A1GP heads to Malaysia for Round Three
The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport 2007/08 title race is hotting up, despite just two of 10 rounds having been held so far this season. After a five week break, the thrilling championship heads east to Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur for the third round of the season on 23-25 November, as 22 nations prepare to recommence their on-track battles.
As the series celebrates its 50th ever race on Sunday afternoon, championship defender Germany take on a new driver in Michael Ammermüller while Switzerland demonstrate the growing role of women in motorsport by naming Rahel Frey as its rookie for the weekend. When she takes to the track on Friday, the 21-year-old will become the fifth female to drive an A1GP car during a race weekend.
Home nation Malaysia’s Alex Yoong is the most experienced driver in A1GP and, despite a tough start to the season, the 31-year-old from Kuala Lumpur remains upbeat about his team’s chances at his home race. Malaysian rookie Aaron Lim, who knows the Sepang circuit well, will get his first taste of his home circuit in an A1GP car when he takes to the track this weekend.
Current championship leader New Zealand will have its sights firmly set on extending its one-point advantage over South Africa while Oliver Jarvis will be aiming to keep Great Britain, currently lying third, in title contention. Jarvis will arrive in Malaysia fresh from taking a dominant victory at the Macau F3 Grand Prix. A1 Team China was also present in Macau as both CongFu (Franky) Cheng and YinKin (Marchy) Lee were on hand to perform demonstration laps in the Chinese car to promote the fourth round of the A1GP season at Zhuhai.
Emerson Fittipaldi, A1 Team Brazil seat holder:
‘It is great to be going back to Malaysia for the third year running. The race has proved a traditional event in our calendar, and it is a magnificent track that all the drivers enjoy. A1GP has had a lot of good news recently, and it seems appropriate that we go to one of the first tracks we visited when A1GP began to celebrate our 50th race on Sunday afternoon. I am looking forward to it being a very enjoyable weekend.’
Michael Ammermüller, A1 Team Germany:
‘It’s extra motivation to start for the defending champions. Even though I’ve never driven at this interesting circuit I want to show that I earned this seat by getting a good result in Malaysia. I’m up against a lot of good drivers. I know some of them already from other series. It’s a great challenge.’
Rahel Frey, A1 Team Switzerland:
‘I am determined to make this weekend a positive one. My goal eventually is to become the first female driver to win in this series, just as I did in Formula Renault 2000 at Dijon in 2004. I am not afraid of the challenge of the rookie session to learn the new car and track very quickly in what will probably be very difficult weather conditions. I can't wait to meet the team again and to continue the work that we completed at the Silverstone test.’
Alex Yoong, A1 Team Malaysia:
‘What a difference a year makes! This time last season we’d had a pole position and two wins, this season we’ve still to score a point. But I’m not too concerned at this stage, it’s a long season and we all know what we need to change around our fortunes. There’s no better place to make that happen than at your home race, so that’s exactly what we’ll be setting out to do. Historically in A1GP the home nation hasn’t had their best performances on their own ground, but we’re determined to change all that. We’re going all out to put in the best performances we can in every session of the weekend. The first two race weekends are in the past, all we’re focused on now is bringing pride to Malaysia for trying our hardest to race as best as we can.’
Aaron Lim, A1 Team Malaysia:
‘It’s very special to drive in front of your home nation, so I’m really excited about being out on the Sepang circuit on Friday. It’s a track I know well as I’ve grown up here, but this weekend it’ll be my first experience of it in the A1GP car. I hope that my knowledge of the track will help me with my work on the car development in preparation for the races on Sunday and that I can show the team, the local fans and my peers the potential that I have to be racing for my nation in A1GP in the future.’
Jack Cunningham, A1 Team Malaysia Chief Executive:
‘We are given tremendous support from our Malaysian fans throughout the season wherever we’re racing, so we are always pleased when the series arrives in our town and we have the chance to showcase A1GP and A1 Team Malaysia in our own country. As a team we haven’t had the start that we expected this season, but we’re working hard to improve on our performances in the first two races. We want to repay our loyal fans and partners with two really strong race results, but we also know that every one of the other 21 nations will be fighting hard to bring their country success. The competition is very strong, with any of eight or nine teams capable of winning. I know that Alex, Aaron and everyone in A1 Team Malaysia is looking forward to being at home in Sepang, and we hope that we’ll see plenty of our supporters flying our flag around the track throughout the weekend.’
Jonny Reid, A1 Team New Zealand:
‘It’s good that everyone’s had a decent break following Brno because it starts to get really busy in the New Year, especially in New Zealand with so much interest in the Taupo round. Personally, it’s been good to take stock of where we’re at and also have time to reflect on our start to the championship. It’s obviously pleasing to be leading the championship and our goal, as always, is to target maximum points. I feel confident at Sepang given we qualified on the front row last year and the track is fast and flowing…I love it.’
Oliver Jarvis, A1 Team Great Britain:
‘Sepang is an amazing track and I really enjoyed running in the rookie session there last year. I cannot wait to race the A1GP car again and my aim will definitely be to score some strong podium finishes and even another win or two. Hopefully we can leave ahead of New Zealand and South Africa in the championship standings.’
Narain Karthikeyan, A1 Team India:
‘I’m really looking forward to racing in Malaysia again. It’s the closest we have to a home race, with a lot of support from the Indians who live in Malaysia. I love the country too, really friendly people and the spicy Malaysian food is an all time favorite of mine. I know the circuit quite well, having raced there before in F1. The heat will also, I hope, be a factor in my favor, as it’s really hot in India too. Our performance so far this season has not been as we expected, especially since we were very quick in the pre-season tests. I think our biggest problem has been that we’ve struggled to find a really good qualifying setup. Our race pace has been very good so I think we really need to work hard on finding the sweet-spot in qualifying.’
The A1GP Sepang, Malaysia event runs from 23-25 November, kicking off with the rookie driver and developing nations’ sessions on Friday from 11.00 to 11.25 and again from 11.35 to 12.00. All 22 teams can take part in the later practice session from 14.00 to 15.00. Final practice and qualifying for the Sprint and Feature race will take place on Saturday with the two races scheduled to run on Sunday at 11.00 and 15.00 respectively.
About Sepang circuit:
The beautiful 5.54km Sepang International Circuit was officially opened on 9 March 1999 by Prime Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad to host the Malaysian round of the FIA Formula One World Championship. It was then, and still is now, a benchmark for other motorsport venues around the world. Designed by the renowned German engineer Hermann Tilke, the track was built in just 14 months. At its peak, 1,000 people were working on the site.
Sepang is the widest track on the A1GP calendar (up to 25m in places) and comprises 15 corners and eight straights and with so much room to overtake, exciting racing and thrilling on-track action is pretty much guaranteed. The massive grandstands with their beautiful overhanging canopies, designed to mimic the national flower of Malaysia, seat 130,000 spectators. The main grandstand along the pit straight can seat 32,000 alone. Built in a natural stadium, all spectators can see at least 50 per cent of the circuit regardless of where they sit, making the A1GP event in Malaysia one of the best races to witness A1GP cars first hand.
Track length: 5.54km (3.44 miles)
Lap record: 1m53.343s, recorded by Jonny Reid, A1 Team New Zealand, November 2006
2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport points standings