Local hero Bryan Herta who lives in Valencia, Southern California put A1 Team USA at the top of the timing sheet today in the first official practice session for their home race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

‘It was a good session and a good start to the weekend. We sat out the first part of the session, as the track was still dirty and as I know the track I didn’t need to go out and learn it. The car is good, I struggled with balance in a few corners, but I’m pleased to be quickest. We haven’t had the results we wanted so far this season, but we hope to put that right here,’ Bryan said.

Heavy storms overnight which covered the surrounding mountains with snow meant the track was still wet when the session began. Commenting on the weather conditions Bryan said: ‘there is a first for everything, it was surprise to wake up to that this morning. I think the people at Laguna Seca have done a brilliant job in giving us a race track that we can race on in such a short time. The car is good, it’s a bit difficult in the cold conditions, with the Cooper Tires, the set up needs to be a bit different. It is a truly great circuit here though, and I’m glad that A1GP chose to race here.’

Asked how important it was to do well at the team’s home race, Rick Weidinger, Seat holder for A1 Team USA said: ‘It’s extremely important to do well here. We’ve got the right driver, the right race track. I’d like to say the right time of year, but it would be nice to have been here when it was warmer! When ‘We the People’ finished at the top of the time sheets, we were extremely happy. Bryan did a great job after only a few laps on track.’

The Californian circuit, with its fearsome reputation, mainly due to the unique Corkscrew downhill section, caught out a number of drivers who slid off in different parts of the track. Matt Halliday for A1 Team New Zealand brought out the first red flag of the session, with South Africa’s Stephen Simpson causing the second when he spun but remained on track and was able to re-start unaided. A1 Team Indonesia’s Ananda Mikola brought out the last red flag of the day which concluded the session two minutes early when he went off into the gravel.

A1 Team Mexico’s Salvador Duran who recorded the second fastest lap time of the day said: ‘The first session went well, its always good to finish in the first three. I think we can still do a better lap time though. I think we have shown that we have good pace and that we can be at the top. Other teams will not stop working between now and tomorrow, and drivers like Jos will get quicker, and we will need to work hard too’.

Hoping to put a disastrous home race behind him, A1 Team Mexico driver, Salvador Duran commented: ‘It was a bad race in Mexico, but that is motor racing, and that’s how it goes. It all went wrong. But I’m happy to be here now, I love America!’

Asked how he was coping with the famous Corkscrew, Salvador replied: ‘It is difficult, but so is the corner before, with a bump and a fast left. It will be a very interesting race, but we will have to see what the weather does.’

Third fastest, Jos Verstappen in the Dutch car said: ‘I still have to learn the track, the car felt good, but there are a lot of areas we can improve. I am not on the limit yet, and we can go quicker. The track is very slippery, and the water across the track
seemed to get worse. I still have to learn the track, but it is a very nice circuit, great to drive, but not easy to learn. I hope the weather stays dry for the rest of the weekend.’

Official Practice Session 1 (16.05 – 17.05)
  A1 Team Driver Time No. Laps
1 USA Bryan Herta 1.18.620 15
2 Mexico Salvador Duran 1.18.948 24
3 Netherlands Jos Verstappen 1.19.085 28
4 Portugal Alvaro Parente 1.19.169 20
5 France Nicolas Lapierre 1.19.176 18
6 Lebanon Graham Rahal 1.19.318 24
7 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 1.19.445 17
8 Ireland Ralph Firman 1.19.458 32
9 New Zealand Matt Halliday 1.19.501 21
10 Brazil Christian Fittipaldi 1.19.565 27
11 Germany Timo Scheider 1.19.603 29
12 Malaysia Alex Yoong 1.19.624 26
13 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 1.19.731 20
14 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 1.19.905 25
15 South Africa Stephen Simpson 1.20.189 28
16 Italy Max Papis 1.20.190 26
17 Australia Ryan Briscoe 1.20.585 29
18 Switzerland Giorgio Mondini 1.20.758 28
19 Pakistan Adam Khan 1.21.667 30
20 China Tengyi Jiang 1.21.823 24
21 Austria Mathias Lauda 1.22.074 27
22 Canada Patrick Carpentier 1.22.464 19

Today’s first official practice session was delayed from the scheduled time of 13.00 – 14.00 to allow the 22 participating A1 teams extra time to set up their race cars following a delay in the A1GP freight arriving from Mexico. As a result, there will be two practice sessions tomorrow morning (09.15 – 10.15 and 11.15 – 12.15) before Qualifying takes place at the regular time of 14.15 – 15.45.

Reporting by A1GP.com
Bryan Herta, Graham Rahal and Christian Fittipaldi try some basketball at the Corkscrew.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Jos Verstappen (Team Netherlands) tries the Corkscrew in a racing car.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Mathias Lauda (Team Austria).
(Picture A1GP.com)
The experienced Max Papis is having an outing for Team Italy.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Adam Khan and Team Pakistan make a welcome return to A1GP.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Matt Halliday and the Team New Zealand car.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Tengyi Jiang negotiates a crowded pit road in the Team China car.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Ryan Briscoe is the latest Team Australia driver.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Alex Yoong in the Team Malaysia car demonstrate just how steep the Corkscrew is.
(Picture A1GP.com)