A1GP names top-10 races
As A1GP approaches its 75th race in Portugal next month, A1GP.com thought it would be a good time to take a look back at the greatest drives and performances in the history of the sport.
What makes a great drive? Well, the reasons are argued over by A1GP fans worldwide, and superb bravery, outstanding achievement and triumph in the face of adversity are things that are all commonly mentioned. One thing is for certain however - everyone thinks they know a great drive when they see one.
After much debate here at A1GP.com
towers, here are our top ten:
10 Shanghai surprise
Jonny Reid (A1 Team New Zealand) A1GP Shanghai, China, 2006/07
At a time when Jonny Reid was fighting for his seat in Black Beauty, he delivered a stunning performance. After only seeing the rear-wing of Great Britain’s Robbie Kerr in the Sprint race (he lost the win by 0.385 seconds), he was able to extract revenge in the Feature. The pair went into the circuit’s opening complex of turns side-by-side, and while Kerr bravely tried to hold on the outside, Reid’s resilience was enough for him to sneak through. Putting a pre-race oil leak to the back of his mind, Reid pulled away to take the third of what proved seven career victories.
9 Duran, Duran
Salvador Duran (A1 Team Mexico) A1GP Laguna Seca, USA 2005/06
The dream of 80s music-loving headline writers worldwide, Salvador Duran was able to do the double in uncharacteristically terrible Californian conditions. Laguna Seca doesn’t normally go as far as to snow in March, yet the weekend A1GP came to town, the weather gave us everything. Salvador Duran didn’t mind however, driving the weekend of his life to overcome them all. Once he had won pole position he was simply a class above the rest in the Sprint race, leading all but the first lap as the rain came down. He went on to do the double in a slightly drier Feature race, and the wins remain Mexico’s only gold medals to this day.
8 China’s day in the sun
Ho-Pin Tung (A1 Team China) A1GP Sydney, Australia 2006/07
In what was perhaps China’s greatest ever race to date, Ho-Pin Tung secured a superb bronze medal, which was made all the more impressive because it included one of the passing moves of the year. It was the first medal for a nation not famed for its motorsport heritage, but it shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise. Tung qualified sixth, and after achieving the same position in the Sprint, he was able to improve in the Feature driving round the outside of the Netherlands’ Jeroen Bleekemolen at the flat-out first turn. “I think it looked braver on TV than it did in reality,” said a modest Tung.
7 Splash and dashLoic Duval (A1 Team France) A1GP Zandvoort, Netherlands 2008/09
Many great drives have come in appalling weather conditions, however, this drive was also worth applauding because Duval’s car experience was almost zero. Having only received its new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car just prior to the race weekend, A1 Team France had not been even able to apply its full livery before practice, let alone test it, when it hit the track for the final moments of Saturday. He climbed from 11th in qualifying to third in the Sprint race before commanding the Feature race from the ninth lap. He was then only headed during the two rounds of mandatory pit stops, in what was an immensely impressive victory.
6 Inaugural glory
Nelson Piquet (A1 Team Brazil) A1GP Brands Hatch, Great Britain 2005/06
The first meeting of a brand new series means a brand new car and a brand new race format, for everyone to learn and look what happens? One driver goes out and dominates. Nelson Piquet Jr took pole position and both race victories at Brands Hatch in A1GP’s inaugural meeting. Had Robbie Kerr’s battery not failed in the GBR machine then things could have been different, but Piquet’s Feature race pass around the outside of Will Power at Surtees was worthy of any great drive. Brazil has used eight other drivers since Piquet’s 14-race stint at the start of 2005/06, and only two have won medals, let alone come close to emulating Piquet’s Brands achievements.
5 Handy man
Jonathan Summerton (A1 Team USA) A1GP Shanghai, China 2007/08
For a day that ended in glory, race day hadn’t started well for Jonathan Summerton. An accident at the start with New Zealand’s Jonny Reid, ended his Sprint race before the lights had even gone out. But it wasn’t the repair of the car which worried officials, it was the damage to Summerton’s right hand in the impact. He chose to race in the later Feature however, aided by an anti-inflammatory dressing designed to reduce the bruising and swelling to a tendon. He then went on to deliver a virtuoso performance, pulling away from the rest to win by 9.7 seconds from Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque. “Who wants the lottery numbers now,” joked Summerton afterwards, referring to an A1GP.com interview he gave a fortnight previously, predicting a maiden USA victory.
4 The best form of attack is defense
Filipe Albuquerque (A1 Team Portugal) A1GP Chengdu, China
Albuquerque had been threatening to take the A1GP world by storm ever since he scored a bronze medal on his debut around the unforgiving streets of Durban, South Africa in Season Three. At the ‘undulating’ circuit of Chengdu, Albuquerque used pit strategy to take the lead, but then drove aggressively in a resolute defense of Ireland’s Adam Carroll, who appeared to have a tad more pace but was still not able to get by. Carroll used the PowerBoost and made several attempts to pass, but to no avail, as Albuquerque was wise to everything that could be thrown at him. Portugal became the 17th nation to win an A1GP race.
3 Last lap loggerheads
Alexandre Premat (A1 Team France) A1GP Sepang, Malaysia, 2007/08
In what has become enshrined in folklore as the greatest last lap in A1GP history, France’s Alexandre Premat battled with Swiss young-gun Neel Jani to take the Sprint race victory. Premat had already won a fantastic battle with Great Britain's Robbie Kerr (below), but that was the just the starter before main course. Going into the last tour, Premat got a strong run out of the final turn and was inside Jani at the first corner. The pair then ran side-by-side for nearly a third of a lap, before Premat skillfully got his nose ahead and took the checkered flag. It was the highlight of a fantastic championship season for the French team.
2 Sepang’s sweetheart
Neel Jani (A1 Team Switzerland) A1GP Sepang, Malaysia, 2007/08
Unlike what you have just read, Jani didn’t always lose out around the 3.44km circuit in Sepang. In fact, it has become known as ‘his’ circuit with four gold medals from eight starts. The best of these was easily the chaotic Feature race in 2007/08. In a race which included crashes, fantastic passes, safety car periods and even a standing start at the end of the pit lane following an errant red light, Jani was mighty, winning by an effortless eight seconds in blistering heat. It rounded off a perfect weekend where he had scored two wins, two poles and two fastest laps. In an A1GP career that has spanned 56 races and a superb nine victories, this was perhaps Jani’s most dominant.
1 Malaysian MasterNico Hulkenberg (A1 Team Germany) A1GP Sepang Malaysia 2006/07
Sometimes in sport, statistics mean nothing – but the sheer statistics in the 2006/07 Malaysia Feature race detail an awesome performance. The winning margin of 42.8 seconds remains the largest in A1GP history, and one of the largest for any single-make racing series in the world. Nico Hulkenberg, a man just starting to show just how much of a star he was, blitzed the field in absolutely treacherous tropical storm conditions. It could have been an even more sizable victory – one of the German mechanics dropped a wheel nut underneath his car during the mandatory stop and Nico also struggled when leaving. No matter, “I like wet weather and I have no problems with it,” said Nico afterwards, slightly understating the enormity of what he had achieved.