Ireland in Pole Position for A1GP Title

Brands Hatch, Great Britain -- A1 Team Ireland's Adam Carroll drove two stunning laps to put the Celtic Tiger on pole position for both of tomorrow's A1GP Brands Hatch races, boosting the team's chances of lifting the World Cup of Motorsport tomorrow.

With four minutes to go in the first qualifying segment of the day, Malaysia's Aaron Lim was first to turn a wheel closely followed by the rest of the field making for a chaotic final few minutes. Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen posted the quickest time with an impressive margin of 0.6 seconds on the rest of the field, with Ireland just behind in second. A1 Team Great Britain's Dan Clarke made a good start to the day recording the third-quickest time as qualifying got underway.

In the final segment of Sprint qualifying, however, nine teams opted to use their one PowerBoost available during qualifying hoping to go for glory in the final Sprint race of the season. One of the nations to employ this tactic was championship hopeful Portugal. However, on new tyres, Carroll recorded a 1m 11.615s, without using the extra horse power available to claim the front spot. Mexico's Salvador Duran made the most of his PowerBoost to record a 1m 11.653 to start alongside Ireland on the front row, with Netherlands' Bleekemolen ending the session third. Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque, one of the three teams still in contention for the title, will start fifth. Without PowerBoost Switzerland recorded the eighth quickest time to keep its title hopes alive. Jani will start just ahead of Indonesia's Satrio Hermanto who claimed the team's best grid position in two-years on his return to the race seat.

USA, Indonesia and France went out early in the first segment of Feature qualifying, followed by Italy's Tonio Liuzzi, who spun at Sheen curve, keeping the engine going but ruining his hot lap. In a change to its usual strategy, championship contender Switzerland opted to use PowerBoost, initially putting it on provisional pole. Ireland went second quickest, ahead of Monaco, New Zealand and Australia.

In a dramatic final segment China and South Africa were both out early, using their PowerBoost laps to record a final time of the day.

There was a slight hesitation as Brazil's Felipe Guimaraes crashed heavily just as Switzerland and Ireland were about to leave their garages. The pair headed out on track with the yellow flags luckily being withdrawn before they began their hot laps, going head-to-head to try and grab the top spot in what was a tense drama. Ireland, who had saved its PowerBoost for its final run, recorded another stunning time of 1m10.902s but Switzerland's Neel Jani ended in the gravel at Druids, and will start fourth for tomorrow's Feature race.

Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque will start fifth and ninth. Great Britain's Dan Clarke will start 13th and 14th in the Sprint and Feature races respectively, and will be hoping to move up the field in front of his home fans tomorrow.

"It's a good start, and that's where I wanted to be," said Ireland's Adam Carroll, "as close to the front as possible. The car felt very good, we were unsure after testing but I knew we just needed new tyres and the guys gave me a great car."

"We came into this weekend knowing we had to attack it to be at the front so it was a little bit risky, but with Brazil going off it was a good decision not to red flag the session and allow us the opportunity to go out and get pole."

Second for the Sprint race, Mexico's Salvador Duran said: "I have been working with this car for three weekends now and I am starting to get confident. I knew that as soon as I came to a circuit I was familiar with we would start seeing the car go better. I am going to go out tomorrow with all that I have and win some points, now that the Mexico race is cancelled we need to do something for the supporters and I will do my best."

Monaco's Clivio Piccione, who will be on the front row for the Feature race said: "That last lap was pretty good, I am a bit disappointed Ireland got ahead of me in the last minute but that's the game. The car went really well overall so I am looking forward to the race. I think we are aiming to finishing on a high so will do what I can; I am here to win it."

-credit: a1gp