India wins A1GP season finale
A1 A1 Team India secured its second win of the season when Narain Karthikeyan took victory in the Brands Hatch season finale Feature race this afternoon while GBR's Robbie Kerr notched up another home race podium after a beautiful drive, just losing out to India during the second round of pit stops.
Twenty-eight-year-old Kerr maintained his second place grid spot behind Karthikeyan at the start, pressuring the race leader in the opening stages of the 48-lap race. When India and third-placed Ireland made their first mandatory pit stop on lap eight, GBR opted to stay out in clean air and come in on lap nine. After a fantastic pit stop from the British crew, Kerr rejoined in the lead ahead of India and Ireland. The British racer held P1 until his second compulsory stop on lap 32 when he emerged just behind India to rejoin the action in second. Kerr was unable to pass Karthikeyan during the remaining laps and went on to cross the line second and secure third place overall for GBR in the final championship standings.
Newly crowned A1GP champion A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani joined India and GBR on the podium in third position, the Swiss racer's 11th podium finish of the season, while China's Congfu Cheng finished in a superb fourth place after a great weekend at a circuit he knows well from his British F3 days.
Fifth place was taken by Franck Montagny, helping France secure fourth position in the championship. Montagny was followed across the line by the Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen in a solid sixth, moving the Dutch team into seventh overall in the championship, four points ahead of Germany in eighth.
New Zealand's Jonny Reid did just enough to secure second in the championship behind Switzerland, who took the prestigious title honors this morning. Reid carved his way through the pack from 17th to seventh during the course of the 48-lap race, partly due to swift work in the pits from the New Zealand squad. Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque snatched seventh from the Kiwi with just four laps remaining, demoting Reid to eighth at the checkered flag, which was enough to take second in the championship, beating GBR by just one point for the second consecutive season.
Indonesia's Satrio Hermanto crossed the line 10th to score his nation's first point this season. Hermanto put in a superb effort to hang onto the final points-paying position, after last lap pressure from the Czech Republic and South Africa.
Ireland's Adam Carroll, who was on course for another podium finish after a sterling drive to third in the Sprint race this morning, crossed the line 13th to secure sixth in the final championship standings. Carroll got a great start and ran in third for the first part of the race, before losing his car's front wing and being forced to pit for repairs outside the compulsory pit stop windows. The Northern Irish star was clearly pushing hard after rejoining in 18th on lap 20, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap 44.
Defending champion A1 Team Germany endured a disappointing end to season three, finishing eighth in the overall standings. Michael Ammermüller finished 11th in the Sprint race and 19th in the Feature, after a puncture just 10 laps from the end, when he was running in third place, ruined his chances of a podium position this afternoon.
Australia's John Martin and Pakistan's Adam Khan were involved in a racing incident on lap two of the Feature race, which put them both out of the action early and brought out the safety car for six laps.
Today's Feature race marked the end of an era as it was the 64th and final race outing for the Zytek-powered A1GP Lola cars. From season four onwards, Ferrari will manufacture and supply the A1GP engines and consult on the design and manufacture of the A1GP chassis. The first round of season four will take place at the Mugello circuit in Italy on 19-21 September 2008.
Narain Karthikeyan, who took his maiden A1GP race win in Zhuhai, China in December last year, was delighted to score India's second race win:
'I think I made a good start. Robbie tried to go round the outside but I defended that move. When we came out of the first pit stop I had a coming together with Adam Carroll - I didn't see him because I had a moment and he tried to go up the inside and I hit him. But anyway, a great result for A1 Team India and after the final pit stop my car was mega. I made a mistake at Sheen but at the end it was all good!'
Robbie Kerr, who won this morning's Sprint race from pole and finished second in the main event this afternoon, was visibly disappointed to just miss out on doing the double on home soil:
'It was a fantastic weekend for GBR, it was just a shame we couldn't pull the second win off. Narain and I were so equal and after the first pit stop we thought we had done enough. Then unfortunately the second pit stop didn't quite go our way, but it's a team sport and we all worked hard. It's just one of those things.'
Commenting on almost taking second from New Zealand in the championship for the second year running, Kerr said:
'The guys told me the situation and of course it was frustrating and I wanted to push but I had to consolidate third place in the championship as well. There was no point mucking it up with Narain and tangling over nothing, so we pushed and made sure we got a good result and unfortunately again, we were a couple of points off second place in the championship but we will fight on for next year and I'm sure it's going to be even tighter and closer with the new cars.'
Neel Jani, who secured the title for Switzerland when he finished fourth in this morning's Sprint race, celebrated the championship honors with a podium finish in the Feature race this afternoon, the final race of season three.
'This is the greatest moment of my career,' said an emotional Jani. 'I can't put it into words at this moment. A1GP has been getting tougher every season and this year we got the title. After the first race, winning the title with fourth place felt a little empty but after the podium it feels fantastic. I was a little bit worried by still being sixth after the first pit stop but we had a great second stop and great pace afterwards. Brands Hatch gave us a fantastic atmosphere and a great place to win the title.'
Twenty-four-year-old Jonny Reid, who did just enough today to fend off GBR and take silver in the World Cup of Motorsport, reflected on a dramatic season finale and an incredible year:
'I'm knackered,' Reid said. 'That was such an intense drive. We put everything into it and thankfully got everything out of it. We struggled with rear grip throughout the race, but it didn't matter in the end. I was pleased with my drive, the pit stops were great and the result was fantastic. I look back and see a lot of areas where things got away on us and think we could've won this championship. At the end of the day, second overall is a great achievement, especially with our tough finish to the campaign. Life wasn't easy. Over the three seasons we've been the most consistent nation in this championship and that's something to be proud of."
2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport FINAL points standings
Fastest lap: A1 Team Ireland set the fastest lap in the Feature race, lapping the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in 1m15.997s with a speed of 175.4 kph on lap 44 of the 48 lap race.
Next race: 2008/2009 season: A1GP Mugello, Italy, 19-21 September 2008
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