Brands Hatch: Inaugural race report

Brands Hatch, 25 September - While Brazil came out victors in both races, it was in the Feature race that Nelson Piquet Jr had to really work for the $300,000 cheque for his Team. He led from pole for the first 14 laps but then it was A1 Team...

Brands Hatch, 25 September - While Brazil came out victors in both races, it was in the Feature race that Nelson Piquet Jr had to really work for the $300,000 cheque for his Team. He led from pole for the first 14 laps but then it was A1 Team Great Britain's Robbie Kerr who thrilled the home crowd by leading for the next three laps. Sadly his car ground to a halt on lap 18 with battery failure and it was then A1 Team Australia's Will Power who continued at the front. The Australian never had a moment's peace as his wing mirrors were full of the Brazilian colours. In an audacious manoeuvre on lap 29, Piquet put Brazil back on top and with a clear track in front of him was able to pull away and win by over 10 seconds.

A couple of drivers didn't make it round the first lap and they were those representing India and France. However, A1 Team Netherlands' driver who was the first retirement in the Sprint race and, therefore, last on the grid for the Feature race drove through the field and ended up scoring points with a seventh place.

The strength and safety of the A1 race car was tested to the full by A1 Team Lebanon. It was on lap 14 that Khalil Beschir, after a collision with the car from A1 Team Italy, was involved in a heart-stopping moment when his car rolled several times before coming to a halt upside down in a gravel trap. The safety crews were on the scene within seconds and the lucky driver was helped out of his car without any injuries whatsoever. This brought out A1 Grand Prix's first safety car. However it wasn't the only one of the race as when A1 Team Russia spun off on lap 19 it was deployed again to remove the stricken car.

Once the racing began again, it was battles right to the chequered flag with the fight for the final podium position fast and furious. A1 Team Mexico had moved into third on lap 18 at which time fourth was A1 Team Malaysia. However, a fast charging New Zealand car that had stalled on the parade lap had worked its way through the field and was now ready to pounce. First to fall victim was A1 Team Malaysia on lap 20 and from then on Mexico was the next intended victim. The Mexican driver kept his nerve and despite all the best efforts of the New Zealander crossed the line in third.

Commenting on the first A1 Grand Prix of Nations, A1 Grand Prix Founder, President and Chairman, Sheikh Maktoum said: 'To actually see my dream come true today was for me, truly amazing. I am delighted at the number of people who came to watch what was an historic event and I hope they enjoyed the day and will now want to follow our series. We know from the number of hits on our own website that we already have millions of fans around the world and I hope those who were watching us from their own homes also felt this was something special. We have learnt a lot this weekend and I want to thank everyone involved in whatever capacity who made today happen.'

A1 Grand Prix CEO, Tony Teixeira said: 'What I have seen today has turned me into a real petrol head. I became involved in A1GP as I saw it as a sound business proposal. All the numbers stacked up and the fact 25 nations also saw this in the same light means my initial reaction was the right one. Having now seen our first race weekend I can pursue sponsors with a renewed passion as we have something very special to offer them on a worldwide platform.'

<pre> Current points table - 25 September 2005 A1 Team Points 1 Brazil 21 2 Australia 16 3 New Zealand 15 4 Mexico 13 5 France 9 6 Great Britain 6 7 Malaysia 6 8 South Africa 5 9 Pakistan 4 10 Netherlands 4 11 Portugal 3 12 Japan 3 13 Switzerland 2 14 Canada 2 15 Ireland 1 16 Germany 1

-www.a1gp.com.

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