NZL SHOWS SIXTH SENSE IN QUALIFYING
A1 Team New Zealand produced a consistent result in Qualifying at Brands Hatch for the seventh and final round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport championship, with sixth place on the grid for both the Sprint and Feature Races.
A highlight of the four Qualifying sessions for New Zealand was driver Earl Bamber's car speed without the PowerBoost being used. Of all the lap times set in Qualifying, Bamber recorded the second fastest lap without PowerBoost which will stand him in good stead for the two races on Sunday.
New Zealand got off to a gentle start with the thirteenth fastest time in Qualifying One. Then despite being one of the last nations to hit the track in Qualifying Two, Bamber got to work with the PowerBoost activated, and recorded the sixth fastest lap time.
Four of the top six nations in Qualifying for the Sprint Race all used the PowerBoost. However Ireland put in an amazing lap to qualify on Pole Position without using the PowerBoost. Ireland's time was set at 1.11.615, while New Zealand was 0.493 seconds off the Irish time with a 1.12.108.
Things heated up in the second two Qualifying sessions, which determines the grid for the Feature Race. New Zealand were quick early on, crossing the line second fastest in Qualifying Three, only to be bumped back by Ireland and Monaco. Switzerland was the early leader after taking an alternative strategy which saw them use the PowerBoost lap in Q3 instead of the preferred Q4.
Entering Q4, the pressure was on with the championship battle for a number of nations coming down to the wire. Monaco was fastest early on, but a spin then contact with the tyre barriers for Brazil bought out a yellow flag.
New Zealand and a number of other nations were still in the pit lane at this stage with just over two minutes remaining in the session. Luckily for New Zealand and other teams, there was no need for a red flag and the session continued.
Having already used their PowerBoost lap in Q2, New Zealand made some further changes to Black Beauty in the quest for an even better chassis setup than in the earlier Qualifying sessions.
The changes paid off, with Bamber taking Black Beauty for a lap of Brands Hatch that was fast enough for sixth place on the grid for the Feature Race, and by far the fastest in Q4 of the drivers without PowerBoost. Nations such as Mexico that also used PowerBoost in Q2 to set the second fastest time for the Sprint Race grid dropped back down the order significantly in Qualifying for the Feature Race.
Things didn't go so well for championship leader Switzerland however, with Neel Jani spearing the Swiss car into a gravel trap in the final Qualifying session. The Swiss had however set a time in Q3 that will see them start from fourth place for the Feature Race.
With their PowerBoost lap kept until Q4, Ireland were able to make it a Pole Position double, setting up an exciting Sunday of racing at Brands Hatch. Ireland was also the only nation to dip into the one minute ten second lap times, with a 1.10.902, compared with New Zealand's 1.11.633.
New Zealand's result of two sixth places gives Bamber and the team a good chance to stay clear of the 'mid pack' chaos and sets New Zealand up with a chance to claw back one or two places in the championship standings.
Highlights of Qualifying can be seen on TV3 at 1pm on Sunday, while coverage of both the Sprint and Feature Races starts on Monday morning at 1am.
Earl Bamber, Driver
"We were aiming to be in the top-six to start both races, and we delivered on our goal which is promising."
"Now we focus on staying out of trouble, possibly making up some ground in the pitstops, and being there at the race finishes."
"We're getting better with more and more laps. It's one of those circuits where track knowledge really helps."
Colin Giltrap, A1 Team New Zealand Seat Holder
"I'm more than happy with our result considering everything; it puts us in a position to keep out of trouble and get on with the races."
"This is the trickiest track in the UK. Earl's coming on well and will be good in the races."
-credit: new zlealand