Durban: Saturday qualifying report

Durban -- Maintaining the strength shown in the first half of the season, A1 Team France will start the Sprint race for tomorrow's A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Durban, South Africa on pole position. Setting the fastest lap time of the weekend so far,...

Durban -- Maintaining the strength shown in the first half of the season, A1 Team France will start the Sprint race for tomorrow's A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Durban, South Africa on pole position. Setting the fastest lap time of the weekend so far, driver Alexandre Premat broke the 1.19 mark for the first time, shortly followed by A1 Team Great Britain's Robbie Kerr who will take second slot on the grid tomorrow afternoon.

After a promising start, A1 Team Czech Republic who recorded the fastest lap time in the first qualifying session, dropped to sixth on the grid, hitting a wall in the second session and breaking the car's suspension component. Two red flags in session four, brought out by A1 Teams USA and Austria delayed the final session with seven teams not putting in a time.

Street race expert who won the 2004 Macau Grand Prix, Alexandre Premat said, 'Today was good for me, I love the track, I won Macau, so I don't struggle on this type of circuit. I managed to do two really good times. This morning's session in the dry was enough to find a good set up. I had some new tyres in the second session which helped and I didn't need to change the set up at all.'

Commenting on the track, Robbie Kerr said, 'It's an interesting track, with a really tight first corner. It will be interesting to see tomorrow if people will be able to go

into it 2 by 2 on the first lap.' When asked if the red flag periods interfered with his qualifying, Robbie replied, 'the red flags definitely affected us, it's a shame, but it's just one of those things. I'm really looking forward to the race, we have a good position, but we'll have to see what happens.'

The newly-built track has been constructed over the last three months, taking 150,000 man hours and using 10km of safety fencing, 10kms electrical cable, 350 tons of steel, 4,000 tons of asphalt and 12,000 tons of cement.

Neel Jani's run on pole position in the last two races came to an end today but the Swiss was not pessimistic. 'The race is a different story, I took the last two poles but didn't win. Qualifying was average; I made a few mistakes on the new tyres but still managed to put in a good time. The wind picked up towards the end of qualifying and the track got a bit slower. But our position isn't too bad for tomorrow.'

Commenting on the best way to avoid an accident at the first corner, Neel said 'There isn't much you can do really. You have to take your position before the corner, but it depends what happens around you. The race will be interesting because it is easy to make mistakes. It will be about finishing.'

But it wasn't just the on-track action drawing attention at the Durban street circuit. A1 Team Malaysia's car underwent a makeover at lunchtime, leaving the team's garage for Qualifying boasting the logo of their newly signed sponsor, Malaysian automaker, Proton. Team principal, Jack Cunningham commented: 'Our new partner Proton has had the vision to see the strengths of the A1 Grand Prix platform and recognises the excellent branding opportunity that A1 Team Malaysia represents for Malaysian companies to reach an international audience.'

-a1gp-

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Series A1GP
Drivers Robbie Kerr , Neel Jani , Alexandre Prémat , Jack Cunningham