Champ Car’s Jani sets pace in Saturday practice The Netherlands - A1 Team Switzerland stormed to the top of the time sheets in free practice for the AquaSP A1GP Zandvoort, The Netherlands today, as the 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season finally got underway in wet and overcast conditions.
Neel Jani, on his first outing at Circuit Park Zandvoort, recorded the fastest lap of the day around the 2.6 mile circuit with a time of 1m45.090s. The Swiss driver - who has won two A1GP races to date - set the impressive lap time half way through the second session and held off A1 Team France, who have been on fine form all day, for the remainder of the one hour 10 minute session.
Jani is pleased with the team's performance so far and is looking forward to a challenging qualifying session this afternoon: 'It was a good session, we tried a lot of things and obviously it's my first time running at Zandvoort so I'm still learning the track a bit. The car is not running bad but I think it will be very hard to get it together for this one lap if it's wet in qualifying, so a lot of it will come down to luck today.'
Having snatched the top spot from A1 Team Mexico in the closing seconds of practice one, France's Loic Duval finished the second session just over three tenths off Jani's session-topping time. The Frenchman said: 'It's going well for the moment, but we will see this afternoon if the track conditions are different. I did the rookie session here last year and I've done some Formula 3 races here too - it's a nice track but I would have preferred dry conditions obviously.'
A1 Team Germany's Christian Vietoris was third quickest, closely followed by Mexico's Salvador Duran. The German rookie finished third fastest in both practice sessions and aiming for a front row spot in qualifying: 'It was quite a good morning for us and we tried a few things. I'm quite happy now and looking forward to qualifying which won't be so easy in the rain but I hope we can get on the front row.'
Fourth placed Duran was looking competitive in both sessions, dominating the time sheets for the second half of session one, despite having not sat in an A1GP car since his home race at Mexico City last March. The Mexican said: 'I'm really happy to come back to A1GP and to be at the front and I hope we can be quick in qualifying as well. I'm really excited because I was having some bad races in World Series but I really expect to do well this weekend. The track conditions are pretty difficult but I'm looking forward to this afternoon.'
Both sessions were incident-packed as the treacherous conditions and standing water caused many drivers to spin off the slippery circuit. A1 Team Canada's James Hinchcliffe was one of the worst affected, causing the session to be red flagged when his car flew off the track at turn four and slid into the tyre barriers. However, the 20-year-old insisted the accident looked far worse than it was, and that the necessary repairs will be made before qualifying this afternoon.
Hinchcliffe said: 'The car had a lot of understeer when I went into the corner but it was my mistake and it got loose. I chose to take to the grass but I didn't see the access road and I got airborne. It was a bit of a hit before it landed, but it wasn't as bad as it looked. I came back unscathed. It was just a shame to create some extra work for all these Canada boys. But they will get it fixed, no problem. The car is not too bad considering what it looked like, but we'll be back on track for this afternoon.'
Dutch driver Jeroen Bleekemolen was on strong form in front of his home crowd, finishing sixth fastest in session one and fifth fastest in session two in the A1 Team Netherlands car.
The teams took part in two practice sessions today (Saturday) with a short break before qualifying this afternoon, due to the cancellation of the usual rookie sessions on Friday in line with the circuit's noise legislation.
Official Practice Session 1 (09:00 - 10:10)
Pos Driver Team Time Behind Laps
1. Loic Duval France 1:46.618 24
2. Salvador Duran Mexico 1:46.671 + 0.053 25
3. C.Vietoris Germany 1:47.232 + 0.614 24
4. Adrian Zaugg South Africa 1:47.306 + 0.688 20
5. Ralph Firman Ireland 1:47.560 + 0.942 21
6. J.Bleekemolen Netherlands 1:47.717 + 1.099 21
7. Neel Jani Switzerland 1:47.953 + 1.335 27
8. Enrico Toccacelo Italy 1:48.019 + 1.401 25
9. Erik Janis Czech Republic 1:48.441 + 1.823 23
10. Oliver Jarvis Great Britain 1:48.584 + 1.966 25
11. Cheng Cong Fu China 1:48.867 + 2.249 22
12. N.Karthikeyan India 1:49.234 + 2.616 27
13. J.Hinchcliffe Canada 1:49.697 + 3.079 21
14. Ian Dyk Australia 1:49.734 + 3.116 31
15. Chris Alajajian Lebanon 1:49.794 + 3.176 22
16. Sergio Jimenez Brazil 1:50.251 + 3.633 28
17. Jonny Reid New Zealand 1:50.489 + 3.871 27
18. Joao Urbano Portugal 1:51.181 + 4.563 8
19. Adam Khan Pakistan 1:51.189 + 4.571 30
20. Alex Yoong Malaysia 1:53.773 + 7.155 21
21. Buddy Rice USA 1:54.884 + 8.266 25
22. Satrio Hermanto Indonesia 1:55.851 + 9.233 19
Official Practice session 2 (11.50 - 13.00)
Pos Driver Team Time Behind Laps
1 Neel JANI SWITZERLAND 01:45.090 - 18
2 Loic DUVAL FRANCE 01:45.445 +0.355 28
3 Christian VIETORIS GERMANY 01:45.852 +0.762 26
4 Salvador DURAN MEXICO 01:45.930 +0.840 23
5 Adrian ZAUGG SOUTH AFRICA 01:46.651 +1.561 25
6 Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN NETHERLANDS 01:46.666 +1.576 23
7 Narain KARTHIKEYAN INDIA 01:46.726 +1.636 31
8 Enrico TOCCACELO ITALY 01:46.726 +1.636 23
9 Ralph FIRMAN IRELAND 01:47.175 +2.085 25
10 Oliver JARVIS GREAT BRITAIN 01:47.501 +2.411 27
11 Jonny REID NEW ZEALAND 01:47.631 +2.541 29
12 Erik JANIS CZECH REPUBLIC 01:47.812 +2.722 26
13 Sergio JIMENEZ BRAZIL 01:47.835 +2.745 29
14 Congfu CHENG CHINA 01:48.214 +3.124 29
15 Ian DYK AUSTRALIA 01:48.791 +3.701 32
16 Chris ALAJAJIAN LEBANON 01:49.266 +4.176 26
17 Adam KHAN PAKISTAN 01:49.342 +4.252 9
18 Joao URBANO PORTUGAL 01:49.401 +4.311 17
19 Buddy RICE USA 01:49.797 +4.707 29
20 Alex YOONG MALAYSIA 01:50.489 +5.399 20
21 James HINCHCLIFFE CANADA 01:50.751 +5.661 2
22 Satrio HERMANTO INDONESIA 01:54.960 +9.870 22