Durban: Round eight preview

A1GP Drivers -- Live It Up In KZN The sights and sounds of South Africa are what the drivers of A1GP World Cup of Motorsport are experiencing this week in the run up to the series' second race around the streets of Durban. This exciting race is...

A1GP Drivers -- Live It Up In KZN

The sights and sounds of South Africa are what the drivers of A1GP World Cup of Motorsport are experiencing this week in the run up to the series' second race around the streets of Durban. This exciting race is eagerly anticipated by both the drivers and their teams, but several of the drivers have been lucky enough to become 'tourists' and experience first hand what Durban and KwaZulu Natal have to offer.

A must for any visitor to South Africa is to see the amazing wildlife up close and personal and on the agenda for a group of lucky drivers was a visit to the Hluhluwe Game Reserve at the beginning of the week. The drivers were following in the footsteps of Zulu kings in this game reserve which is the oldest in Africa, having been set up in 1895. The must for visitors is to see the 'big five' animals that stalk the savannah and the drivers were not disappointed. While viewing the animals here in the heart of Zululand they were able to see lions being fed and also enjoy late night and early morning trips to see the animals in their natural habitats.

The gentler pursuit of golf was also on offer for the drivers and team members in a Charity Gold Day Tournament at the Durban Country Club. However, another opportunity to meet some of nature's killers is on offer with a trip to uShaka Marine World where the drivers will be able to drive with sharks.

While some unique experiences have been on offer for the drivers, the real reason for their visit to Durban is the street race that last year provided some amazing action. No one will forget the way A1 Team Netherlands claimed its first win, although it was almost a double for the team and its driver, Jos Verstappen, when he threw caution to the wind in the Sprint Race and tried overtaking A1 Team France's Alexandre Premat on the final lap. Sadly for the team this move did not come off, but it was full marks for bravery.

It is A1 Team Germany leading the way this year in the points, but 19-year-old Nico Hülkenberg will have some new opposition in Durban. Among these will be the quickest Rookie driver from the last race in Eastern Creek, Jonathan Summerton, who will be making his A1GP racing debut for A1 Team USA. However, these youngsters will both have some new experienced opposition in the form of Bruno Junqueira who will be making his first ever A1GP appearance for A1 Team Brazil. Bruno has been a regular racer in America in Champ Car, where he has been runner up in the championship three times, but prior to that he won the 2000 International Formula 3000 Championship.

There will be a welcome return to A1GP this weekend as A1 Team Portugal will have its first outing of the 2006/07 season. The team will have former British Formula 3 Champion, Alvaro Parente, at the wheel for his 21st A1GP race, and will be hoping to at least repeat its result from this event last year as third was the team's best Feature Race result, with second in Australia the best Sprint Race finish.

The Durban street track, which was specifically designed for A1GP, is 3.28km (2.04 miles) long and if any of the teams feel the weather in the high twenties is too hot they could just take a dip in the Indian Ocean as the paddock is next to the beach. Like all street tracks the drivers need to concentrate hard as the concrete barriers are unforgiving and there are very few run off areas. A1 Team France claimed pole with an aggregate time of their best qualifying laps of 2mins 36.841secs. However, it is A1 Team Brazil who hold the outright lap record with the time of 1min 18.178secs set during the race by Nelson Piquet Jr.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Jos Verstappen , Bruno Junqueira , Nelson Piquet Jr. , Alvaro Parente , Alexandre Prémat , Nico Hulkenberg , Jonathan Summerton