A1GP R3 Preview – Sepang, Malaysia
Amsterdam, The Netherlands – The 2008-09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport remains in the Far East this weekend, following a successful debut visit to China’s Chengdu International Circuit two weeks ago, with Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit hosting A1GP for the fourth consecutive season with Round 3, Friday 21st – Sunday 23rd November.
TW Steel, the ‘Official Watch and Timing Partner’ of A1GP, will again be pro-active on-site with the Malaysian leg of the ‘Miss TW Steel’ competition – the Malaysian winner going on to face nine other national winners from around the globe in the grand finale at Brands Hatch in England in May 2009. ‘Miss TW Steel 2008-09’ will not only have the honor of the title but she’ll also collect $25,000 in prize money and receive a photo-shoot with a leading lifestyle magazine.
TW Steel will also be showcasing and selling product at the Sepang International Circuit with the TW Steel A1GP watch range expected to be a ‘must have’ item for race fans. Based on the successful TECH collection and launched at the start of the A1GP season at Zandvoort last month, the three TW Steel A1GP models have proved to be extremely popular – not least with the A1GP drivers.
A1 Team Malaysia holds the honor of heading to its home track, the impressively wide 5.54km / 3.44-mile Sepang International Circuit, leading the 2008-09 A1GP Nations Standings after two rounds. With a five point lead over A1 Team Ireland, (28-23), the Malaysian squad is no doubt hoping to capitalize on its momentum and do something it has yet to achieve in A1GP – score a home podium!
While Malaysian favorites Alex Yoong and Fairuz Fauzy have led their nation to a total of five A1GP victories, a top-three finish at Sepang has currently eluded the squad despite the team’s competitiveness throughout the previous three seasons of A1GP competition.
Sepang has proved to be a circuit that rewards consistency with just eight nations achieving podium finishes in the six A1GP race starts held previously at the track. While Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic and New Zealand have all scored one podium a piece, with Germany and Great Britain scoring two each, ultimately A1 Team France and A1 Team Switzerland have made the Malaysian circuit their own territory with five podium finishes each.
Switzerland’s Neel Jani has ultimately turned Sepang into his own personal playground having scored all five of his nation’s podium finishes including three victories – most notably a lock-out of the top step in last season’s Sprint and Feature races. A1 Team France has had three different drivers steer to top-three finishes, including a double victory by Alexander Premat in the inaugural 2005-06 A1GP season, with additional podiums courtesy of Nicolas Lapierre and a brace of second-place finishes last season by Loic Duval. A1 Team Germany triumphed in the 2006-07 Feature race, courtesy of Nico Hülkenberg, the only time to-date that France and Switzerland have been denied victory in Malaysia!
Sepang Driving Impressions:
One driver familiar with both the Sepang International Circuit and victories in A1GP is A1 Team Ireland’s Adam Carroll. Having scored his country’s first-ever A1GP win in the Feature race at Mexico City last season, Carroll again showed his class last time out at in China collecting his first Sprint race victory in Round 2 at the Chengdu International Circuit. He promptly followed that up with a dogged pursuit of A1 Team Portugal in the Feature race, finishing a close second at the checkered promoting A1 Team Ireland into second in the A1GP Nations Standings heading to Sepang this weekend.
Carroll, a multiple GP2 race winner and ex-BAR Honda F1 test driver, enjoys the demands of the Malaysian circuit and is keen to see how the all-new ‘Powered by Ferrari’ A1GP car compares at the track having scored a pair of seventh place finishes there last year in his rookie A1GP season.
“Sepang is a really great circuit,” stated Carroll. “I enjoyed racing there for the first time last year. It’s an extremely challenging circuit and it really has a little bit of everything to test you. It’s a quick track with a mix of fast corners and slow corners, with flat-out straights leading to heavy braking zones. Ultimately I can’t wait to get back out there and see what the new ‘Powered by Ferrari’ A1GP car do. I really think this kind of circuit will allow us to showcase the full potential of the car.”
He continued; “I think we’ll see some more overtaking with the new car, the track’s wide open and there’s always a lot of grip there too. It’s not like Chengdu where if you went off-line it was dusty and you’d likely go off, Sepang has grip just about everywhere which allows you a bit more track to play with heading into braking zones.”
With Malaysia famed for its heat and humidity, as well as the odd monsoon, the fitness of the A1GP drivers will undoubtedly be tested this weekend – something that Carroll is well aware of.
“Well it’s tricky to be fully prepared when you don’t live in a country that experiences the kind of humidity we’ll encounter in Malaysia. Ultimately this is where all your pre-season training should pay-off. If your fitness level is high then provided you maintain fluids throughout the weekend there’s no reason you shouldn’t be prepared. I’ll also be going out early enough that I’ll have had time to acclimatize to the conditions as well so it really shouldn’t be a factor.
“I was happy to come away with a first and second last time out in China but Malaysia’s an event I’ve been looking forward to for a long time and I’m hopeful we can maintain our momentum there and I can add to my TW Steel A1GP watch collection for scoring poles and podiums!”