Canada wins explosive Sprint race
||A1GP in Durban
|Sunday, February 24, 2008
A1 Team Canada secured its first ever Sprint race victory in this morning’s action-packed race held around the streets of Durban in glorious sunshine. Switzerland regained the title lead as France failed to score any points and New Zealand picked up one point for setting the fastest lap.
Eighteen-year-old rookie Robert Wickens, the youngest ever pole-sitter in A1GP, got a good start. He was hit from behind by New Zealand’s Jonny Reid at the first turn, losing his five second lead due to a safety car period towards the end of the thrilling 15-lap race. However, Wickens managed to keep Great Britain and Switzerland behind him to take Canada’s maiden Sprint race victory and the first win of his A1GP career.
'I knew that we had a very good chance at winning the race because we were quick in qualifying and we had a really solid race car through practice,' Wickens said.
'I was basically going into the start with my whole goal just to make it into the first corner well, and that was slightly hairy. I braked and I think either Jonny thought I was going to brake later or maybe he over shot it, I don’t know. I’m not going to jump to any conclusions but I saw him coming really quick behind me so I actually let off the brake to try and give him more space, but we still made contact and damaged my car a little bit as well.'
GBR’s Oliver Jarvis, who was wheel-to-wheel with Jonny Reid in Black Beauty as the pack tussled for position going into turn one, managed to gain two places and hold second position, despite sustaining damage to the distinctive red, white and blue car.
‘I got a great start and managed to break extremely late around the outside,' Jarvis said. 'I actually thought I was going to get the lead but unfortunately New Zealand tagged Robbie Wickens of Canada, which just pushed him out wide which compromised me a little bit. Then as I tried to go around the outside of the corner, New Zealand again drove into the side of me and damaged the car quite a bit. I managed to get into second but from then on I was really struggling so was never quick enough to challenge for the lead but was happy to finish on the podium.'
Reid was forced to pit for repairs and was finally classified 21st.
Canada and GBR were joined on the podium by Switzerland’s Neel Jani. The 24-year-old Swiss star started the race fifth and made up two places to score crucial championship points for his nation and regain the title lead from New Zealand.
China’s Congfu Cheng was on superb form, racing from 10th on the grid to finish fourth. Fifth place was taken by the Netherlands’ Jeroen Bleekemolen, despite being taken out of the race as it approached its final lap by Germany’s Michael Ammermuller.
Following a safety car period for Bruno Junqueira, who hit the wall on lap nine after bouncing over the curbs on the chicane and damaging the bodywork of the Brazilian car, the action restarted with just two laps remaining. The pressure was on and with Germany close behind the Netherlands, Ammermuller pushed to overtake, running into the back of the Dutch car at the final corner. It took them both out of the race and bringing it to a premature conclusion.
The race was stopped, and results counted from the end of the 11th lap. German driver Michael Ammermuller was later excluded from the race for this maneuver, but it allowed the Netherlands to keep the position.
A1 Team Australia’s John Martin, who was hospitalized overnight with a suspected stomach bug, brought his car home in an impressive sixth position while Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque finished seventh on his A1GP race debut with Mexico and Malaysia finishing behind.
France’s Loic Duval, who arrived in South Africa on Saturday morning from a prior commitment in Japan, finished the incident-packed race 11th behind USA’s Jonathan Summerton in 10th.
India started the Sprint race from the back of the grid and will start the Feature race from the same position, as the team chose to replace regular race driver Narain Karthikeyan, who injured his wrist in free practice on Friday, with rookie Parthiva Sureshwaren.
||Cheng Cong Fu
Fastest lap: A1 Team New Zealand's Jonny Reid set the fastest lap (1m18.629s) of the Sprint race on lap three.
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