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.’
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.