FIFTH PLACE FINISH FOR A1 TEAM MALAYSIA IN INDONESIA
The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport's fifth round was held today in Sentul, Indonesia with overflowing grandstands of local fans enjoying two thrilling A1GP races. With 12th place finish in the Sprint race, A1 Team Malaysia with Alex Yoong driving to a strong fifth place in the Feature race.
The weekend has been tough for the Malaysian team and everyone has worked hard over the last two days to prepare the car for today's races and developing the setup for optimal performance. The team's lap times weren't as good as recent A1GP weekends in the earlier practice sessions, but Yoong drove strongly in qualifying to line up in 13th place for the Sprint race.
The rolling start, in dry, hot and humid conditions, was a drag-race to the first corner for the field of 21 nations and Yoong charged down to it, passing the Chinese and Dutch cars into 11th place by the end of the opening lap. As the race progressed, Yoong was continually challenged by the Dutch car behind and, as the two vied for position, A1 Team Italy was able to slip past both cars. Yoong pushed hard to re-take the spot, but mindful of the need to minimise the risk of damaging the car, he drove conservatively, maintaining 12th spot at the chequered flag.
Lining up on the sixth row for the Feature Race, Yoong was faced with entirely different conditions, with a heavy rainstorm prior to the green flag forcing all the teams to use wet tyres for the start. At the allotted start time torrential rain persisted and after only one lap of the Sentul circuit, the race was stopped. After a delay of around 45 minutes, the race was restarted.
The standing start grid took off with the green flag waving and Yoong was quick off the mark, powering down to the first corner in atrocious weather and by the end of the first lap the Malaysian team were up to seventh place. Within ten laps Yoong was up into fifth place. Teams began to make their pitstops and, with Malaysia staying out longer, he pitted from the lead.
Returning to the track after a quick tyre change stop from the Team Malaysia crew, the team was in seventh place. The team replaced his first set of tyres with a second set of wets, which were those used in Sepang that the team had thought to have been slower due to wrong tyre pressures. However, Yoong immediately struggled with his pace and the team concluded that the tyres could be the problem. With a drying track, the team called Yoong to pit again and take on dry tyres, although it was earlier than the team really wanted, with the track still a mix of wet and dry.
With dry tyres Yoong was able to get back on the pace quickly, but having lost precious track time he needed to push as hard as possible for the remaining laps. The Malaysian's experience was admirably demonstrated in his fight into the points and from lying ninth after his pitstop, he drove through to sixth place at the chequered flag. A penalty for the Dutch team, which put Malaysia's rivals back down the order, promoted Yoong to a well-deserved fifth place.
He said after the races, "In the sprint race we didn't have the pace. We didn't really get to grips with a car setup for the hot, dry conditions and this showed in our lap times and ultimately our finish position. I'm disappointed that a set of tyres potentially cost us the Feature race.
We have to carry over a set of tyres from the last race and these were the ones that we put on in our first stop. We were about 2 seconds a lap slower on these, and so we had no alternative but to stop again, and this time, although it was a bit too early for dry tyres, we had to take the gamble. We've earned some points which I'm happy about, but it could easily have been a podium for us today."
Jack Cunningham, Chief Executive, A1 Team Malaysia, comments, "Alex drove superbly today, particularly in the Feature race which started in difficult weather conditions. I think we were victims of a rare inconsistency in the wet tyres that we were allocated and this really was pivotal today for us. If it hadn't have been for that poor set of tyres I think we could have added to our trophy collection.
Although we didn't provide Alex and Fairuz with a well set-up car this weekend, we know we have a highly competitive package. We haven't reached mid-distance in the Series yet, so there's plenty of an opportunity to get back to our top form. We'll look forward to the challenge of the new track in New Zealand now."
The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport takes a six week end of year break, with racing resuming from 19 -- 21 January in Taupo, New Zealand. The team's cars and ancillary equipment will be sea freighted to the Australian outpost directly from Indonesia, arriving ahead of the race weekend.