Chengdu: Series preview

Chengdu, China -- A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads to Chengdu International Circuit in Sichuan province in the south west of China for round two of the 10-event series on 7-9 November. This brand new track to the series has a lot to live up to...

Chengdu, China -- A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads to Chengdu International Circuit in Sichuan province in the south west of China for round two of the 10-event series on 7-9 November. This brand new track to the series has a lot to live up to in terms of entertainment after a thrilling season-opener at Zandvoort, in treacherous wet conditions, saw Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy take the team's first victory in 27 races and France's Loic Duval take the Feature race win.

A1 Team China was in action last week testing at Silverstone in the UK with both Ho-Pin Tung and Congfu Cheng getting a chance behind the wheel of the new Powered by Ferrari car. The team is yet to announce which driver will be in the race seat for its home event, but both were equally keen to get the opportunity, although neither would have any advantage as Chengdu is unknown territory to them.

Tung was recalled to race in the season-opener at Zandvoort last month to start China's Season Four campaign. Talking about the team's hopes for the season, he said: "I am pretty confident we should be able to rack up the first win for China this year, and we should also be able to finish much higher in the championship than we have done so far.

"I think we've got a really strong team, everybody is working well, and cooperation is really good. I am happy and confident that we should be able to do a good job and be one of the front running teams this season."

Commenting on Chengdu, Congfu Cheng said: "A lot of people are living there and the nature side of things is very beautiful. The place traditionally makes very good food. The food is very spicy, maybe hotter than in India, but I think it is a very good chance for all the people in A1GP to taste some of the special Chinese food, because you don't get this in Europe. A lot of the people living there like motor racing, so we should have good support at the race."

A1 Teams Great Britain, India and Mexico have still not tested their chassis, but their cars were in the freight that left the UK on Saturday to go to China. The A1GP organisers will allot extra testing time on Friday to these teams at the Chengdu International Circuit.

Great Britain has recruited the services of Danny Watts to help kick-start the team's 2008/09 campaign in Chengdu, with the 28-year-old bringing a wealth of racing experience with him. After a successful 10-year racing career, which has spanned single seaters and GT racing, Watts has also undertaken testing in the new Powered by Ferrari car during its development process, running for two days this summer effectively replicating the running that has been available to the majority of other A1GP teams. Narain Karthikeyan will take to the track for A1 Team India and, after securing the team two victories last season, he will make his 29th race start for his nation.

India's lead driver, Narain Karthikeyan said, "We are more ready than ever to get on the track at Chengdu. It has been a long break and, after doing a good deal of physical training during the off season, I am feeling fit and am eager to get behind the wheel of the brand new Powered by Ferrari car."

Mexico will make its Season Four debut with David Garza behind the wheel. The 20-year-old last raced for his nation in front of his home crowd in Mexico City last season.

Former F1 driver, Robert Doornbos, will get his first chance to race for the Netherlands in Chengdu as the team's two lead drivers alternate race weekends throughout the season. Doornbos moved into Formula 1, first as a test driver at Jordan and later at Minardi, via Formula 3 and F3000. After F1 Doornbos moved to the US and competed in the Champ Car World Series with Minardi Team USA. The 27-year old driver from Rotterdam, then moved to the USA to compete in Champ Car World Series.

"I'm really looking forward to making my debut for A1 Team Netherlands and representing my country for the first time," he commented. "It's a new experience for me to be representing my country in this successful A1GP series. I have never seen the circuit in Chengdu and have only tested the A1GP Powered by Ferrari car for 20-laps."

Marco Andretti will take over the driver duties from Charlie Kimball for the US team in Chengdu. The 21-year-old, from the Andretti racing dynasty who is the son of Michael and grandson of Mario, has competed in the IndyCar series this year as well as making three starts in the American Le Mans Series at Sebring, Lime Rock Park and Road Atlanta.

"Getting to race in China is something I'm really looking forward to," said Andretti. "Although the A1GP programme is new to Andretti Green, I thought the crew did a great job with the first race. They had to put in a lot of effort just to get on track and they were able to get the car up to speed rather quickly. I know there is a possibility that the weather could add another element to the race, and that should only make the race more challenging for the drivers and more entertaining for the fans."

Earl Bamber put in a stunning drive for New Zealand on his race debut claiming two podiums in the Netherlands and Chris van der Drift will be hoping to keep the good run of form going this weekend. "I've been looking on the internet at some videos of the track," said van der Drift. "It looks pretty tight and twisty in places! Driving the GP2 car has been good preparation for the weekend. The cars are similar in style, they're both big cars."

Joint championship leaders France and Malaysia also head to China, hopeful of keeping their position at the top of the championship. Fauzy says of returning to the cockpit after his first round success, "We had the best start we could have hoped for in Zandvoort and now we need to show consistency. I'm pleased that Aaron (Lim), who is driving in the rookie sessions, will be assisting the team with his feedback and early weekend experience of running at the track. We have a very strong team and will be aiming for more success next weekend."

France is yet to decide upon its driver for Chengdu, but rookie Nicolas Prost was in action at Silverstone last week and commented: "I would be really proud to race for my country. It's a lot of pressure as you know people must believe in you so you have to deliver something good. It would also be my first race in the championship so I would just try as hard as I could not put too much extra pressure on myself."

The A1GP Chengdu, China event runs from 7 -- 9 November, kicking off with the rookie driver and developing nations' sessions on Friday from 10.45 to 11.15 and again from 11.35 to 12.05. All teams can take part in the later practice session from 14.00 to 15.00. Final practice and qualifying for the Sprint and Feature race will take place on Saturday with the two races scheduled to run on Sunday at 11.00 and 15.00 respectively.

About Chengdu circuit:

Although having raced in China five times in the last three seasons, A1GP heads to the Chengdu International Circuit for the first time. The race will give the series the opportunity to help the earthquake struck region with proceeds from the event going to the Sichuan Earthquake Relief Fund. Chengdu City is the capital of the Sichuan province in the south west of the country, while the track, which lies 16 kilometres south west of the city centre, is 3.367-kilometres (2.019 miles) long and features 14 turns. The circuit runs in a clockwise direction with an 820m straight and the total length of the circuit is 3,331m. Some parts of the track are 22-metres at its widest point, with the narrowest sections about 12-metres wide, which should allow for plenty of room for wheel-to-wheel action.

The 'City of Abundance' as Chengdu is also known, is the fifth most populated city in the country with over a 100 million people living in Sichuan Province. Its other claim to fame is being the most important economic, transportation and communication hub in China. The city is 1,518 kilometres (943 miles) from Beijing and 1,651 kilometres (1,026 miles) from Shanghai and lies on the same latitude as Marrakesh (Morocco), Cairo (Egypt) and Austin (Texas, USA).

Track length: 3.367km (2.019 miles) @Lap record: To be set.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Narain Karthikeyan , Robert Doornbos , Charlie Kimball , Marco Andretti , Fairuz Fauzy , Ho-Pin Tung , Loic Duval , David Garza , Chris van der Drift , Congfu Cheng , Earl Bamber , Danny Watts