A1 Team Czech Republic snatched the top spot on the timing sheet in the closing minutes of this afternoon’s second practice session for the A1GP Taupo, New Zealand, setting the fastest time of the day, despite driver Tomas Enge stepping in at the last minute for injured team mate, Jarek Janis.

‘I should be in Daytona, preparing for the 24 hour race next weekend but Janis is injured so I got a late call to come to New Zealand but I’m very happy to step in. I love the country, I’ve never been in such a nice place before, said Czech driver Tomas Enge. Commenting on the track conditions, Enge continued: ‘I didn’t expect the track to be so dirty and you really had to push the car round the corners but I hope I can continue like this for the weekend. I will be concentrating on myself, not looking at the others.’

Knocking A1 Team India off the top spot, a position that new driver Narain Karthikeyan had held on to for nearly half the session, the Czech Republic demonstrated just how close this weekend’s race is likely to be. Having only joined the team last week, the morning practice session was Karthikeyan’s first time in an A1GP car and marked a significant improvement in India’s performance. Commenting on the gains made, Karthikeyan said: ‘It’s a big big difference and I’m happy with the way things are going. I’m not getting carried away by today, there is still lots to be done on the car. The team have had some less experienced drivers so we need a lot of work to be done on the car set up wise’.

A1 Team France set the fastest lap time in this morning’s rookie session with Loic Duval behind the wheel. Commenting on the Taupo circuit which has undergone extensive improvements to host the A1GP event, Duval said: ‘It’s a nice track but difficult on the line as it gets really dirty outside. The track looks very good and the whole complex is very nice. The corners are difficult, the shorter lines are a problem during the race, its tough to overtake and quite dirty so I’m expecting a tough race.’

Host nation A1 Team New Zealand also seemed to have a tough start to the day, setting the eight fastest times in both sessions. But having won the last race in Sentul, Indonesia, expectations are high for New Zealand to be the first team in A1GP to win a home race. ‘Winning at Sentul doesn’t add any pressure but I can use the home fans and use that energy to help me’, commented driver Jonny Reid. ‘I’m not disillutioned by the results, it’s quite pleasing as we have a few tricks up our sleeves. The track is really dirty off line and it’s a really technical circuit so I’ll be relying on the team and mechanics a lot.’

After a further free practice session at 11.00 in the morning, Qualifying for the Sprint race will take place with four 15 minute sessions between 14.15 and 15.30.

Official Practice Session 1 (11.00 – 12.00) – Rookie drivers and developing nations only

  A1 Team Driver Time No. Laps
1 France Loic Duval 1:15.601 15
2 India Narain Karthikeyan 1:16.188 29
3 Netherlands Renger Van der Zande 1:16.344 27
4 Switzerland Marcel Fassler 1:16.412 26
5 Malaysia Fairuz Fauzy 1:16.490 16
6 Germany Christian Vietoris 1:16.712 25
7 Brazil Raphael Matos 1:16.771 20
8 New Zealand Wade Cunningham 1:16.840 17
9 Canada James Hinchcliffe 1:16.849 14
10 South Africa Alan Van der Merwe 1:16.868 22
11 Ireland Richard Lyons 1:17.333 20
12 China Ho-Pin Tung 1:17.412 24
13 Australia Karl Reindler 1:17.566 23
14 Mexico Sergio Perez 1:17.744 14
15 USA Ryan Hunter Reay 1:17.878 25
16 Italy Michele Rugolo 1:17.908 19
17 Lebanon Alex Khateeb 1:18.619 12
18 Singapore Christian Murchison 1:18.806 20
19 Pakistan Nur Ali 1:21.257 27

Official Practice session 2 (14.00 – 15.00)

  A1 Team Driver Time No. Laps
1 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 1.15.248 24
2 India Narain Karthikeyan 1.15.303 20
3 France Loic Duval 1.15.368 20
4 Ireland Richard Lyons 1.15.380 23
5 Germany Nico Hulkenberg 1.15.407 24
6 Italy Enrico Toccacelo 1.15.505 29
7 Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen 1.15.529 33
8 New Zealand Jonny Reid 1.15.587 28
9 South Africa Alan van der Merwe 1.15.782 20
10 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 1.15.799 28
11 Mexico Salvador Duran 1.16.077 34
12 China Ho-Pin Tung 1.16.134 18
13 Malaysia Alex Yoong 1.16.267 30
14 Brazil Raphael Matos 1.16.315 31
15 Canada James Hinchcliffe 1.16.346 6
16 Switzerland Sebastien Buemi 1.16.370 37
17 Singapore Christian Murchison 1.16.401 30
18 USA Ryan Hunter-Reay 1.16.490 29
19 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 1.16.609 31
20 Australia Karl Reindler 1.16.665 32
21 Lebanon Alex Khateeb 1.17.572 25
22 Pakistan Nur Ali 1.21.197 30

Reporting by A1GP.com
Thomas Enge was fastest for Team Cech Republic.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Narain Karthikeyan was immediately on the pace for Team India.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Loic Duval (Team France) was third fastest .
(Picture A1GP.com)
An excellent fourth best for Richard Lyons (Team Ireland).
(Picture A1GP.com)
Nico Hulkenberg was, as ever, amongst the fastest.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Robbie Kerr will drive the Team Great Britain car.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Ho-Pin Tung waits in the Team China garage.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Michele Rugolo drove for Team Italy in the rookie session.
(Picture A1GP.com)
James Hinchcliffe (Team Canada).
(Picture A1GP.com)
Christian Murchison (Team Singapore) gets it wrong.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Raphael Matosn (Team Brazil).
(Picture A1GP.com)
Marcel Fassler went well in the rookie session for Team Switzerland.
(Picture A1GP.com)