Brno: Netherlands takes feature pole
With the Sprint race grid decided, all 22 teams waited for the closing moments of the final qualifying segment to take to the track for their last flying lap, which would determine the grid for the Feature race.
Jeroen Bleekemolen, who has been on superb form all weekend, set the fastest lap overall during the final two 15-minute qualifying segments, putting A1 Team Netherlands in pole position for the start of tomorrow afternoon's Feature race at the picturesque Brno circuit. The Dutchman was also on pole for last year's A1GP Sprint race at Beijing, but the grid had been decided on free practice times due to the cancellation of qualifying, making this his first pole position based on actual qualifying results.
Despite spinning off during Q2, the 25-year-old Dutch driver was clearly delighted with his team's performance today:
'I am really happy. We took one pole position before but that wasn't the real qualifying although we were on the pace that weekend so we sure had a shot at pole, but you don't know how it would have turned out. I am really happy to do it this time and I think also for the race this looks really good as we have been on the pace all weekend. I am really happy to be there and we will see where we end up.'
He continued: 'I think most of the teams took two new sets of tires for the Sprint qualifying and we didn't and that's also why we went off. I tried to push very hard and then I lost it coming on to the straight. We were second up to that point and we lost a few positions so that was a shame. Q3 didn't go to plan and I pushed very hard and I would have expected to go a lot quicker, but then we did a very good lap in Q4 and it was very nice to take pole.'
Alongside Bleekemolen for the standing start of the Feature race will be South Africa's Adrian Zaugg while GBR's Robbie Kerr and Switzerland's Neel Jani will start from third and fourth place respectively. A1 Team China's Congfu Cheng leapt up the order to qualify fifth and will be joined on the third row by Brazilian rookie Sergio Jimenez, who has been steadily improving all weekend.
23-year-old Jimenez, who will start the Sprint race from ninth place and the Feature race from sixth, said:
'I was really happy by Q4 compared to the start of qualifying. In Q1 we went the wrong way and the car was undriveable, it was a very difficult session for me. After that we changed the car a lot between each session. If I explained how much we changed, nobody would believe it. It feels now like I've started driving a racing car. Our pace on old tires is good so I'm confident for the races. The sprint is short so realistically I think we can try to gain a position at the start and maybe one more in the race, and just go for some good points. In the feature, who knows, maybe we can get a podium. We've done a lot of hard work this weekend, so I'm looking forward to turning that into a strong race performance tomorrow.'
After a challenging session, home nation A1 Team Czech Republic driver Erik Janis will start the Sprint race from 21st position and the Feature race from 17th. The 20-year-old rookie is excited about racing in front of his home fans tomorrow:
'It will be a big day tomorrow because racing is something different from qualifying. I am looking forward to it, especially for the Feature race as it is longer and I hope to make good pit stops to help but we will wait and see.'
The major disappointment of the afternoon was last year's Brno double winner, Alex Yoong, who was confined to the garage for much of the second half of the session due to a technical failure. A1 Team Malaysia will start the Sprint race from 18th and the Feature race from 22nd.
Tomorrow's Sprint race at Brno, Czech Republic will start at 11.00 local time and the 70-minute Feature race will start at 15:00.....