South Africa tops opening practice A1 Team South Africa laid down its marker at Silverstone today by setting the quickest lap round the British track on the first day of official testing before the start of the new A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season. Not only was Adrian Zaugg quickest, but he beat the record for an A1GP car round this track by two thousandths of a second.
Nicolas Lapierre, who won a total of six races in the series opening season that was won by A1 Team France was second quickest. However, in this team it was a story of the old and the new. The new came in the form of Nicolas Prost, son of four times Formula One World Champion, Alain Prost, who spent the afternoon getting used to the power of the V8-engined A1GP car for the first time. He was watched by his father, who was also paying special interest to the A1GP ‘THINK Greener Racing’ launch as he heads a French Government commission to analyze the benefits of bio fuels.
At the end of day one of a two day test, which saw all 22 A1GP teams starting their preparations for the 2007/08 season, the other teams at the top of the time sheets were ‘locals‘ A1 Team Great Britain and A1 Team Ireland. For Great Britain it was Oliver Jarvis at the wheel, having the distinction of giving the team its maiden victory in Mexico last year, while it was a newcomer to the series, Adam Carroll, who set the time for Ireland.
While South Africa was competitive in the morning, it was not until the dying minutes of the afternoon session that Adrian was able to put in his quick lap. Explaining his day, Adrian said: ‘We were working on the car throughout the day. I thought we could be up there in the top six, as we were just concentrating on the set-up and trying to improve from run to run. Then we fitted new tires, tried a few laps and this was a pretty good start. Our rookie, Wesleigh Orr, has quite a lot less experience so we gave him as much running as we could.’
Having lost the title to Germany for season two, season three is where France plan to get back on top. Nicolas explained what their plan for the day was: ‘We did a good job today and it is better to be up here than at the back, but this is just a testing session. We are just working out the set-up for the races and giving some more experience to the young drivers to get ready for the first race as well. Both of our young drivers are doing Formula 3, so it is a big jump to come here. I help them as much as I can because at the end it is a team job so it is better if they are fast. I think the team is a bit better than last year, they are pushing hard and want to get the title back.’
While Great Britain would have loved to be quickest on home ground, Oliver Jarvis was realistic about what the importance of this test is: ‘When I set the time I realized it probably was not quick enough, as I expected the track to maybe get a little bit quicker. Unfortunately I had a bit of traffic in sector three, but I think probably every driver out there can say the same thing. We are happy with the day. Oliver Turvey, our rookie driver, drove the car in the morning. We worked with him a bit, and in the afternoon I took over. I think we made some progress in the afternoon and the test is a good gauge for the rest of the season. It is important to work towards Zandvoort and try and find a good set-up. I don’t think being top of the times is all important, but it is nice to be up the front. It is nice to be in the top three, but I think tomorrow will be a different day altogether. I think it will be much stronger so if we end up at the top of the times tomorrow I shall be a much happier person.’
This year’s A1GP race schedule:
1) 30 September 2007 A1GP Zandvoort, The Netherlands
2) 14 October 2007 A1GP Brno, Czech Republic
3) 4 November 2007 A1GP Asia – venue TBC
4) 25 November 2007 A1GP Sepang, Malaysia
5) 16 December 2007 A1GP Zhuhai, China
6) 20 January 2008 A1GP Taupo, New Zealand
7) 3 February 2008 A1GP Sydney, Australia
8) 24 February 2008 A1GP Durban, South Africa
9) 16 March 2008 A1GP Mexico City, Mexico
10) 6 April 2008 A1GP Shanghai, China
11) 4 May 2008 A1GP Brands Hatch, Great Britain