A1 Team South Africa has taken its first pole position in the World Cup of Motorsport recording an aggregate time nearly one second faster than series’ leader France. In an exciting climax to the afternoon’s sessions, Stephen Simpson snatched pole in the dying seconds, setting the fastest lap of the day with a time of 1.22.078 in the fourth segment.

The session started with all 22 cars sitting in the pit lane with no-one wanting to head out first on to what was a very dirty track. Graham Rahal, new to A1GP this weekend for A1 Team Lebanon, eventually made the first move and led the way for the rest of the field. It was a busy afternoon with all the teams recording a flying lap time in every segment, with the exception of A1 Team Canada after the weekend’s other new driver, Patrick Carpentier spun off in segment two.

First time pole sitter, Stephen Simpson, said ‘I didn’t expect to be on pole when I woke up this morning, the car is working really well and I got to grips with the track quickly. Our progress has been building in the last few races, and my confidence has been building too. There is a great atmosphere in the team and things can only get better. I didn’t realise I lost pole in the last session, the team just told me that I was the last fast car on track so I just put my head down and tried to see what I could do.’

Alex Premat, driving for A1 Team France said: ‘Qualifying was really interesting, Stephen was really fast and did a great job. We improved throughout the session but it wasn’t enough. Maybe tomorrow we will have rain, I hope so as the car is great in the rain.’

Switzerland’s Neel Jani said: ‘The top three is always good, I knew we couldn’t go for pole as Stephen was too quick, but I thought we might be able to get second. Qualifying was quite difficult, there was so much sand at the beginning of the session, but by the end there was hardly any left, so the track was getting quicker and quicker. I don’t think third is too bad tomorrow for the Sprint race as I will have the inside line.’

  A1 Team Driver Aggregate Time
1 South Africa Stephen Simpson 2.44.895
2 France Alexandre Premat 2.45.848
3 Switzerland Neel Jani 2.46.147
4 Italy Enrico Toccacelo 2.46.657
5 USA Bryan Herta 2.46.820
6 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 2.46.894
7 Netherlands Jos Verstappen 2.46.975
8 Ireland Ralph Firman 2.46.991
9 Brazil Christian Fittipaldi 2.47.066
10 Portugal Alvaro Parente 2.48.071
11 Malaysia Alex Yoong 2.48.447
12 Germany Timo Scheider 2.48.810
13 New Zealand Matt Halliday 2.49.025
14 Mexico Salvador Duran 2.49.090
15 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 2.49.147
16 Lebanon Graham Rahal 2.49.266
17 Japan Hayanari Shimoda 2.49.364
18 Austria Patrick Friesacher 2.49.343
19 Canada Patrick Carpentier 2.49.511
20 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 2.50.169
21 Australia Christian Jones 2.54.116
22 China Ma Quinghua 2.56.400

Despite a regulation which allows A1 Teams to switch drivers between Qualifying and the Sprint race, all teams have decided to retain their qualifying selection and there will be no driver changes.

The Sprint race will be contested over 50 miles lasting up to 30 minutes in duration. With a rolling start at 13.30 local time, tomorrow’s race will be run over 18 laps of the 3.39 km circuit. The outcome of the race determines the grid positions for the Feature race which will start at 15.00 local time with a standing start. The Feature race will be run over 100 miles (36 laps) lasting up to 60 minutes in duration.

Reporting by A1GP.com
Stephen Simpson and Team South Africa were comfortably fastest.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Bryan Herta was on the pace for Team USA.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Neel Jani starts on row 2 for Team Switzerland.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Team Netherlands wait in the pit road.
(Picture A1GP.com)
As ever Team France was very quick.
(Picture A1GP.com)
A disappointing qualifying for Team Australia.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Alvaro Parente chases Patrick Friesacher.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Team Mexico in their home race.
(Picture A1GP.com)