Jani lands Dubai sprint pole

Neel Jani gave his Team Switzerland their second pole in the inaugural season of the A1 Grand Prix series and to edge out the front-running Team France. Three weeks ago in Malaysia, the Swiss racer landed the team their first pole position in dry/damp/wet conditions in Sepang.

Neel Jani.
Photo by xpb.cc.
Today, he held nothing back in the fourth and final qualifying segment with a flying lap timed at 1:45.926 to ensure the pole for Sunday's sprint race. Jani was quickest in the second and third segments as well but with the domination in the past four rounds by the French team, Jani did not want to leave anything to chance even with the lineup being based on aggregate time.

"We finally got the car as we wanted today and I didn't make any mistakes. We got it all together for qualifying," said Jani who is still searching for his and the team's first victory. "However, I was on pole in Malaysia but it didn't work out so I'll have to wait and see how it works out in the race tomorrow."

Round six was not easy for Team Mexico when in the first of the four qualifying segments, Salvador Duran crashed heavily in the opening minutes putting a stop to the session as track officials spent the rest of the time cleaning up from the debris. Duran was uninjured and able to chat about his future British Formula 3 ride.

Nicolas Lapierre flew off the track in the second segment when his Team France A1 car developed a brake failure. Yet, in the final two segments, Lapierre fought back to earn the second slot on the grid for Team France.

"It was very difficult today. The first session was red flagged and we had problems with the brakes in the second after the drive shaft broke this morning. Then we had to put in two safe laps in qualifying segments three and four," admitted Lapierre.

"It wasn't a great time, but at least we are starting on the first row. I'm quite happy, but I have to make no mistakes tomorrow and there will be a lot of pressure," the Frenchman added. "I'm a little disappointed really, as we could have been faster."

And, in a repeat of Malaysia, Ralph Firman notched the third starting position for Team Ireland. The only difference in the top three was the change in drivers for Team France: Alexandre Premat was the nominated driver in mid-November and Lapierre pilots for them this weekend. Both drivers have scored victories thus far, only Team Brazil's Nelson A. Piquet having won an A1GP race besides the two Frenchman.

Jani would like to change that tomorrow, "I hope I'm able to give myself a birthday present but for sure it will be very difficult."

Ralph Firman.
Photo by xpb.cc.
So would Firman who has also been knocking on the door and with two races held at each venue, the odds are good to have a new winning team on the top step of the podium.

"We've had a good couple of days and have progressed well. I was very disappointed with the first session, as we weren't able to go out. We are near the front for the sprint race at least. The first session was very slippery, but by the end it was fine," said the Irishman. "Hopefully we will be quick in the race tomorrow."

Piquet was oh-so-close to that third grid position, but will start the Team Brazil car on the slow side of the track, as Firman edged the GP2 pilot by a single thousandth of a second -- and just another seven thousandths separated the due from Team Great Britain's Robbie Kerr.

"The track conditions were different -- a bit slippery -- so we made some adjustments," Kerr recalled his session. "Then I was on my fast lap when the red light came on which was disappointing. For the second session we were getting used to the track, then we had new tyres for the remaining two attempts. We had a good run on the third stint and for the fourth we had a little technical problem that we're looking into that lost us a few tenths."

Adrian Sutil took the sixth position for Team Germany, ahead of two former F1 drivers -- Tomas Enge for Czech Republic and Alex Yoong for Malaysia, the latter two separated barely by a hundredth of a second.