Enge leads opening practice in NZ A1 Team Czech Republic snatched the top spot on the timing sheet in the closing minutes of this afternoon's second practice session for the A1GP Taupo, New Zealand, setting the fastest time of the day, despite driver Tomas Enge (right) stepping in at the last minute for injured team mate, Jarek Janis.
'I should be in Daytona, preparing for the 24 hour race next weekend but Janis is injured so I got a late call to come to New Zealand but I'm very happy to step in. I love the country, I've never been in such a nice place before, said Czech driver Tomas Enge. Commenting on the track conditions, Enge continued: 'I didn't expect the track to be so dirty and you really had to push the car round the corners but I hope I can continue like this for the weekend. I will be concentrating on myself, not looking at the others.'
Knocking A1 Team India off the top spot, a position that new driver Narain Karthikeyan (pictured right) had held on to for nearly half the session, the Czech Republic demonstrated just how close this weekend's race is likely to be. Having only joined the team last week, the morning practice session was Karthikeyan's first time in an A1GP car and marked a significant improvement in India's performance. Commenting on the gains made, Karthikeyan said: 'It's a big big difference and I'm happy with the way things are going. I'm not getting carried away by today, there is still lots to be done on the car. The team have had some less experienced drivers so we need a lot of work to be done on the car set up wise'.
A1 Team France set the fastest lap time in this morning's rookie session with Loic Duval behind the wheel. Commenting on the Taupo circuit which has undergone extensive improvements to host the A1GP event, Duval said: 'It's a nice track but difficult on the line as it gets really dirty outside. The track looks very good and the whole complex is very nice. The corners are difficult, the shorter lines are a problem during the race, its tough to overtake and quite dirty so I'm expecting a tough race.'
Host nation A1 Team New Zealand also seemed to have a tough start to the day, setting the eight fastest times in both sessions. But having won the last race in Sentul, Indonesia, expectations are high for New Zealand to be the first team in A1GP to win a home race. 'Winning at Sentul doesn't add any pressure but I can use the home fans and use that energy to help me', commented driver Jonny Reid. 'I'm not disillusioned by the results, it's quite pleasing as we have a few tricks up our sleeves. The track is really dirty off line and it's a really technical circuit so I'll be relying on the team and mechanics a lot.'
After a further free practice session at 11.00 Saturday morning, Qualifying for the Sprint race will take place with four 15 minute sessions between 14.15 and 15.30. Official Practice Session 1 A1 Team Driver Time 1 France Loic Duval 1:15.601 2 India Narain Karthikeyan 1:16.188 3 Netherlands Renger Van der Zande 1:16.344 4 Switzerland Marcel Fassler 1:16.412 5 Malaysia Fairuz Fauzy 1:16.490 6 Germany Christian Vietoris 1:16.712 7 Brazil Raphael Matos 1:16.771 8 New Zealand Wade Cunningham 1:16.840 9 Canada James Hinchcliffe 1:16.849 10 South Africa Alan Van der Merwe 1:16.868 11 Ireland Richard Lyons 1:17.333 12 China Ho-Pin Tung 1:17.412 13 Australia Karl Reindler 1:17.566 14 Mexico Sergio Perez 1:17.744 15 USA Ryan Hunter Reay 1:17.878 16 Italy Michele Rugolo 1:17.908 17 Lebanon Alex Khateeb 1:18.619 18 Singapore Christian Murchison 1:18.806 19 Pakistan Nur Ali 1:21.257
Official Practice session 2 A1 Team Driver Time 1 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 1.15.248 2 India Narain Karthikeyan 1.15.303 3 France Loic Duval 1.15.368 4 Ireland Richard Lyons 1.15.380 5 Germany Nico Hulkenberg 1.15.407 6 Italy Enrico Toccacelo 1.15.505 7 Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen 1.15.529 8 New Zealand Jonny Reid 1.15.587 9 South Africa Alan van der Merwe 1.15.782 10 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 1.15.799 11 Mexico Salvador Duran 1.16.077 12 China Ho-Pin Tung 1.16.134 13 Malaysia Alex Yoong 1.16.267 14 Brazil Raphael Matos 1.16.315 15 Canada James Hinchcliffe 1.16.346 16 Switzerland Sebastien Buemi 1.16.370 17 Singapore Christian Murchison 1.16.401 18 USA Ryan Hunter-Reay 1.16.490 19 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 1.16.609 20 Australia Karl Reindler 1.16.665 21 Lebanon Alex Khateeb 1.17.572 22 Pakistan Nur Ali 1.21.197
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