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France ends victory drought with win in rain

A1GP Sprint Race
Sunday, February 03, 2008

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Loic Duval
Australia - A1 Team France has taken the title lead in the thrilling 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season, having dominated this morning's wet Sprint race at Sydney's Eastern Creek from start to finish to take its first win in 37 races.

Loic Duval pulled out a comfortable lead at the start of the 14-lap race and was never threatened by the remaining 21-car pack, continuing to pull away from Switzerland and New Zealand as the rain got heavier. Duval finally crossed the line in first place, nine seconds ahead of Jonny Reid in Black Beauty, who masterfully snatched second position from Neel Jani on lap nine. The Swiss driver spun off later in the race and lost valuable championship points.

The win is 25-year-old Frenchman Duval's first victory in A1GP and ends season one champion France's race win drought. The team has not occupied the top step of the podium since Alexandre Premat won the Mexico Feature race in 2006.

Top-3 (L to R) Reid, Duval and Wickens
France and New Zealand were joined on the podium by 18-year-old Canadian rookie Robert Wickens, who put in an incredible performance in the wet to race from 15th on the grid to a finish in a superb third place and pick up ten valuable championship points for his nation.

Germany's Michael Ammermüller crossed the line fourth having started from seventh on the grid, closely followed by USA's Jonathan Summerton in fifth, the team's best finish so far this season.

Host nation A1 Team Australia's John Martin gave his home fans something to cheer about, pushing hard throughout the race and improving three places from the start to cross the line in sixth position, ahead of South Africa's Adrian Zaugg and Brazil's Sergio Jimenez in seventh and eighth places respectively.

The Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen finished the incident-packed race ninth while Switzerland's Neel Jani, who was running in second for much of the race, fell back to tenth after he ran wide with two laps to go.

Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, whose race engineer had struggled from his hospital bed to stand on the pit wall with his broken leg in a plaster cast, got a great start from eighth on the grid but lost time when the team decided to pit for wet tires on lap eight, ultimately crossing the line a disappointing 16th.

The 22 nations are now preparing for the main event of the weekend at Eastern Creek, a thrilling 70-minute Feature race with two compulsory pit stops, which starts at 15:00 this afternoon.

France's Loic Duval, who took his first ever A1GP win in what he says will be his last event for the team this year, reflected on what the result means to him and the team:

'It feels great. We've been running behind for a long time so it's really good for us to win this race and the team did a great job. It was perfect and we needed it. It was important for us to win a race and this may be my last race in A1GP so I'm really happy to leave the series with a victory. It was really hard in the rain but because of our pace in the dry conditions I had a really good gap so we were not really worried about the other guys. We were just trying to stay on the track and not take any risks.'

New Zealand's Jonny Reid, who raced to a solid second place from fourth on the grid, and is starting this afternoon's Feature race from pole, said:

'We had to fight for it a little bit. It was a good battle with Neel and once I got in front I gradually pulled away and started concentrating on Loic, but he was doing a good job in tricky conditions and I didn't want to take any risks and compromise the championship. Pole for the Feature race is a good position to start from but as we've seen before a million times it's tricky. We've got a lot of competition out there and everyone's in the hunt. We can really do a good job but it's going to be interesting to see what the weather does.'

Eighteen-year-old Canada's Robert Wickens, who put in an amazing performance to race from 15th to third, commented on the wet conditions:

'It was a great drive. We were struggling a little bit with the pace in the dry and we were just running in 13th or 14th. I think I had more trust in the car early on in the race and I actually made the majority of my passes when it was at the intermediate stage. A lot of drivers were staying on the dry line and I was one of the first ones to go on the wet line. If it rains in the Feature race we can just hope for the best and try to score some more points.'

Sprint race results

POS DRIVER A1 TEAM LAPS TIME GAP FIRST
1 Loic DUVAL FRANCE 14 20:18.536 -
2 Jonny REID NEW ZEALAND 14 20:27.734 +9.198
3 Robert WICKENS CANADA 14 20:29.552 +11.016
4 Michael AMMERMÜLLER GERMANY 14 20:30.465 +11.929
5 Jonathan SUMMERTON USA 14 20:31.140 +12.604
6 John MARTIN AUSTRALIA 14 20:32.746 +14.210
7 Adrian ZAUGG SOUTH AFRICA 14 20:33.059 +14.523
8 Sergio JIMENEZ BRAZIL 14 20:48.796 +30.260
9 Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN NETHERLANDS 14 20:52.007 +33.471
10 Neel JANI SWITZERLAND 14 20:52.342 +33.806
11 Narain KARTHIKEYAN INDIA 14 21:03.278 +44.742
12 Joao URBANO PORTUGAL 14 21:04.667 +46.131
13 Edoardo PISCOPO ITALY 14 21:04.732 +46.196
14 Congfu CHENG CHINA 14 21:07.959 +49.423
15 Adam CARROLL IRELAND 14 21:08.836 +50.300
16 Robbie KERR GREAT BRITAIN 14 21:15.251 +56.715
17 David GARZA MEXICO 14 21:21.382 +1:02.846
18 Tomas ENGE CZECH REPUBLIC 14 21:21.569 +1:03.033
19 Chris ALAJAJIAN LEBANON 14 21:23.565 +1:05.029
20 Fairuz FAUZY MALAYSIA 14 21:39.416 +1:20.880
21 Satrio HERMANTO INDONESIA 14 21:41.178 +1:22.642
22 Adam KHAN PAKISTAN 1 01:33.270 13 Laps

Fastest lap: A1 Team France's Loic Duval set the fastest lap (1m19.350s) of the Sprint race on lap two.

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