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Neel Jani fastest in New Zealand

Friday A1GP Practice at Taupo
Friday, January 23, 2009

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Neel Jani

Round four of the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season got underway at New Zealand’s Taupo Motorsport Park today with reigning champion A1 Team Switzerland setting the early pace. Alexandre Imperatori started the day as the quickest rookie, while main driver Neel Jani ended the day quickest overall.

Swiss rookie Imperatori set the pace this morning with a lap of 1 minute 18.091 seconds, helped in part to being able to run a new set of tires.

Photos

Teams use two sets of tires carried over from the previous A1GP race in the rookie session, however, with Switzerland’s first lap exit from Sepang’s Feature, the team had a new set of Michelins available to him this morning, which he used to good effect.

“This was certainly a good start to the weekend for the team and I hope it continues this way,” said Imperatori. “It is a very technical circuit and certainly very easy to make mistakes. There are lots of corners where you can make mistakes, but my car was fantastic and the new tires helped as well.”

France’s Nicolas Prost was second quickest, 0.186 seconds adrift of Switzerland, with Lebanon’s Daniel Morad third quickest, particularly impressive thanks to the fact his engineers had worked through the night to replace the engine on his car.

Local favorite A1 Team New Zealand’s Chris van der Drift had his first taste of the Taupo circuit, finishing fourth quickest in the rookie session.

There were numerous spins as the rookie drivers got to grips with the tight and dusty track, with incidents from Malaysia’s Aaron Lim, Ireland’s Niall Quinn, India’s Parthiva Sureshwaren, Portugal’s Antonio Felix da Costa and Monaco’s Hubertus Bahlsen.

In the afternoon practice it was Switzerland once again at the top, this time with Neel Jani behind the wheel to record a lap time of 1m 15.971s.

“It was definitely a good start to the weekend with Alex being quickest this morning and then me as well this afternoon,” said Jani. “I did have a gearbox problem after that so could only do 14 laps, which was about 25-minutes of the session so we lost at least half an hour. This was not the best for us but what we did was still enough to keep us on top and we are really happy about that.”

This was despite Jani being rushed into hospital last week with suspected meningitis, which ruined his training regime and left him feeling drained. He arrived out in Taupo several days later than normal after getting the all-clear to race.

“I do have more color today,” Jani continued, “so it looks as thought the warm weather is helping me as we don’t have minus degrees like at home. I am feeling better every day and had no issues with driving today so I am very positive.”

In another action-packed session, several drivers had incidents in the hot and dusty conditions including Mexico‘s Salvador Duran, Great Britain’s Dan Clarke, Netherland’s Robert Doornbos, China’s Congfu Cheng, New Zealand’s Chris van der Drift, Australia’s John Martin, Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy, India’s Narain Karthikeyan and South Africa’s Adrian Zaugg.

Daniel Morad ended the day second quickest with a 1m 16.106s, after spending the first half of the afternoon session at the top of the timesheets. In the final minutes Australia’s John Martin jumped up to third with New Zealand being pushed down to sixth overall.

Jani also confirmed the local hype that this year’s race is set to be the quickest ever in New Zealand saying: “The biggest difference between the old cars and the new ones is rear stability. With the old one you were fighting and sliding more and now you can concentrate on taking extra speed into the corner. I think we will be a lot quicker here this year than last year.”

Chris van der Drift, who has only ever competed on home soil once before, said: “It was a good start for me as it has been a couple of months since I have been in the car. I had to get back in the groove and blow the cobwebs out. We are certainly going in the right direction. I did spin going into turn 12, but I was just finding my limits.  The track is quite dirty off line, but it will get much quicker over the weekend as more cars go round.

“This is actually only my second official race here in New Zealand so it is good to be here especially in the A1GP races.  I have lots of family here supporting me so that is an extra bonus.”

Friday Fast Times

Pos

A1 Team Driver Time Gap Laps
1 Switzerland Neel Jani 1'15.971 0.000 14
2 Lebanon Daniel Morad 1'16.106 0.135 25
3 Australia John Martin 1'16.294 0.323 25
4 Monaco Clivio Piccione 1'16.458 0.487 33
5 Ireland Adam Carroll 1'16.537 0.566 25
6 New Zealand Chris van der Drift 1'16.561 0.590 27
7 Portugal Filipe Albuquerque 1'16.622 0.651 34
8 Netherlands Robert Doornbos 1'16.626 0.655 28
9 France Loïc Duval 1'16.724 0.753 23
10 South Africa Adrian Zaugg 1'16.732 0.761 29
11 India Narain Karthikeyan 1'16.836 0.865 29
12 Italy Edoardo Piscopo 1'16.847 0.876 34
13 USA Marco Andretti 1'16.942 0.971 26
14 Mexico Salvador Durán 1'17.078 1.107 30
15 Brazil Felipe Guimarães 1'17.220 1.249 32
16 Great Britain Dan Clarke 1'17.309 1.338 28
17 Malaysia Fairuz Fauzy 1'17.512 1.541 36
18 China Cheng Cong Fu 1'17.627 1.656 34
19 Indonesia Satrio Hermanto 1'18.329 2.358 31

Rookie Practice

Pos

A1 Team Driver Time Gap
1 Switzerland Alexandre Imperatori 1'18.091 0.000
2 France Nicolas Prost 1'18.277 0.186
3 Lebanon Daniel Morad 1'18.335 0.244
4 New Zealand Chris van der Drift 1'18.413 0.322
5 Portugal Ant¢nio Félix da Costa 1'18.570 0.479
6 Malaysia Aaron Lim 1'18.766 0.675
7 Brazil Felipe Guimarães 1'18.896 0.805
8 Great Britain James Winslow 1'19.180 1.089
9 Netherlands Dennis Retera 1'19.213 1.122
10 USA J.R. Hildebrand 1'19.218 1.127
11 Mexico Juan Pablo Garcia 1'19.289 1.198
12 South Africa Cristiano Morgado 1'19.420 1.329
13 India Parthiva Sureshwaren 1'19.512 1.421
14 China Adderly Fong 1'20.336 2.245
15 Ireland Niall Quinn 1'20.421 2.330
16 Indonesia Zahir Ali 1'20.528 2.437
17 Monaco Hubertus Bahlsen 1'22.745 4.654
18 Australia Ashley Walsh -

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