NEW ZEALAND'S DOUBLE WIN AT SENTUL
Sentul - New Zealand's Jonny Reid has secured a double victory at the Gudang Garam A1GP Sentul, Indonesia event. In a rain-affected and incident-filled Feature race, Reid won by just over two seconds from Germany's Nico Hulkenberg and France's Nicolas Lapierre.
Polesitter Reid led into the first corner and withstood heavy pressure from Mexico's Salvador Duran and Great Britain's Robbie Kerr for the lead. Hulkenberg, starting from third, pulled level with Duran through turns five and six, but it was Kerr who finally found a way into second, driving round the Mexican on the inside of turn seven. South Africa's Alan van der Merwe had an outstanding start, moving from eighth to fifth by the second sector and past Duran into fourth by the end of the first lap.
Relishing the wet conditions, Hulkenberg put Reid under heavy pressure for the lead over the first lap and drew level with the New Zealander down the pit straight at the end of the lap using the PowerBoost button. Reid however kept his line and jinked to the right down the straight into turn three to defend his lead from the German. Hulkenberg tried the same move the following lap but this time made it stick and powered through into the lead of the field. Willi Weber's protege then went on to pull out a six second lead over the next five laps.
Hulkenberg held the lead until the first round of pit stops. As the heavy rain that had delayed the start of the race cleared and the track started to dry, it was a gamble for teams on whether to opt for wet or slick rubber. Reid was amongst the first to stop on lap 16, with Hulkenberg pulling in two laps later. The German's stop was slightly slower at 37.8secs, but the advantage the German had built over the preceding laps was enough to put him back out ahead of Reid. Even a brief excursion into the gravel at turn two on lap 19 was not enough to delay the young German.
Over the next two laps Reid however put in a series of times over a second quicker than Hulkenberg to close the gap to just under a second by lap 24. As the track started to dry, drivers returned to the pits for a set of slick Cooper tyres; Hulkenberg stopping on lap 30. With clean air in front, Reid put the hammer down to record a quick series of laps and when he stopped on lap 33, he came out in front of the German in the lead. "It was not a straightforward race at all and the weather came in and played a big part in that race," said Reid. "After the start of the race I was struggling quite a lot and at the pit stop we made a change and the car was much, much better as you could see in the lap times. I snatched back the lead and pushed hard to get a gap. We put a lot of push on at the end and I just got my head down.
Great Britain's Kerr was looking good for another podium spot behind the Kiwi and the German until France's Lapierre caught and passed him down the straight on lap 34. With strategic use of the PowerBoost, the Frenchman pulled level down the pit straight, taking the inside line through turn one. Kerr tried to fight back, but with no PowerBoosts remaining, Kerr struggled to find defend his line.
A solid fourth position for the Englishman looked assured until he ran wide at turn four on lap 39, spun and stalled. A five minute safety car period was called to recover the car and when it withdrew it was a sprint to the finish, with only three minutes remaining.
Reid made an excellent start and held onto his advantage over a charging Hulkenberg to win by 1.178secs, the Kiwis' first A1GP Feature race victory, "Fortunately I was able to take the win today. Germany and myself have shown clear pace in qualifying for the first half of the season and I am confident we can keep that pace up. We have got a good thing going with the alliance with Germany and it is working well so I have every confidence that I can put two wins on the board at home. I am looking forward to it and I will push hard to do that."
Hulkenberg second position retained the series lead for Germany. "I got a pretty good start and was immediately behind Jonny. I could see nothing, it was so hard to work out the braking points and that was why it took so long until I overtook Jonny or he made a mistake. I didn't see a lot so when I overtook him I had a very good car and everything was fine. On my second set of tyres I made a mistake and I don't know what was wrong the car was much worse. I had oversteer, understeer and it was just much, much worse than before. It was very slippery to the end and there was a lot of power oversteer because it was still not dry, but we had changed the slicks and from the beginning to the first corner I knew it was a lot better there was a lot more grip from the first corner."
France moved up from seventh to third overall, following an excellent start and race-long battle with Malaysia. Lapierre was pleased with his result, France's fourth podium of the year, "It was a pretty good race for us considering our starting position. The race was okay. We struggled a bit at the beginning with the first set of tyres, I don't know why exactly. Then the second set was okay and we were able to come back fighting with Great Britain and my team made a great call to change to slick tyres. The end of the race was good and certainly we had Pakistan and Australia between me and Nico after the safety car so I could not do anything, but we need to start a little bit more in the front and we will be okay."
Italy finished a remarkable fourth after starting 15th on the grid. The Netherlands were a strong fifth and Malaysia was a solid sixth, despite Yoong reporting tyre pressure problems on his second set of rubber. The USA's Phil Giebler had another consistent performance, running with the top three throughout the first part of the race and battling wheel-to-wheel with Kerr for third on lap 24, but his efforts were ultimately not rewarded when he lost time with a spin and stall on lap 43. Marshals got the American back on the road, but the damage was done and Giebler slipped back to 10th.
Last season's Feature race winner Sean McIntosh had an eventful race after he almost crashed into the South African pit garage after a routine tyre change. The team had chosen slick tyres, but McIntosh hit a puddle and slewed into the South Africans. He then failed to finish after a wheel came loose and flew off his car on lap 38.
Germany continues to lead the nations' standings going into the sixth race of the year in Taupo, New Zealand, from 19 - 21 January 2007. The visit will be A1GP's first trip to the track and the first visit of the season to the Southern Hemisphere.