A1GP - DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA: QUALIFYING DAY 1
A1 Team Netherlands set the pace in the second of today's two free practice sessions in South Africa as round seven of the 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season got underway around the streets of Durban in hot and humid weather conditions. Jeroen Bleekemolen recorded the best lap time of the day, a 1m18.738s, around the 3.28 km circuit, just over half a second off Brazil's lap record. Germany's Michael Ammermüller, who was an impressive 1.3 seconds quicker than the rest of the field at the end of the rookie practice session this morning, clocked the second fastest time of the day.
Great Britain's Oliver Jarvis, who hasn't driven an A1GP car since December 2007, and USA's Jonathan Summerton were on good form this afternoon, setting the third and fifth fastest lap times respectively. This was particularly impressive as both nations did not have the benefit of this morning's rookie session. Switzerland's Neel Jani was sandwiched between GBR and USA in fourth.
Home nation South Africa's Adrian Zaugg pleased his local fans by setting the sixth fastest time of the day despite limited track time, closely followed by Australia's John Martin in seventh. Title leaders A1 Team New Zealand and France had a tough time around the streets of Durban, finishing the session 11th and 15th respectively.
Canada's Robert Wickens only managed 10 minutes of track time and completed four laps in this afternoon's session, as the team had to repair damage sustained to the car during this morning's rookie session, when new boy Daniel Morad, the youngest driver to sign-on this season, was behind the wheel.
With concrete walls surrounding the perimeter of the tight and twisty street circuit, some of the teams and drivers ran into trouble with session-stopping incidents. A1 Team Mexico's David Garza had a big accident this morning, hitting the wall as he exited turn six. Garza was unhurt but the car was so badly damaged that the Mexican team had to sit out the second session and spend the afternoon setting up one of A1GP's spare cars for qualifying tomorrow.
The Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen set the fastest time overall today and is feeling happier with the set up of the Dutch car:
'It was a lot of fun to drive. I love street circuits so it's been going really well. I won last year in Monaco with the Porsche Supercup and I won with A1GP in Beijing so I just like racing on these tracks. We have been struggling a lot with the car the last few races and it's going much better on street circuits, as it did in the past with Jos Verstaapen, so I think we have a much better set up for that and it looks like we have a good chance for this weekend. We just need to work on the normal circuit set up.'
South Africa's Adrian Zaugg, who set the sixth fastest lap this afternoon, is feeling quietly confident ahead of his home event in Durban this weekend:
'We had problems with rebalancing the tyres today so we just tried to do one lap at the end which wasn't too bad under the circumstances, so we're looking alright. It's very competitive and A1GP is getting more and more competitive with each season and I think the times will stay pretty close all weekend. I'm pretty confident - we'll see after qualifying on Saturday afternoon but I think we should be in good shape.'
Official Practice Session 1 - Rookie drivers and developing nations only.
POS A1 TEAM DRIVER TIME1 GERMANY Michael AMMERMÜLLER 01:19.390
2 SWITZERLAND Marcel FASSLER 01:20.705
3 AUSTRALIA John MARTIN 01:20.885
4 MALAYSIA Fairuz FAUZY 01:21.144
5 SOUTH AFRICA Wesleigh ORR 01:21.254
6 BRAZIL Xandi NEGRAO 01:21.255
7 PAKISTAN Adam KHAN 01:21.442
8 ITALY Edoardo PISCOPO 01:21.642
9 FRANCE Nicolas PROST 01:21.707
10 LEBANON Khalil BESCHIR 01:21.863
11 NETHERLANDS Arie LUYENDYK 01:22.347
12 MEXICO David GARZA 01:22.384
13 PORTUGAL Filipe ALBUQUERQUE 01:22.550
14 INDONESIA Satrio HERMANTO 01:23.115
15 IRELAND Niall QUINN 01:23.401
16 INDIA Parthiva SURESHWAREN 01:24.101
17 CANADA Daniel MORAD 01:24.226
18 CZECH REPUBLIC Josef KRAL 01:26.088
Official Practice session 2 (14.00 - 15.00)
POS DRIVER A1 TEAM TIME1 Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN NETHERLANDS 01:18.738
2 Michael AMMERMÜLLER GERMANY 01:19.051
3 Oliver JARVIS GREAT BRITAIN 01:19.207
4 Neel JANI SWITZERLAND 01:19.303
5 Jonathan SUMMERTON USA 01:19.525
6 Adrian ZAUGG SOUTH AFRICA 01:19.567
7 John MARTIN AUSTRALIA 01:19.579
8 Narain KARTHIKEYAN INDIA 01:19.580
9 Filipe ALBUQUERQUE PORTUGAL 01:19.626
10 Fairuz FAUZY MALAYSIA 01:19.658
11 Jonny REID NEW ZEALAND 01:19.765
12 Bruno JUNQUEIRA BRAZIL 01:20.023
13 Adam KHAN PAKISTAN 01:20.058
14 Congfu CHENG CHINA 01:20.058
15 Jonathan COCHET FRANCE 01:20.271
16 Adam CARROLL IRELAND 01:20.354
17 Robert WICKENS CANADA 01:20.990
18 Edoardo PISCOPO ITALY 01:21.430
19 Satrio HERMANTO INDONESIA 01:22.230
20 Khalil BESCHIR LEBANON 01:22.469
21 Josef KRAL CZECH REPUBLIC 01:22.727
22 David GARZA MEXICO 0
Reporting by A1GP.com
All pictures A1GP.com.
Jeroen Bleekemolen (Team Netherlands) was quickest today.
Michael Ammermüller (Team Germany) was fast in both sessions.
Third fastest for Oliver Jarvis and Team Great Britain.
Jonathan Summerton took fifth for Team USA.
Sixth for Adrian Zaugg (Team South Africa).
John Martin (Team Australia) was again on the pace with seventh fastest time.
Team India's driver, Narain Karthikeyan finished eighth.
Filipe Albuquerque (Team Portugal) was ninth.
Fairuz Fauzy (Team Malaysia) rounded off the top ten.
Wesley Orr drove the Team South Africa car in the Rookie session.
Adam Khan continues to show improved form for Team Pakistan.
Nicolas Prost drove for Team France in the Rookie session.
Daniel Morad (Team Canada) had problems in the Rookie Session.
Josef Kral will race for Team Czech Republic this weekend.