars were supposed to be 1.4-litre powered JA Motorsport race cars (Radical SR3-spec), last minute budget constraints forced the league to get Formula BMW racecars which were a part of JK Tyre’s National Racing Championship as the Euro JK Series. This year’s edition consisted of two rounds, with the inaugural round held at the BIC (at the JK Tyre Festival of Speed) and the second round at the MMRT yesterday.
The Bangalore and Mumbai team had all the luck on their side when it came to healthy cars, along with a skillful combo of drivers, both factors favouring them at the two rounds of the X1 Racing League. The Bangalore Racing Stars put on a great show at the BIC round with drivers Arjun Maini, Oliver Webb, Vishnu Prasad and Michelle Gatting finishing on podium in both the races on the opening day. The Bangalore drivers also raced hard in the unique relay format held on the second day at the BIC.
One major rule to note was the mandatory driver change after 20 minutes with a 90-second stop in the pitlane (Including driver swap). In Sirish’s article, he did mention the woes of performing a driver change in an open-wheel formula car and why it is such a pain. On a positive note though, the teams had somewhat perfected a quick driver change at the Chennai round, where the driver would partly unbuckle himself as he came to a stop, the crew and the next driver would help him out along with his seat foam, all under 80 seconds, which meant they still had 10 seconds to wait till they could head out to blaze the track.
There was also a dangerous incident between a DG Racing car and a Mumbai Falcon car in the pits thanks to the miscommunication with the driver and the pit crew. The DG Racing driver, Chittesh Mandody was exiting his 90-second stop, but the pit-crew did not realise that Kush Maini has entered the pitlane and was exactly parallel to their car. With no time to slow down, the DG Races car tapped the rear end of Kush’s car, which went sliding, almost hitting the pit garage shutter and taking out a bystander with him.
Coming back to the competition in Chennai, the first race started with 12 cars, but six of them had a mechanical issue, especially one of the Hyderabad Black Bird’s which had been in the pits during both the practice sessions due to only one bank of cylinders firing. Mumbai Falcons managed to put in their best time to start on pole (03:15.671mins) ahead of DG Racing Ahmedabad who started P2 (03:18.233mins). Hyderabad Black Birds got their car fixed just in time for qualifying, with car no. 9 managing the third spot on the Race 1 grid and #5 starting in P9.
Both the Mumbai and Bangalore cars got off to a good start, but the latter had a better pace throughout the 13-minute span before the safety car came out on track - Mumbai Falcon’s Car no. 2, driven by British racer Pippa Mann suffered an engine failure. The teams were required to make a mandatory driver change between the ninth and 14th-minute window and Bangalore, powered by Arjun Maini and England’s Oliver Webb got it spot on, holding off a late-charging Mumbai (Kush Maini and Mikkel Jensen) to win the race. Hyderabad (Vitantonio Liuzzi and Gosia Rdest) completed the podium. The drivers could push only during the one lap that was left after the safety car went back in, letting Team Bangalore Racing Stars take the chequered flag for the first race. Mumbai Falcons finished in second place.
Due to the host of problems suffered by each team with their cars (unfortunately one car from each team), the authorities decided to make the second race a six-car grid with lowered the chances of close-competition. Mumbai Falcons shone in the race with more than a 15-second lead on the second-placed AD Racing Delhi car no. 16. Bangalore Racing Stars did, however, clock the fastest lap time in the race for which they earn extra points. The team again set the fastest lap time in the third race (grid was decided on the fastest laps from race 1) with a 1:37.314 minute lap time, marginally quicker than their previous best. Mumbai Falcon’s Kush Maini and Mikkel Jensen were in the groove, with their pace being the same even after Kush swapped with Mikkel. The incident in the pits, too, didn’t stop him from his rage to gap the pack, again with a 6-7 second lead. Bangalore Racing Stars managed to finish second in the last race, adding to their roster of wins to earn the title.
Barring all race incidents and the disappointing state of a few of the cars, the feat by Armaan and Aditya is highly applaudable. A racing league of this sort, with this kind of portfolio of drivers from home and around the globe, is seriously no cakewalk. The cars and the problems that came with them were no fault of theirs, but Armaan did bluntly mention “These cars won’t be used in the next edition”. The next edition will surely see some street circuit action and have more rounds to make it a more spectator-focused sport. The relay race, in my opinion, has tremendous potential into becoming an epic spectacle for weekends.
The results (Provisional):
Race-1: 1. Bengaluru Racing Stars (Arjun Maini / Oliver Webb) (27:23:458 minutes); 2. Mumbai Falcons (Kush Maini / Michel Jensen) (27:24.018); 3. Blackbirds Hyderabad (Vitantonio Liuzzi / Gosia Rdest) (27:28.969).
Race-2: 1. Mumbai Falcons (28:02:222 minutes); 2. AD Racing Delhi (Gaurav Gill / Raghul Rangasamy) (28:21:637); 3. Bangalore Racing Stars (28:25:847).
Race-3: 1. Mumbai Falcons (27:59:175 minutes); 2. Bangalore Racing Stars (28:03.838); 3. Blackbirds Hyderabad (Luizzi / Akhil Rabindra) (28:28.382).