Ireland dominates Sepang Feature race
A1 Team Ireland became the first nation to score two victories this season, as Adam Carroll dominated the Sepang Feature race in Malaysia. Filipe Albuquerque took an excellent second place for Portugal while Marco Andretti finished a great third for the USA from eighth on the grid. Ireland now leads the championship heading into the Christmas break.
As the lights went out, Adam Carroll got a clean start from pole position to lead the pack into the first corner. Daniel Morad got a brilliant start from third, capitalizing on Lebanon’s best ever grid slot to move ahead of a slow starting Danny Watts for Great Britain in second.
A couple of laps later and the race was back on, with Ireland leading from Portugal, Lebanon, Malaysia, Great Britain, Netherlands, USA and France.
Monaco’s race ended early as Clivio Piccione pitted with technical problems. Boosted by his home crowds, Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy made a move around the outside of Morad to grab fourth. Great Britain’s Watts then began putting pressure on Lebanon as he tried to make up for his bad start. Watts made a move but the pair ran wide allowing Netherlands and the USA to get through. Brazil dived up the inside of a recovering Watts, but France, to the right of him, chopped across in front taking off the British car’s nose and leaving France with a puncture.
The order at the front was now Ireland from Portugal, Malaysia, Netherlands, USA, Lebanon, China and Brazil.
On lap eight the first pit window opened and Malaysia was first in, followed by Netherlands, USA, China and Lebanon. China had a fantastic stop which got it out ahead of both USA and Lebanon. Portugal pitted on the next lap as Ireland remained out in front, still putting in consistently quick lap times.
With a 15-second lead, Ireland pitted with another fantastic stop from the Irish crew, getting Carroll back out comfortably at the front.
Netherland’s Jeroen Bleekemolen, was in fourth when he received a drive-through penalty for the first lap collision with India, which was deemed avoidable, dropping him down the field to a disappointing 14th. Australia’s John Martin passed China down the main straight and then started attacking Adrian Zaugg, whose South African team had got him out quickly in the pit stops.
After the first round of pit stops Ireland had a five-second lead over Portugal, Malaysia, USA, South Africa, Australia, Brazil, China, Lebanon and New Zealand.
Lebanon’s Morad made a mistake through Turns 7 and 8 and ran wide, losing a further two places to drop him down to 11th.
On lap17, from third position, home favorite Fairuz Fauzy confused his team and the watching crowds by diving into the pit lane unexpectedly. A communications glitch meant he received a radio call, that only he heard, to pit that was from another team. His bemused team sent him straight off, but the time lost cost him a potential podium and dropped the Malaysian to 14th.
The USA’s Marco Andretti was now promoted to third. After being involved in a huge start line crash earlier in the day; the 21-year-old was back on track with the help of Korea’s rear wing as the Korean team didn’t make either race due to technical problems that couldn’t be resolved after qualifying.
New Zealand’s Earl Bamber, who started down in 15th, was making good progress, passing China's Ho-Pin Tung around the outside of the final hairpin for eighth.
On lap 18 Mexico's David Garza threw away tenth place by spinning while challenging Daniel Morad's Lebanon car.
Out at the front Portugal was keeping Ireland honest, with the pair putting in consistently close lap times in the blistering heat.
On lap 22, the second pit window was open and the cars began coming in. Australia’s mechanics did another superb job getting John Martin out ahead of South Africa, in what would eventually be fourth position after all the pit stops.
A1 Team Ireland kept up its reputation of being one of the best crews in the pit lane, helping their man retain a healthy lead from Portugal.
Great Britain was back in the pits again on lap 25 to fix a brake problem, getting Watts back out although six laps down, to end a disappointing day for the team with no points scored.
In the closing stages of the race Malaysia was fighting hard as Fauzy passed Lebanon to move up into 12th. Italy's Edoardo Piscopo gave away ninth place by running wide at the final hairpin and promoting Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen. Malaysia and Italy then had a great battle for the final point.
As the checkered flag came out, Ireland claimed its second victory of the season ahead of Portugal. USA’s Marco Andretti and Australia’s John Martin both put in great drives to come through the field to finish a commendable third and fourth respectively.
He said: “We were starting from pole position and I just concentrated on getting a good start, which allowed me to control the race from there. It’s a long race, the car’s heavy at the start so you just run as fast as you can and be smooth and it allowed us to open up quite a good gap.
“It’s all team work though, it doesn’t just come down to one person as everybody works extremely hard. It’s been hard for the guys to be out here since Tuesday at the circuit in this heat and humidity, but they practiced pit stops every night to make sure they did a good job.
“We planned to come here and try and come away leading the championship and we have. Winning the race is just a good bonus and I’m going to fight hard to keep it.”
Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque said: “I achieved our goals. Actually, I went better than what we were expecting. We wanted to go to the first pit stop in third, but it was even better as we were in second. I was doing whatever I could to keep the pace, but it all needs to be perfect, and Ireland did a good pit stop and we didn’t. We are also missing one guy from our crew who’s in hospital, so I wish him the best. In the end it was good to just take the points. You cannot win every time and they were just perfect and I’m really happy with the second place. "
A1 Team USA’s Marco Andretti said: “The start was a bit of survival and I used the PowerBoost when everybody was close together and we needed the track position. The boys did a good job in the pits and then we weren’t threatened from behind, but I had nothing on these guys in front so I was just enjoying the car and Sepang. It’s a lovely circuit.”
Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy expressed his disappointment saying: “Throughout the race my car was very strong, but I just suffered a few handling problems, nothing major though. The team called me in for the first pit stop, it was fine, and we went out in the same position again, with the same gap to second placed Portugal. After ten laps I was struggling with oversteer on the car. I’m not sure why – maybe the rear tires pressures were too high, or the rears had just gone. I tried to radio the team, got nothing, and then I heard ‘Box this lap’ twice, and then ‘Copy that’, then I pitted. When I came in I saw the team was not ready so I knew something was not right. I just had to carry on, but obviously I was very disappointed.
“Considering we had the extra pit stop it was a really good recovery, the car was very strong. If we hadn't had the pit issue, we would have had a podium easily. After the last pit stop, I was running about a second quicker. It’s tough for us all.
“At the end of the day, we win, we lose, we are one team and the most important thing is the support. The crowd showed me such support, so I was able to use this and to catch up and finish in the top 10. The most important thing is we scored one point; every point is like gold and will make a lot of difference towards the end of the season.”
With Portugal, France, and next event-holders New Zealand close behind in the points’ standings, Ireland will be looking to continue its dominance when battle resumes in New Zealand on 23 – 25 January 2009.
Feature Race Results
2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport points standings
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