Team Portugal wins Chengdu Feature Race
Filipe Albuquerque claimed A1 Team Portugal’s maiden win in the A1GP Chengdu, China, Feature race to become the 17th different nation to take an A1GP victory.
Portugal took the lead thanks to a slick first pit stop and held off the charge from A1 Team Ireland’s Adam Carroll in the closing stages. Great Britain’s Danny Watts took the final podium position after starting on pole but dropping back after his two mandatory pit stops.
From pole position, Watts made a good start to lead the pack into the first corner. Portugal also made a great start from third to challenge Ireland for second position. Ireland, starting on the dirtier side of the track, struggled to get traction, allowing Portugal to get a good run round the outside of turn one on the racing line and take the position. Starting eighth, Robert Doornbos’s A1 Team Netherlands car stalled on the grid. The safety car was deployed before the end of the first lap to allow his car to be pushed back to the pits. The team got the car re-started and Doornbos made his way back out, albeit a lap down.
Great Britain led from Portugal, Ireland and Monaco as the race re-started on lap four. Watts powered across the line with a clear gap at the front. Carroll was right on the back of the Portuguese car and had a look around the outside through turn one, while also defending from Monaco’s Clivio Piccione in fourth.
Watts’ lead was now 1.5-seconds from Portugal as the first mandatory pit stop window opened. Great Britain was first to dive into the pits with Monaco, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and China also following suit. A lap later Ireland pitted and a quick, clean tire change from the Irish squad got Carroll back out on track in second. But when Albuquerque pitted on the next lap, a blisteringly quick stop from the team handed Portugal what would be the lead of the race, after the field had all pitted.
By the end of lap 14 Portugal had a 2.385-second lead from Great Britain, and Switzerland was starting to hunt down Ireland for third. Albuquerque increased his lead to four seconds, leaving him in a strong position at the head of the field.
Portugal now led from Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, Monaco, France, USA and China.
The order was now Portugal, Ireland, Great Britain, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, France, Monaco, USA and India.
After going a lap down at the start Doornbos, from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, showed what might have been if he had got away cleanly from his eighth grid-slot. He clocked the fastest lap of the race, a 1m 15.212s on lap 33, faster than yesterday’s pole position time, set by Danny Watts.
On lap 35 the battle for fifth began to heat up as Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy challenged John Martin for position. Fauzy eventually passed the Australian two laps later with a great move around the outside of the first corner. On lap 38, France’s Nicolas Prost tried the same maneuver on Martin, but gave him a little too much space and spun into the gravel on the exit after getting onto the dirtier part of the track.
The safety car was deployed for a second time on lap 40 as the French car was recovered. With the pack bunched back together, all advantages were lost and when the race re-started five laps later the race was back on to the finish.
Despite all Carroll’s efforts, Filipe Albuquerque crossed the finish line to take the team’s first ever series victory and became the 17th nation to win in A1GP. Malaysia’s fifth position was enough to hold on to the championship lead, but Ireland’s points haul brought the team right into contention. It now sits equal second with France on 23 points.
Race winner Albuquerque said: “The lap times were getting faster and faster. In the second stint, I was really fast, faster than anyone else. I was pulling away and had four seconds and everything was under control. But then Ireland was way too fast with the new tires. I could not go any faster so I just had to keep the car on the track, not make any mistakes and get the win."
After a successful day in which he claimed Sprint victory and second in the Feature race, Ireland’s Carroll said: “Well that’s the start we really wanted at Zandvoort. I came here determined to have the best weekend we could and at least try to win a race or come away with a couple of podiums.
“Practice actually hadn’t gone that well but I knew the circuit was extremely tricky and put the new tires on to try to do a good lap in qualifying as you had to start at the front here to try and win. It’s just great for the team and everybody. It’s the confidence we all need and I really think we can challenge the rest of the season for the championship.”
Third placed Great Britain driver Watts said: “How quickly the ten days have gone from getting the call, getting on a plane and arriving here to walk around the circuit. We never would have thought we’d be going away with two podiums - two third places.
“When I saw the car when we arrived here, it was still in bits with a lot to do. I think the two podiums have to go to the mechanics. They’ve been working so hard through the nights so it’s been a huge effort from everyone within the team. For them, it’s been a fantastic weekend. We’re just really glad to come out of our first weekend in A1GP with a big haul of points.”
Pos A1 Team Points
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