SHANGHAI, CHINA A1GP: SPRINT & FEATURE RACES
A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani put in a perfect performance during this morning's Shanghai Sprint race, dominating the action from pole position to seize his fourth win of the season. Jani also set the fastest lap of the race to pick up maximum championship points and increase his nation's lead over second-placed New Zealand to 31 after they failed to score. The Swiss team now needs to increase its lead by just two more points to secure the 2007/08 title honours this afternoon, with one round of the championship remaining at Brands Hatch in Great Britain (4 May).
Canada's Robert Wickens, who is making his final A1GP appearance of the season this weekend, raced to an impressive second place to join the Swiss star on the podium, holding off Portuguese rookie Filipe Albuquerque, who was again on superb form to notch up his second podium finish at only his third A1GP event.
Once pole-sitter Switzerland's Jani had made it to the first corner he was never under threat and by the third lap the 24-year-old had pulled out a two second lead over Canada's Wickens and Portugal's Albuquerque. The Portuguese rookie started on the front row but made a mistake as Jani pulled away, allowing Wickens to sneak through from behind and take second. Albuquerque put pressure on the Canadian throughout the race but couldn't make it past and the pair went on to cross the line in second and third position, a massive 4.6 seconds behind race winner Jani.
Malaysia's Alex Yoong, who started seventh, shot up to fourth at the start and enjoyed a good, clean race to finish fourth ahead of India's Narain Karthikeyan in fifth. The Indian driver managed to hold off Germany's Michael Ammermüller, who crossed the line sixth and was closely followed by South Africa's Adrian Zaugg and Italy's Edoardo Piscopo in seventh and eighth place respectively.
Home nation China's Congfu Cheng got a superb start from 15th on the grid, making up five places to take 10th from Ireland's Adam Carroll, slotting in behind Great Britain's Robbie Kerr. Cheng pushed hard throughout the 10-lap race and excited the local fans when he looked like he was going to make a move past the GBR car with two laps to go. The Chinese driver went on to cross the line 10th behind GBR's Kerr and take the final championship point.
New Zealand's Jonny Reid and USA's Jonathan Summerton, who started alongside each other on the third row, clashed during the rolling start, forcing 'Black Beauty' into a spin and out of the action. Amazingly the rest of the field managed to avoid the incident. Summerton, who hurt his hand when the steering wheel kicked back, limped the USA car back to the pits and retired from the race. Both teams will now be working hard to repair the damage sustained to their cars before the start of the 70-minute Feature race, which starts at 15:00 this afternoon and includes two compulsory pit stops.
Sprint race winner Switzerland's Neel Jani reflected on his team's superb performance in the Sprint race and looked ahead to the possibility of sewing up the championship this afternoon:
'It is a great start to the day. I hope I can do it again in the second race and if we are lucky we can even get the Championship. I tried to quickly get some distance between me and the other guys behind me so I would have a calm race. I still had to push to try and get the quickest lap because Robert (Canada) had it once off me so I had to push again, and I had to fight a little bit with the car so we can still improve it and hopefully be even quicker. I hope Jonathan (USA) is ok and can come back for the second race.'
Canada's Robert Wickens, who finished second in this morning's Sprint race, is aiming for another podium finish this afternoon:
'I think being on the inside on the rolling start here is a big benefit because it's such a long corner. I got a good reaction time to when Neel decided to go and I had a little bit of luck when Portugal got on the limiter a little bit, so it think I lucked out ok and I was just happy to make it to the first corner. From there I just settled in and I attempted to keep up with the Switzerland car but we still have a lot of work to do to the Canadian car. I think we have a tough race ahead of us for the Feature but think it's possible to make it back on the podium.'
Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque, who secured his second podium finish at only his third A1GP event, said:
'I made a mistake at the start that cost me a lot. I fell back into fifth place and then had to fight with Karthikeyan (India). I was able to be third at least and then I was trying to push Robert (Canada) to get second but it's very hard to overtake here. He was getting the team instructions when I was using the push to pass, so I was not able to catch him on the straight. Third place is still good though and I'm pleased to be on the podium but just not as I wanted.'
Sprint race results
POS DRIVER A1 TEAM LAPS TIME1 Neel JANI SWITZERLAND 10 15:59.612
2 Robert WICKENS CANADA 10 16:04.255
3 Filipe ALBUQUERQUE PORTUGAL 10 16:04.947
4 Alex YOONG MALAYSIA 10 16:11.781
5 Narain KARTHIKEYAN INDIA 10 16:12.680
6 Michael AMMERMÜLLER GERMANY 10 16:13.422
7 Adrian ZAUGG SOUTH AFRICA 10 16:14.611
8 Edoardo PISCOPO ITALY 10 16:15.447
9 Robbie KERR GREAT BRITAIN 10 16:16.732
10 Congfu CHENG CHINA 10 16:17.304
11 Adam CARROLL IRELAND 10 16:18.193
12 Franck MONTAGNY FRANCE 10 16:18.726
13 Filip SALAQUARDA CZECH REPUBLIC 10 16:20.777
14 Xandi NEGRAO BRAZIL 10 16:21.723
15 John MARTIN AUSTRALIA 10 16:23.975
16 Adam KHAN PAKISTAN 10 16:25.910
17 Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN NETHERLANDS 10 16:27.665
18 Jimmy AUBY LEBANON 10 16:28.641
19 Satrio HERMANTO INDONESIA 10 16:29.808
20 Jorge GOETERS MEXICO 10 16:37.879
21 Jonathan SUMMERTON USA 1 02:59.591
22 Jonny REID NEW ZEALAND 0 0
Fastest lap: A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani set the fastest lap (1m35.400s) of the Sprint race on lap four.
A1 Team USA's Jonathan Summerton made history today when he took his and the team's first ever A1GP race win in this afternoon's Feature race at China's Shanghai International Circuit. Current title leader and pole-sitter Switzerland's Neel Jani lost second gear early on in the race and fifth gear towards the end so, despite a heroic drive, couldn't stay in touch with the American car and crossed the line fifth behind title rival New Zealand's Jonny Reid in fourth.
This afternoon's result keeps the thrilling 2007/08 championship alive and it will now be decided at the final round of the season at Brands Hatch, Great Britain on 4 May.
Florida's Summerton, who turns 20 next week, was joined on the podium by Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque, who put in another incredible performance to finish second and take his third podium finish in only his sixth A1GP race outing. Ireland's Adam Carroll, buoyed by his maiden A1GP victory in Mexico last time out, was also on great form, racing to third position and notching up his and the team's third podium finish of the season.
USA's Summerton, who was given an anti-inflammatory dressing by the A1GP Medical Delegate, Dr Paul Trafford, to reduce bruising and swelling in his right hand sustained during the start line incident with New Zealand in this morning's Sprint race, snatched the advantage at the start as Switzerland's Jani struggled to get off the grid.
Summerton had pulled out a one second lead from Jani by lap eight and after some smooth work in the pits and a good out lap, USA held position and continued to pull away from second-placed Switzerland as it became apparent that Jani was driving without second gear. When Summerton came in for his second compulsory pit stop on lap 24, at the same time as third-placed Portugal, the American had a nine second advantage over the Swiss team and again rejoined in the lead. Summerton was never threatened and continued to drive beautifully to cross the line in first place for USA, becoming the 16th nation to win an A1GP race and the 10th this season, taking his and the team's first ever A1GP victory.
Portugal's Albuquerque, who started from third, fell back one position at the start as India's Narain Karthikeyan snuck through to take third. The 22-year old Portuguese rookie snatched it back on lap five however, with a perfectly timed clinical manoeuvre past the Indian car. Having leap-frogged the struggling Swiss car in the final round of pit stops, Albuquerque ran in second place for the final third of the race and went on to cross the line second.
Adam Carroll lost out to India at the start but rocketed past Karthikeyan on the start/finish straight to seize fourth place on lap seven, slotting in behind Portugal. After excellent work in the pits, Carroll gained a place and held third until the end of the race to score Ireland's third podium finish this season and its fourth overall.
Jani, who fell back to second at the start and drove much of the race without second and fifth gear, lost three places to Portugal, Ireland and, crucially, New Zealand, in the second round of pit stops, rejoining the action in fifth place behind the Kiwis in fourth. The pair remained in these positions for the remainder of the race, crossing the line in fourth and fifth place respectively, and the Swiss team are now 29 points ahead of New Zealand in the championship with just one round remaining.
Malaysia's Alex Yoong, who has been on good form all weekend, raced to sixth place ahead of India's Narain Karthikeyan in seventh, who was running as high as third in the early stages of the race. France's Franck Montagny and Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, who are fighting for position in the championship, enjoyed several on-track battles during the 38-lap race and finally crossed the line in eighth and ninth places respectively.
Germany's Michael Ammermüller took the final points-paying position while home nation China's Congfu Cheng, who started 20th, made up five places to finish a commendable 15th in front of his home crowd.
Feature race winner Jonathan Summerton was delighted with his first A1GP victory and paid tribute to the hard work of his team:
'This win is definitely going to build up team morale and we are going to carry that on to Brands Hatch. My hand only hurt when people started wanting to shake it after the race! We did our best to just go out there and go for the win. I knew basically Switzerland was going to be our biggest competition, so I had to go out there and go for the win and I just kept pushing once I got by. We had a bad start to the weekend, but we had to figure out the problem and work from there. The team did a great job working all last night and also hard today. In the pit stops they did a great job and I am glad I am here this weekend and racing to win for us.'
Second-placed Filipe Albuquerque, who achieved Portugal's best race weekend result to date, was pleased with his performance but is aiming to do even better at the final round in Brands Hatch:
'This is definitely very good as three podiums just from six races is a very good average. The starts were really bad, and this was not my best weekend for them as normally I do good starts, but I will work on that for Brands Hatch and that will make the difference. To win in this championship, which is so competitive, just a small mistake can cost a lot. That's racing, it is experience and I hope to do better in Brands Hatch. When I got close to Neel I noticed he had a problem with second gear and I noticed that at the hairpin on the second last corner. He was pretty fast but I knew I would pass him with an early pit stop and then I pushed very hard on my out lap and after that I was just getting away from Ireland.'
Adam Carroll, who notched up Ireland's third podium finish of the season, said:
'It wasn't too bad, but I got bumped into turn one and had nowhere really to go. I lost out to India and Mayalsia. I was able to fight off Malaysia and hold on to fifth place. Then Portugal and India were having a good battle and I was able to pass Narain as well as he kind of had a bad lap as he had just been overtaken so I knew it was my time to jump on him and make a move. After that I pushed as hard as I could but I really could not go any faster as the guys in front were just a bit quicker. It was hard today and the times were just extremely close.'
Today's result keeps the title fight alive as Switzerland leaves China on 150 points ahead of New Zealand on 121, giving the Swiss team a 29 point lead with only 32 points up for grabs at the final round in two weeks time. France now has 111 points and Great Britain lies fourth with 99 as it heads home for the season finale at the legendary Brands Hatch circuit in Kent on 2-4 May 2008.
Feature race results
POS DRIVER A1 TEAM LAPS TIME1 Jonathan SUMMERTON USA 38 1:02:25.206
2 Filipe ALBUQUERQUE PORTUGAL 38 1:02:34.935
3 Adam CARROLL IRELAND 38 1:02:40.509
4 Jonny REID NEW ZEALAND 38 1:02:44.739
5 Neel JANI SWITZERLAND 38 1:02:51.399
6 Alex YOONG MALAYSIA 38 1:02:59.616
7 Narain KARTHIKEYAN INDIA 38 1:03:01.173
8 Franck MONTAGNY FRANCE 38 1:03:03.419
9 Robbie KERR GREAT BRITAIN 38 1:03:04.486
10 Michael AMMERMÜLLER GERMANY 38 1:03:05.096
11 Filip SALAQUARDA CZECH REPUBLIC 38 1:03:12.774
12 Edoardo PISCOPO ITALY 38 1:03:15.554
13 Xandi NEGRAO BRAZIL 38 1:03:16.174
14 John MARTIN AUSTRALIA 38 1:03:17.830
15 Congfu CHENG CHINA 38 1:03:18.446
16 Adrian ZAUGG SOUTH AFRICA 38 1:03:20.835
17 Adam KHAN PAKISTAN 38 1:03:30.558
18 Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN NETHERLANDS 38 1:03:39.596
19 Satrio HERMANTO INDONESIA 38 1:03:45.458
20 Robert WICKENS CANADA 38 1:03:46.209
21 Jorge GOETERS MEXICO 37 1:02:57.200
22 Jimmy AUBY LEBANON 37 1:03:42.359
2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport points standings
POS A1 TEAM POINTS1 Switzerland 150
2 New Zealand 121
3 France 111
4 Great Britain 99
5 South Africa 92
6 Germany 83
7 Ireland 83
8 Netherlands 80
9 Canada 75
10 Portugal 50
11 China 46
12 USA 44
13 Brazil 44
14 India 40
15 Malaysia 25
16 Mexico 22
17 Australia 20
18 Czech Republic 10
19 Italy 10
20 Pakistan 1
Fastest lap: A1 Team Canada's Robert Wickens set the fastest lap in the Feature race, lapping the Shanghai International Circuit in 1m35.177s with a speed of 174.1 kph on lap 33 of the 38 lap race.
Next race: A1GP Brands Hatch, Great Britain, 2-4 May 2008
All pictures Lola Heritage.
Neel Jani (Team Switzerland) was an easy winner of the Sprint Race.
Rob Wickens (Team Canada) took a hard fought second from...
...a hard charging Filipe Albuquerque (Team Portugal).
Alex Yoong (Team Malaysia) showed a welcome return to form with fourth place.
Narain Karthikeyan (Team India) was less than a second behind in fifth.
Michael Ammermüller (Team Germany was sixth.
Waiting on the grid is seventh-placed Adrian Zaugg (Team South Africa).
Edoardo Piscopo (Team Italy) was eighth ahead of...
...a disappointed Robbie Kerr (Team Great Britain).
Completing the top ten was home favourite Congfu Cheng (Team China).
The field on the first lap with Neel Jani in the position he held for the entire race.
Rob Wickens, Neel Jani and Filipe Albuquerque on the Sprint race podium.
A maiden win for Jonathan Summerton and Team USA.
An excellent second for Filipe Albuquerque (Team Portugal).
Adam Carroll (Team Ireland) completed the podium.
Jonny Reid (Team New Zealand) kept his team's fading Championship hopes alive with fourth place.
A loss of second gear hampered Neel Jani's race but Team Switzerland are favourite for the title.
Another good finish for Alex Yoong and Team Malaysia.
Seventh for Narain Karthikeyan (Team India).
Franck Montagny (Team France) looked more competitive as his A1GP experience increased.
Another disappointing finish for Robbie Kerr (Team Great Britain).
Michael Ammermüller (Team Germany) could do no better than tenth.
A competitive outing for Filip Salaquarda (Team Czech Republic).
Team Brazil leads Team Australia.
Jeroen Bleekemolen (Team Netherlands) was well off the pace.
Satrio Hermanto (Team Indonesia).
Jonathan Summerton jumped straight into the lead from the start.
Filipe Albuquerque, Jonathan Summerton and Adam Carroll on the podium.
Some of the Shanghai grid girls.