A1GP teams gear up for Mexico
Refreshed from the three week break after the action-packed Durban round, the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport is getting ready to race on its fourth new circuit of the 2006/07 season. Round eight of the 11 race series to be held from 23 – 25 March 2007 will see the A1 Teams line up at the famous Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City, named after Mexico’s most famous motor racing sons, Ricardo and Pedro Rodriguez.
Built in 1962, the 4.46km circuit is best known for hosting the FIA Formula One world championship from 1963 to 1970 and again from 1986 to 1992. More recently, both the NASCAR and Champ Car series have seen action at this demanding track. For nearly all the A1GP drivers, the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez will present a new challenge with only those who have experienced the two American series, namely A1 Team Brazil’s Bruno Junqueira, having raced here before.
For the older generation of motorsport heroes, now supporting their A1GP prodigies from the paddock, it’s a very different story and it could be this knowledge of the track that provides the winning advantage. A1 Teams Australia, Brazil, Great Britain, Italy and the Netherlands are all in the running with their seat holders having raced in F1 or sportscars at the circuit over the past four decades. In fact, it was in Mexico City in 1964 that A1 Team Great Britain’s team principal, John Surtees became the first and only driver to win world championships on both two and four wheels.
Situated 2,285 meters (7,500 feet) above sea level on ground that has been frequently shaken by earthquakes, the circuit will be the highest ever visited by A1GP and the altitude will present its own unique challenges. For host nation, A1 Team Mexico, the additional time driver Salvador Duran has had to acclimatize combined with the support of the home team, may be enough to see a return to the early promise offered at the start of the season.
After a third double win in Durban, A1 Team Germany lead the series 30 points ahead of second placed New Zealand. With the championship title firmly in their sights and the potential to leave Mexico City with the series sown up, they will be battling hard to maintain their current lead. Only New Zealand and France can threaten Germany’s position and with regular driver Nico Hülkenberg missing due to prior Euro F3 commitments, they will be piling the pressure on his young replacement, 17 year-old Christian Vietoris. A1 Team Germany will need to finish the weekend with a 34 point lead over their nearest challenger to be sure of a series victory.
A1 Team USA will see Jonathan Summerton get back behind the wheel having recovered from the broken wrist he suffered during his Feature race accident. ‘I am definitely looking forward to the race in Mexico City – it is supposed to be a very fast track,’ said Summerton. ‘After the accident in South Africa, I’m really ready to climb back in the driver’s seat. I can't wait to race in Mexico City.’
Unfortunately the same cannot be said for A1 Team Singapore who will miss the Mexican round as driver Christian Murchison undergoes treatment on an existing shoulder injury aggravated in his Durban start line clash. ‘Durban was a tough weekend for the team and it’s a real shame that we won’t get the opportunity to make a mends in Mexico,’ said Murchison. ‘I’m in physio at the moment to build up the strength in my shoulder and if all goes well, I’ll be back in Shanghai.’
The weekend’s racing action kicks off with the rookie driver and developing nations’ sessions on Friday 23 March from 11.00 to 11.25 and again from 11.35 to 12.00. Drivers under 28 years old who have competed in less than three A1GP races are eligible to participate along with drivers from China, India, Indonesia, Lebanon and Pakistan. All teams can take part in the later practice session from 14.00 to 15.00. Final practice and qualifying for the Sprint race will take place on Saturday, with the Sprint and Feature races scheduled for Sunday 25 March at 11.00 and 15.00 respectively.