A1GP driver backs Taupo track changes A1 Team New Zealand driver Jonny Reid, who has his country perched in third place in the 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport championship after a thrilling third round at Sepang, Malaysia last weekend, believes next January’s A1GP Taupo will be a more exciting affair following rule modifications and a significant change to the corners at the end of the main straight.
The previous fast left-right-left sequence of corners at Taupo Motorsport Park has been reconfigured into a tight left hander, followed by an even tighter right hander.
‘You can see the strategy immediately,’ Reid said. ‘Cars will now be subjected to heavier braking, which opens up more opportunities to pass. If drivers are prepared to push hard, and they’re good enough, they should be rewarded. It’s wicked that we’ll be hitting that sort of corner more often than usual given the Taupo track is three and a half kilometers long, compared to the five kilometer monsters you can get in Asia.’
The most pleasing aspect of the track change for A1GP Taupo CEO Gary Dawson was the proximity to 85% of the seated audience.
‘The change hasn’t been made in the in-field, it is directly in front of the main stands seating 8,500 people,’ Dawson said. ‘The drivers will be jostling for position at the most appropriate segment of the circuit.’
Taupo Motorsport Park (TMP) managing director David Steele said the track change was part of the venue’s commitment to ensuring the most exciting racing.
‘Big cars, great drivers and an untried, little used circuit meant last January’s inaugural A1GP Taupo didn’t have the passing opportunities we’d hoped, but we’re positive that won’t be the case in year two. We’ve been proactive in implementing an important track change, A1GP have introduced some important rule modifications and our circuit is constantly having more rubber laid down on it, giving it more grip and extra racing line options.’
Steele said ‘truckloads’ of traffic had been over the virginal track since the inaugural A1GP Taupo event, leaving the surface with a good rubber base that provides more grip.
‘The circuit has been in constant use since the 2007 A1GP Taupo was run on a brand new track,’ he said, ‘and between now and the second A1GP event there are only four days where there is no track activity.’
The other positive of the venue ‘maturing’ was that less dust and grit would be dragged on to the track surface from racing cars cutting corners.
‘There will be more forgiveness if drivers deviate from the first year racing line because the track simply won’t be as dusty or slippery,’ Steele said. ‘We now have a very solid grass strike on the in-field and we have re-sealed the two hectare competitor set-up area, plus the main entranceway, with a smooth hot-mix surface to provide a clean and dust-free environment.’
Steele is also proud of the additions to TMP’s $3 million race control and pit lane building, now with a row of second-floor corporate suites above the pit lane. ‘Our little rural circuit is growing up by the month…and it’s exciting to be part of.’
Reid is pleased the track change will give all the drivers another ‘unknown’ factor to contend with and believes A1GP has also added drama through some constructive rule changes.
‘This season there is even more incentive to put the foot down,’ Reid said. ‘There are more points on offer and separate qualifying for both points-scoring races means you can go flat out in the Sprint Race and not risk blowing your Feature Race grid position.
‘The second mandatory pit stop also adds an unknown quantity to the Feature Race, providing windows of opportunity that our team took advantage of to help us clinch the Feature Race win in the Czech Republic.
The series heads to Zhuhai, China for the first time on 14-16 December 2007 for round four, with Switzerland leading the championship on 61 points, eight ahead of second-placed France on 53, followed by New Zealand in third on 46.
The fifth round of the season, A1GP Taupo, New Zealand, will be the first A1GP event of the New Year and Reid is urging Kiwis to ‘Black Out’ the track and experience the thrills up close and personal.
‘I can’t tell you how determined I am to do well at home and I’d love to have those stands packed and roaring each time we hit that corner.’