Zaugg all the way in A1GP sprint
A1 Team South Africa has won the first race of the 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season at Circuit Park Zandvoort in The Netherlands, dominating the 12 lap race from start to finish. Zaugg was joined on the podium by A1 Team France and home nation A1 Team Netherlands in second and third position respectively.
Pole-sitter South Africa's Adrian Zaugg took the advantage as the pack crossed the line for the rolling start of the 20 minute Sprint race in mild but dry conditions. The field got away well as the rain clouds cleared, the only exception being A1 Team Australia's Ian Dyk who started from pit lane after stalling on the grid.
By lap three Zaugg had pulled out an impressive 2.5 second lead on A1 Team France and the South African continued to storm away from Loic Duval and third placed A1 Team Mexico. Zaugg was never really under threat from the rest of the field and by lap nine he had a comfortable lead over Duval of over five seconds. The gap was up to an incredible seven seconds by the penultimate lap and one lap later A1 Team South Africa took the chequered flag in first place, winning the season-opening Sprint race from pole for the second consecutive year.
Loic Duval had a fairly uneventful race, continuing the impressive form he has been enjoying all weekend at Zandvoort. The Frenchman managed to hold off a strong challenge from the home nation to cross the line in second position and pick up 12 championship points.
Home driver Jeroen Bleekemolen made a sensational start from fifth on the grid, taking fourth place from Switzerland's Neel Jani and making a move on A1 Team Mexico before the end of the first lap. The Dutchman delighted home fans as he continued to chase down Mexico's Salvador Duran, his sights firmly set on a podium position. Lap three saw Bleekemolen sneak past the Mexican car and by the fourth lap he was all over the back of second placed A1 Team France. The Dutchman pushed hard for the remaining eight laps and went on to cross the line in an impressive third place, taking A1 Team Netherlands' first podium finish at home and collecting 10 championship points.
A1 Team Great Britain's Oliver Jarvis, who started 10th on the grid, enjoyed a thrilling first race of the season, carving his way through the field to pass Ireland's Ralph Firman for seventh position on lap eight. Jarvis immediately started to hunt down A1 Team Germany and on lap 11 the British ace was still fighting hard with Christian Vietoris for sixth place. Jarvis went on the cross the line in seventh position, opening his championship account with a valuable four points.
Lebanon's Chris Alajajian put in a superb performance on his A1GP debut, finishing in 14th position having started from 18th on the grid. The Lebanese driver enjoyed a mid race tussle with Czech Republic and China, the trio of cars getting side by side at one point.
All 22 A1GP cars finished the race - the first time the cars had driven the track in dry conditions this weekend - in front of packed grandstands and sand dunes.
Race winner, A1 Team South Africa's Adrian Zaugg was pleased with the win and is confident the team will be able to repeat its performance this afternoon: 'We prepared a really good car for today and yesterday in wet conditions and we have shown we can be competitive in both the wet and the dry, so it's looking good. After two or three laps I looked in my rear mirrors and I couldn't see anyone anymore so from then I never had to go to the maximum, but it was very hard not to lose my rhythm. I hope to do it again for the Feature race. When you look at the times we should be the ones to beat in that race so we have every chance.'
Second placed Loic Duval driving for season one champions A1 Team France said: 'The first two or three laps we were on the same level and then the car was a bit difficult to drive - we have more over steer so I couldn't follow him. I then had to concentrate to keep the second position which was not too difficult because I had some push to pass and he (Bleekemolen) didn't. It was a great race but we have to work a lot on the car for the Feature race and we have to make some changes.'
Jeroen Bleekemolen was delighted to be on the podium in front of his home crowd: 'It's great. Yesterday we really messed up the qualifying for the Feature race so I'm pleased to take the podium in this one so it's in the bag, and then in the next one I hope we can also find a way back to the front. I think it looks good because the car was fantastic; we had a quick car and in the Feature race things will be different, the tyres go off more so you can overtake a bit easier - I'm looking forward to it!'
The Dutchman, who is starting the Feature race from 11th on grid, continued: 'With A1GP anything is possible but we have to be realistic. It's not going to be easy to drive our way back to the front, but there's two pits stops this year and the guys are good at it so I'm feeling quite confident. If we can run in clear air without any traffic, then we should be able to do it.'
The teams are now preparing for the Feature race this afternoon, which starts at 15:00.
Pos Driver Team Time/Behind
1. Adrian Zaugg South Africa 18:01.087
2. Loic Duval France +7.532
3. J.Bleekemolen Netherlands +8.097
4. Salvador Duran Mexico +8.205
5. Neel Jani Switzerland +8.581
6. C.Vietoris Germany +10.344
7. Oliver Jarvis Great Britain +10.566
8. Ralph Firman Ireland +12.168
9. Jonny Reid New Zealand +13.934
10. N.Karthikeyan India +18.516
11. Joao Urbano Portugal +24.967
12. Enrico Toccacelo Italy +25.717
13. Sergio Jimenez Brazil +26.044
14. Chris Alajajian Lebanon +34.547
15. Erik Janis Czech Republic +35.268
16. Alex Yoong Malaysia +35.895
17. Cheng Cong Fu China +36.298
18. Adam Khan Pakistan +36.510
19. J.Hinchcliffe Canada +39.509
20. Satrio Hermanto Indonesia +47.932
21. Ian Dyk Australia +47.983
22. Buddy Rice USA +48.208
Fastest lap: Zaugg, 1:28.353 on lap 2