Jani wins gives Swiss title lead
Switzerland’s Neel Jani claimed victory in this afternoon’s Go-GP.Org A1GP Gauteng, South Africa Feature race with what his Seat Holder, Max Welti, would most likely call a ‘gorgeous’ drive from fifth on the grid. The win means Neel Jani equals the all-time win record for a driver, Nico Hülkenberg’s record of nine wins for Germany.
Jani finished 13.176 seconds ahead of Brazil’s Felipe Guimarães, the 17-year-old putting in a mature drive to record the team’s best result of the year at the Kyalami circuit despite crashing heavily at the end of yesterday’s qualifying. Pole-sitter Clivio Piccione finished in third for Monaco after losing the lead to Switzerland in the first round of pit stops and then dropping behind Brazil after making a mistake.
As the Feature race got underway, Switzerland made a fantastic start to move from fifth to second into turn one. A1 Team Ireland’s Adam Carroll was making a move around the outside of Malaysia for fourth when the pair touched resulting in the championship leader being beached in the gravel and out of the race.
Brazil made a good start, running in sixth by the end of lap one, while the battle for third was on as Malaysia began putting pressure on New Zealand’s Earl Bamber. Bamber’s defensive driving kept Malaysia at bay until lap four when Malaysia touched the rear wheel of New Zealand with Bamber spinning into the gravel. Fauzy was then forced to pit with a suspected slow puncture from the incident and after changing a front tire, he returned to the track, although now back in 16th place. A few laps later Fauzy returned to the pits for his mandatory stop and with four new tires returned to the race track.
On the same lap, Mexico and France also came together at the same corner ending both their races.
On lap nine the first mandatory pit stops began with race-leader Monaco not having the quickest of stops. Switzerland’s slick team-work enabled Jani to leap-frog Piccione and take the lead in Kyalami. Despite having a good stop, Australia had a disaster in the pit lane when John Martin stalled as another car came across in front of him when he was about to leave his pit box. He eventually got going but dropped down from third to 15th as a result.
USA’s Marco Andretti was the last to pit, but on rejoining lost four positions as South Africa, Germany, Lebanon and Indonesia all found their way passed the American car.
Local A1 Team South Africa’s Adrian Zaugg was looking strong, having moved up from 15th to ninth, but on lap 17 coasted back to the pits and out of the race with gearbox problems.
Daniel Morad was putting in a good performance in the A1 Team Lebanon car to get passed Germany for seventh. Morad made his move around the outside of Michael Ammermüller through turn one before taking the inside line through turn two and the position.
On lap 19 the order was now Switzerland from Monaco, Brazil, Netherlands, Great Britain, Portugal, Lebanon, Germany, Indonesia and China.
As the race reached half distance, Brazil began closing the gap to Monaco. The Brazilian car was only 0.466-seconds adrift on lap 24 with the 17-year-old finally capitalizing on a mistake by Piccione to take second position.
In the second round of pit stops Switzerland had a ten second lead and another clean stop brought Jani out with a comfortable lead.
After the second pit stops, Malaysia continued to struggle with the handling of the car and was finally forced to go back to the team garage. The team worked quickly to resolve the problems and were finally able to send Fauzy back on track. With no hope of finishing in the top ten to score points, the team took the decision to use the PowerBoost and set the fastest race lap to score one point and Fauzy quickly accomplished this recording a 1m28.306s.
In the final stages of the race India put pressure on Italy’s Edoardo Piscopo for tenth. Narain Karthikeyan tried on a number of occasions to pass the 21-year-old Italian but to no avail.
Lebanon’s Morad was now chasing Great Britain’s Danny Watts for sixth and, with three laps to go, made a fantastic move on Watts to record Lebanon’s best ever A1GP finish, only its second ever points-finish.
Switzerland is now top of the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport standings with A1 Team Ireland crashing out on lap one after an incident with Malaysia.
Switzerland’s Neel Jani said: “It was a little bit of a replay start from Taupo, from fifth to second. I was a bit worried starting from fifth, because I knew the first two turns would be very close and you could get knocked off easily, so my strategy was to just try the outside and it really worked and was a fantastic start. I then tried to follow Clivio (Piccione) and I struggled a bit. But then we had a great pit stop and I had good pace. I think Monaco had a bit of bad luck in the pit stop so that helped us too. But after it I could really keep up my pace.”
Brazil’s Felipe Guimarães said: “I am so happy as it’s the first time I have been on the podium. Yesterday I had the big crash in qualifying and I didn’t think that today I would finish on the podium! But I had a great start then during the race the car was good. It was a bit worrying at the end because the engine was losing power, but we managed to keep going to the finish thankfully. I was pushing hard but not taking any risks and we brought it home in second. I really wanted to do a good job today and I have.”
Third placed Clivio Piccione commented: “At first we got in the lead and I kept a distance from Switzerland. The car felt pretty good as well. We got into our first stints and then comes the tricky bit – the pit stop. For now, we’re not the quickest team in the pit stops and we know it. But the team did the best they could and we know we’re going to work it out. Our second stint was a bit of a struggle as I suffered with a lot of understeer and I think my tires were not at their best. I made a slight mistake and Brazil got through. Then we went for our last pit stop where we knew we had new tires. We had a problem on the back wheel but got out in third. From there on I could push pretty hard and we were catching Brazil because they struggled as well. Still overall it’s a good result – I’m pleased with the final ending.”
On claiming the team’s first podium in its debut season he continued: “We are only six months old and we started a team from scratch. So we are a brand new team in a brand new series for us – and a new car, so we got used to it like everyone. We had a good start to the season then we had a struggle in the middle with some missed data. From this weekend on we knew what was wrong and we’re back at the front so I’m looking forward to the rest of the season and I hope to come back here many times.”
A1 Team South Africa’s Zaugg, who endured a difficult home event, commented: “The first laps were not bad at all and we were able to actually get past France as well. But already from lap six onwards I started to hear strange noises in the engine, especially in second gear. And I also then start to feel like a drop in power accelerating in second gear. But I just carried on. I informed the team but they just told me to carry on. And that’s what I did and eventually I started to get misfires. Eventually on the breaking and changing down to second gear, the engine just went off. I kept rolling and the engine went back on and eventually I tried to continue but it carried on misfiring so in the end I just had to give it up.
Taking about racing in front of his home crowds he continued: “that really boosted me, especially this morning when I saw the people there and after the drivers’ parade - all the people cheering for me. So I feel really sorry for all of them you. They all came here to see us race and do well and unfortunately we couldn’t finish the race. But I want to just say thanks to all the supporters. We have had a really difficult season so far. But I think we really improved with lots of things this weekend and I hope we can carry on positive from here.”
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