A1GP News Round UP

London, Great Britain. With two events now confirmed for Season Five of A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, the teams and drivers are still keeping busy both on-and-off the track during the summer break.

A1 Team Malaysia has linked with the Automobile Association of Malaysia (AAM) to launch a new breakdown assistance program for young drivers.

The AAM A1 Team Malaysia Unicard is a new initiative by the AAM which offers young drivers a host of benefits and capitalizes on the popularity of the A1GP team to encourage uptake of the new card.

A1 Team Malaysia has been supported by the AAM over the last 2 seasons of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport and the team is proud that the organization has harnessed the value of the team’s popularity and used this association for the new card.

The new membership program, for 18 – 23 year old drivers, is free of charge and members pay subsidized charges only when they require service. AAM’s 24-hour road assistance and breakdown service includes everything from a motorcycle patrol or van unit being dispatched to assist vehicles that run out of petrol, or requires a jump start or a new car battery, to providing car carriers and tow trucks in the event the vehicle is immobilized.

While membership is free of charge, cardholders are required to make a pledge that they will abide by a set of eight golden rules of road safety, and in doing so, becoming a responsible, caring, law abiding and safe driver.

AAM Chairman Yang Mulia Tunku Mudzaffar Tunku Mustapha, said of the new Unicard, “The launch of the AAM A1 Team Malaysia Unicard allows AAM to fulfil three very important objectives – inculcating the importance of road safety to young drivers, providing them with around the clock breakdown assistance, and growing AAM’s membership base for the future."

The AAM A1 Team Malaysia Unicard membership program is also an extension of the existing AAM A1 Team Malaysia card that was introduced in 2008 in collaboration with A1 Team Malaysia.

Owen Leed, Commercial Director, A1 Team Malaysia, said of the launch of the new card, “AAM is the number one breakdown service and road assistance provider in Malaysia and as the leading international motorsport team of Malaysia, we are delighted to be able to work with AAM to introduce new initiatives such as this Unicard. We welcome AAM’s focus on road safety and fully endorse their commitment to this important consideration in car driving and ownership. A1 Team Malaysia has a very loyal fan base of young drivers who are car enthusiasts and passionate about our team, so this is a perfect fit for the new card."

A1GP stars Clivio Piccione and Filipe Albuquerque have been selected to represent their nations as the first regional heat gets underway this weekend ahead of the Race of Champions World Final which will take place inside the Bird’s Nest stadium in Beijing this November.

Race of Champions South Europe will see teams from Portugal, Spain, Monaco and Italy compete this weekend (6-7 June) for a coveted spot in this year’s final.

With an increasing number of teams wanting to enter the event, Race of Champions organizers have introduced a qualifying round for the first time this season which will take place at the Estádio do Dragão, Portugal.

An asphalt course will be built inside the FC Porto soccer team’s stadium with the weekend kicking off tomorrow with ROC Portugal. Seven Portuguese racers, including Filipe Albuquerque, rally ace Bruno Magalhaes and off-road champion Carlos Sousa, will take part in a knock out competition that will decide which three drivers will compete alongside production World Rally Championship leader Armindo Ara£jo, when Portugal takes on Spain in Sunday’s ROC Iberia. The Spanish squad will be made up of double World Rally Champion Carlos Sainz, Citroën WRC star Dani Sordo, 2008 British Formula Three champion Jaime Alguersuari and Spanish rally star Sergio Vallejo – in Sunday’s ROC Iberia.

The fastest unseeded driver from both Portugal and Spain will then compete alongside predesignated team captains Sainz and Ara£jo, as the Iberian teams battle Italy and Monaco in the Race of Champions South Europe on Sunday.

“I am looking forward to racing in this," said Albuquerque. “It will be nice for the spectators but it will be great for us too, especially as its taking place in my home country. It would be good to go win and go through to the final but the most important thing is for us to have some fun."

Clivio Piccione has been invited to represent the Principality of Monaco alongside five-time Le Mans winner Emanuele Pirro and will battle it out against the Iberian teams and Italy, represented by double WRC champion Miki Biasion and WRC star Gigi Galli, for a chance to compete in China at the end of the year.

Last year, five times World Rally (WRC) champion Sebastien Loeb won the event with Michael Schumacher and Sebastian Vettel joining forces to retain The Race of Champions Nations Cup for Team Germany.

A1GP drivers are also continuing to make their mark in other Formulae over the summer months with former A1 Team Canada race-winner Robert Wickens dominating the opening round of the FIA Formula Two Championship in Valencia, Spain last weekend. The 20-year-old Canadian had a perfect weekend claiming two pole positions and putting in two faultless drives to convert both poles into victories.

“It's pretty much the perfect weekend," said Wickens. “From start to finish it has been good; we struggled a little in free practice but we didn't lose our cool and everything fell into place nicely – it's basically been a fairytale weekend. I can't believe the weekend and the year have started so well."

On the other side of the Atlantic, A1 Team USA rookie J.R Hildebrand was continuing his good fortune in the Firestone Indy Lights series. The 21-year-old finished second to Mario Romancini in the Husar's House of Fine Diamonds 100 race at Milwaukee Mile to retain his championship lead.

"(Romancini) had a really good car and he was doing a really good job with it," said Hildebrand. “Having to run behind him the whole race, I started picking up understeer and wearing out the front tires and I just didn't have anything for him at the end. With the lapped car on that restart, I didn't really have a chance to try to jump him. But it was a great finish for the team. I have to thank the AFS/Andretti Green Racing boys, they've done a great job all weekend. I'm looking forward to the race in Iowa (20 June)."

A1GP’s world feed pit lane reporter and former A1 Team Canada racer James Hinchcliffe, came home in seventh while A1 Team USA rookie Charlie Kimball finished in tenth.

Continuing to set standards, A1GP has become the most popular race series viewed on Autosport.com’s AUTOSPORT TV. Launched in 2007, AUTOSPORT TV features news and highlights of all major international motorsport series. A1GP’s race action – uploaded immediately after every race weekend with expert commentary from A1GP’s own Ben Edwards – has made the championship consistently the most-watched series on the platform so far in 2009.

“Having edited highlights of every A1GP World Cup of Motorsport event, complete with Ben Edwards’s authoritative commentary, is a welcome addition to the AUTOSPORT TV listings," said Henry Hope-Frost, AUTOSPORT TV Editor. “We’re delighted that this unique race series supports what is an exciting extension to the AUTOSPORT brand and look forward to working with the team during Season Five."

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