Dubai: Round six preview

A1 GRAND PRIX COMES HOME TO DUBAI Dubai, UAE - Dubai plays host to its home grown championship this week when A1 Grand Prix celebrates the mid point in its inaugural season at the Dubai Autodrome. Under the royal...

A1 GRAND PRIX COMES HOME TO DUBAI

Dubai, UAE - Dubai plays host to its home grown championship this week when A1 Grand Prix celebrates the mid point in its inaugural season at the Dubai Autodrome. Under the royal patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Dubai Crown Prince and UAE Defence Minister, the race will focus the eyes of the world on Dubai as an anticipated global television audience of 10 million viewers tune in to watch the action.

The five events to date have provided spectacular racing and series Founder, President and Chairman, Sheikh Maktoum took the opportunity to announce prior to his home event plans for the future. There are now five new Franchises available for 2006/2007, so bringing the total number of national teams to 30. The Dubai event is the only one where there will be no national team racing, but this will be rectified as the UAE is planning to enter a team for next season. The training of six drivers for this team is already well advanced and there are plans to set up both a junior and a senior team.

Despite no local A1GP team, the interest in Dubai could not be higher for the race and its participants. A series of promotional events are being held in and around the city with the drivers having already visited the Class 1 World Offshore Powerboat Grand Prix dry pits ahead of their race on Friday. After the race an A1 car will be on display at the Dubai Motor Show and A1 Team Lebanon drivers, Khalil Beshir and Basil Shaaban will be visiting.

Even before a car had hit the track A1GP was trying a new innovation in motor sport - a helicopter to lift abandoned cars off the track. In the first trial of this system today (Thursday) a single-engined Swiss helicopter from Air Zermatt demonstrated the speed with which a stricken car could be removed. Piloted by Samuel Summermatter, a veteran of 50,000 lifts, the helicopter had a fifty metre iron cable slung beneath it and removed a test car in a fraction of the time that conventional tow vehicles would have taken. This system known as A1 Recovery is now being studied for possible inclusion in the series.

In Dubai there will be some new helmets in the cars. For two additional Friday morning practice sessions A1 Team Great Britain is introducing the first female driver to the series, Katherine Legge, who has already tested for the outgoing Minardi Formula One team. John Surtees, the only man to have been world champion on both two and four wheels, now Team Principal of A1 Team Great Britain said: 'We are taking the opportunity of the extra test sessions in Dubai to assess Katherine in the car. By doing so, we'll have the opportunity of broadening our driver line up and strengthening our team. I am very pleased she will be joining us.' Meanwhile A1 Team New Zealand will also take the opportunity to run a new driver to the series during these Friday morning tests. Scott Dixon, a former IndyCar Series Champion, will be having his first taste of an A1GP car. Despite being a New Zealander, the 25-year-old who lives in Indianapolis in the USA was born in Brisbane, Australia.

A1 Team USA will also be running with a new driver, their third to date. Phil Giebler is now racing in the USA, but in 2001, 2002 and 2003 raced in Formula 3 and Formula 3000 in Europe. Rick Weidinger, seat holder for A1 Team USA said: 'Phil is a great driver and has had much success racing in Europe and we are looking forward to his performance on December 11. Bryan Herta is still with the team and will compete for us again in the spring.'

While the original A1GP schedule included 12 races, several of them were provisional depending on track licences, etc. Unfortunately, the Brazilian race in Curitiba planned for 12 February has had to be cancelled. Currently an alternative venue is being investigated but there is no news on where this could be.

As the midway point of the season approaches, competition remains intense. A1 Teams Switzerland and Brazil, separated by only five points, will be fighting for second place in the Series, and hoping to close down the gap to A1 Team France, which has a 27 point lead after eight consecutive race wins. Further down the field A1 Teams Malaysia, Netherlands, Ireland, Portugal and Australia are separated by just six points and are all battling to move up the championship table.

A1 Teams Lebanon, India and Pakistan are viewing the Dubai race as their home event. While Lebanon and India will be fighting to score their first points of the Series, the historic competition between India and Pakistan will be intensified following the A1 Grand Prix of Nations in Malaysia when a collision with A1 Team India saw Pakistan retire to the pits.

Sheikh Maktoum said: 'This will not only be a spectacular weekend for A1 Grand Prix but for Dubai itself. Fashion, film, cars and adrenaline filled sports will descend on the region and we will provide some of the most amazing, close motor racing that Dubai has ever seen. I hope everyone will come out and support the A1 Grand Prix series.'

Spectators from all over the region are expected to attend the event from the 9 - 11 December and are encouraged to sport their national colours in support of their local A1 Team. The first 100 'Best Dressed' fans representing each national team will receive free entry on race day. Simply by turning up to the main ticket booth dressed to support a national team, 100 race goers will be able to watch the best wheel to wheel racing free of charge.

After all the racing concludes for the winter recess, an A1 Grand Prix car will be on display at the Dubai Motor Show which opens to the public on Monday 12 December. A1 Grand Prix drivers will also be on hand to talk to members of the press about being involved in the inaugural series of the first World Cup of Motorsport.

-a1gp-

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Series A1GP
Drivers Basil Shaaban , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta , Katherine Legge , John Surtees , Sheikh Maktoum , Rick Weidinger