Final Practice

A1 Team Portugal made a dramatic leap up the timing sheet in this morning’s final practice session for the A1GP Durban, recording the third fastest lap behind Germany and France. Having re-joined the Series this weekend, yesterday’s sessions provided the team with its first opportunity to shakedown the car and their hard work appears to have paid off so far.

The hour-long session was extended by an additional 10 minutes to compensate for yesterday’s shortened practice and with the kerbing fully repaired, the teams headed out to get their final taste of the tricky street circuit before qualifying begins this afternoon.

The track proved to be a difficult one for the drivers to get to grips with as many struggled to negotiate the twists and turns. Mexico brought out the first red flag of the session as driver Salvador Duran knocked the front wing plate off the car going over the chicane. A spin from Australia’s Karl Reindler saw him touch the concrete wall, stopping the session for a second time, and when Ireland’s Richard Lyons slid into the wall at turn 15 the session was stopped for a third time. With the Irish car recovered and eleven minutes left on the clock, the session was re-started only to see a fourth red flag as Brazil’s Bruno Junqueira, who had struggled throughout the session, also touched the wall.

The teams now have to decide on their final set up before qualifying for the Sprint race begins at 14.15 this afternoon. Qualifying consists of four 15 minute sessions with a five minute break between each. Only one driver per A1 Team is allowed to take part in Qualifying and that driver must have completed at least three timed laps in an Official Practice session. Each driver is limited to three laps - effectively one “flying lap” - per session and must record at least two times, an aggregate of which will determine that A1 Team’s position on the grid for Sunday’s Sprint race. The grid for the Feature race will be determined by the outcome of the Sprint race.

Official Practice Session 3

2 Loic DUVAL FRANCE 01:18.506
3 Alvaro PARENTE PORTUGAL 01:18.683
5 Richard LYONS IRELAND 01:19.021
6 Ananda MIKOLA INDONESIA 01:19.164
8 Robbie KERR GREAT BRITAIN 01:19.351
9 Bruno JUNQUEIRA BRAZIL 01:19.357
10 Alex YOONG MALAYSIA 01:19.361
11 Narain KARTHIKEYAN INDIA 01:19.365
12 Neel JANI SWITZERLAND 01:19.366
13 Salvador DURAN MEXICO 01:19.381
14 Adrian ZAUGG SOUTH AFRICA 01:19.437
15 Jonathan SUMMERTON USA 01:19.475
16 Tomas ENGE CZECH REPUBLIC 01:19.560
17 Allam KHODAIR LEBANON 01:19.647
18 Ho-Pin TUNG CHINA 01:19.740
19 Enrico TOCCACELO ITALY 01:19.814
20 Karl REINDLER AUSTRALIA 01:19.998
21 Christian MURCHISON SINGAPORE 01:20.115
22 James HINCHCLIFFE CANADA 01:20.127
23 Nur ALI PAKISTAN 01:24.087


In a nail-biting finish to today’s qualifying session, A1 Team Germany took pole for tomorrow’s Sprint race, snatching the lead from New Zealand in the fourth segment of the afternoon. Home team, South Africa will start the race from the fifth row after a consistent qualifying performance saw driver, Adrian Zaugg clock an aggregate time of 2.36.718.

Germany’s Nico Hülkenberg said: ‘It is great to be on pole again for the third time in a row. A thank you to the team as I had a great car. It was quite a tough battle against Matt (Halliday) in the last session as it was the most important and I had to set a good lap time. Now I am looking forward to tomorrow. You can never feel safe because of the red flags and you cannot predict what happens if somebody crashes. You can be half on the good side and half on the bad side. To make a fast lap is always a compromise between pushing and driving safely. A street circuit is something special and not easy.’

Despite his strong performance today, Hülkenberg is cautious of being too confident for tomorrow’s Feature race. ‘Definitely the ideal line is pretty good as there is some rubber, but it is very easy to make mistakes here and if you are five metres off line you are struggling. It will be tough to stay concentrated for seventy minutes,’ he went on to say.

Matt Halliday stepped in for Jonny Reid who has been behind the wheel of the New Zealand car for the past three events. ‘It was tough to start A1GP this year having missed all the testing and just turning up at Zandvoort where I wasn’t quite prepared enough. Jonny has done a good job, but I know what I can do and I didn’t get the chance because he was doing a good job. I just needed to wait, but it was unfortunate as I didn’t expect to wait for five months to get back into the car. I think this shows everyone I can do the job. It was frustrating to just miss the pole but we shall make sure we fight tomorrow.’

Today was Halliday’s first qualifying session since the season opener in Zandvoort, the Netherlands. He went on to say: ‘We made some progress but it was down to me to come back into qualifying. In Beijing there was no qualifying so my last one was Zandvoort and today I was a little bit apprehensive at the start, maybe a little bit too cautious.  In the last session I had traffic which was bad luck, but on a street circuit you have this happen and I have to be reasonably happy with the result.’

Within the opening minutes of segment one, India’s Narain Karthikeyan repeated the earlier bad fortune of Mexico, knocking the front wing plate off going over the chicane and putting the team out of the first segment. The team worked throughout the remainder of the segment to fix the damage but the incident meant India missed the second segment as well.

Great Britain also suffered a poor start to qualifying, missing the first segment as the team worked to fix gear box problems discovered at the end of morning practice. The problem was resolved and Robbie Kerr took the red, white and blue car out for segment two but a spin on his flying lap resulted in a lap time of 1.28.602 and added pressure for the final two segments. Despite the bad start, Great Britain managed to pull themselves back, qualifying in 11th place.

While India and Great Britain’s incidents hampered their own performances, it was a spin from Singapore that caused problems for the rest of the field. With just over four minutes to go in the second session, Singapore’s Christian Murchison spun clipping the wall and causing a red flag. The segment was stopped while the car was retrieved causing A1 Teams, Indonesia, France, South Africa, Italy and Portugal to miss the chance at clocking a time as the session was not re-started.

As segment three began, A1 Team China was the first to leave the pit lane but a spin at turn four put them out of contention and caused another red flag. The session re-started with just under nine minutes to go and all teams, with the exception of China who had caused the incident, were allowed to begin the segment again.

A third red flag delayed the final qualifying segment with half the field having already set their final lap time and A1 Team Germany having secured pole. As this was caused by a marshalling error the clock was stopped so the session could run its full 15 minutes to allow the rest of the field to set a time and the remaining teams lined up to leave the pit lane. France’s Loic Duval looked on track to knock Germany off pole position with a strong final lap but a difference of just 0.191 seconds between their aggregate times meant the team had to settle for third on the grid.

Driver Loic Duval commented: ‘It didn’t help us as it was difficult after the red flag to get a good feeling with the car. I am a little bit disappointed with this result as I think it was possible to be on the front this weekend. However, the car looks really good. It will be a really tough race so we will see tomorrow. At the end we did a great job, but the second qualifying was really, really bad for us so maybe that is why we are only third.’

The 20-minute Sprint race will start on at 11.00 local time on Sunday 25 February. The results of the Sprint race will determine the grid for the 70-minute Feature race, which will begin at 15.00 local time.

Qualifying results

  A1 Team Driver Aggregate time Gap first
1 Germany Nico Hülkenberg 2.35.404 -
2 New Zealand Matt Halliday 2.35.551 +0.147
3 France Loic Duval 2.35.585 +0.181
4 Switzerland Neel Jani 2.36.240 +0.836
5 Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen 2.36.379 +0.975
6 Mexico Salvador Duran 2.36.399 +0.995
7 Ireland Richard Lyons 2.36.409 +1.005
8 Portugal Alvaro Parente 2.36.590 +1.186
9 South Africa Adrian Zaugg 2.36.718 +1.314
10 Indonesia Ananda Mikola 2.37.016 +1.612
11 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 2.37.095 +1.691
12 USA Jonathan Summerton 2.37.188 +1.784
13 Italy Enrico Toccacelo 2.37.289 +1.885
14 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 2.37.468 +2.064
15 China Ho Pin Tung 2.37.570 +2.166
16 Australia Karl Reindler 2.47.600 +2.196
17 Malaysia Alex Yoong 2.37.639 +2.235
18 Brazil Bruno Junqueira 2.37.709 +2.305
19 Lebanon Allam Khodair 2.38.177 +2.773
20 Canada James Hinchcliffe 2.38.693 +3.289
21 India Narain Karthikeyan 2.38.976 +3.572
22 Singapore Christian Murchison 2.40.238 +4.834
23 Pakistan Nur Ali 2.48.187 +12.783

Nominated drivers for the Sprint race

A1 Team Driver
Australia Karl Reindler
Brazil Bruno Junqueira
Canada James Hinchcliffe
China Ho Pin Tung
Czech Republic Tomas Enge
France Loic Duval
Germany Nico Hülkenberg
Great Britain Robbie Kerr
India Narain Karthikeyan
Indonesia Moreno Soeprapto
Ireland Richard Lyons
Italy Enrico Toccacelo
Lebanon Allam Khodair
Malaysia Alex Yoong
Mexico Salvador Duran
Netherlands Jeroen Bleekemolen
New Zealand Matt Halliday
Pakistan Nur Ali
Portugal Alvaro Parente
Singapore Christian Murchison
South Africa Adrian Zaugg
Switzerland Neel Jani
USA Jonathan Summerton

Reporting by A1GP.com
Nico Hulkenberg did another superb job for Team Germany.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Matt Halliday (Team New Zealand) looked as if he might take pole for a short while.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Loic Duval (Team France) went quicker and quicker.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Neal Jani completes the second row for Team Switzerland.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Jeroen Bleekemolen (Team Netherlands) will start fifth.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Salvador Duran (Team Mexico) lines up next to Bleekemolen.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Richard Lyons gave Team Ireland another promising run.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Alvaro Parente was very quick given Team Portugal's recent absence from the series.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Adrian Zaugg will give Team South Africa a top ten start on home soil.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Ananda Mikola (Team Indonesia) slipped back after a brilliant start in the first segment.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Robbie Kerr and Team Great Britain never fully recovered from a gearbox problem.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Bruno Junqueira and Team Brazil will not be happy with 18th place.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Jonathan Summerton (Team USA) put in a solid performance.
(Picture A1GP.com)
James Hinchcliffe (Team Canada) heads the pack waiting to leave the pits.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Allam Khodair makes his debut for Team Lebanon.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Narain Karthikeyan crashed at the chicane in the first segment and was never able to recover.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Enrico Toccacelo (Team Italy) will start in the middle of the grid.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Loic Duval, Nico Hülkenberg and Matt Halliday at the post-qualifying press conference.
(Picture A1GP.com)
Some attractive South African scenery.
(Picture A1GP.com)
The drivers sign autographs for the fans.
(Picture A1GP.com)