London, Great Britain.A1GP World Cup of Motorsport fans have chosen their winners from the 2008/09 season. After a series of accolades were put up for grabs on the series' website, A1GP.com, fans from across the globe voted to decide who they thought should be rewarded in four special categories.
Most Improved Team
Winner: A1 Team Malaysia
Nominated: A1 Teams Australia, Lebanon, Portugal, Mexico, Netherlands
Best Overtaking Move
Winner: Earl Bamber (NZL)
Nominated: Marco Andretti (USA), Daniel Morad (LEB), Filipe Albuquerque (POR), Dan Clarke (GBR)
A1GP.com Readers' Favourite Team
Winner: A1 Team Netherlands
Best Rookie or New Driver
Winner: Robert Doornbos (NED)
Nominated: Zahir Ali (INA), Marco Andretti (USA), Earl Bamber (NZL), Felipe Guimaraes (BRA), Daniel Morad (LEB), Clivio Piccione (MON), Danny Watts (GBR)
The annual A1GP end-of-season awards are a chance to reward the outstanding performances of the season, and not just those who finished at the top of the points' tables.
While we already knew that A1 Teams Ireland, Switzerland and Portugal were the gold, silver and bronze medal winners for the season, these other gongs rewarded the other outstanding performances of the season.
A1 Team Malaysia has scooped the award for Most Improved Team in the 2008/09 season in a closely contested vote. Despite tough opposition from teams including Lebanon and Australia, Malaysia's was judged to be most deserving of being rewarded for their season of hard work. After a dismal 2007/08 season, finishing 16th, they vaulted the highest number of positions in the standings of any team nominated, ending Season Four in sixth.
Fairuz Fauzy became the team's second ever driver to win a race, taking victory in the season opener at Zandvoort in the pouring rain, and the team also became the first squad to lead the title standings going into its home event. A medal in the Algarve was also well deserved as the team looks to become championship contenders in Season Five.
"We are delighted to have won this award and would like to thank all the fans for recognising our achievements this past season," said Jack Cunningham, Chief Executive, A1 Team Malaysia.
"As a team we have worked hard to make improvements, strengthening ourselves in some areas, putting in as much preparation as we could pre-season and maintaining the focus and commitment throughout it. Both Fairuz and Aaron contributed to our success and we've definitely proved that strong teamwork is essential and our success is the result of the efforts of every single member of our team. This award is a great way to end our fourth season of racing. We thank all our loyal fans around the world for voting for us. The hard work continues for Season Five."
A1 Team New Zealand's Earl Bamber was a runaway winner to take the plaudits for Best Overtaking Move of the Season. He won it for his manoeuvre on home favourite Jeroen Bleekemolen during the Zandvoort Sprint race in The Netherlands.
In many ways, it was actually the sheer nerve of it as the 18-year-old, driving his first A1GP race, attempted to pass local hero Bleekemolen on a track the Dutch driver had been racing on since he was a kid. In torrential rain, Bamber's skill shone through as he initially went to pass Bleekemolen on the outside of the Audi-S Bocht chicane, but Bleekemolen reacted by making a slight mistake, and drifted off course on the exit of the corner. Bamber went to the outside on the exit, only for Bleekemolen to immediately come across his path and block him on his return to the track. However, undeterred, Bamber's extra momentum allowed him to dart back to the inside to take the lead early in the race.
"It's a real honour to be recognized for a passing move from my first ever weekend racing for New Zealand in A1GP," said Bamber. "At the time I never expected to be racing let alone passing someone as experienced as Jeroen at his home A1GP track -- it was a really special moment personally and for all our Black Beauty supporters!"
A1 Team Netherlands was able to celebrate two award successes. The squad was voted A1GP.com Readers' Favourite Team while Robert Doornbos was also named Best Rookie or New Driver of the 2008/09 season.
A1 Team Netherlands has always had one of the most passionate and enthusiastic fan bases in A1GP. Despite the atrocious weather, tens of thousands of orange-clad fans turned out to cheer on their local team in Zandvoort and there support has carried through to the very end of the season to make sure their team was acknowledged in the end-of-season awards.
There were high hopes for Robert Doornbos as he came into A1GP with a strong Formula One and Champ Car pedigree and he did not disappoint. Three medals in five starts was a solid beginning to his A1GP career, and the team seemed to effortlessly swap between himself and stalwart Jeroen Bleekemolen. From starting on the front row in his maiden race in Chengdu, to dominating proceedings in the Sprint race in the Algarve, he was always impressive. His only mistake all year was that his failed getaways when the lights went out to launch Chengdu's Feature race, but his raw pace was there for all to see whenever he took to the track.
Jan Lammers, A1 Team Netherlands seat holder, said: "We are honored that the fans rewarded us with their approval. Ultimately, that is all that we are worth; how many people watch us, follow us and read about us, the bigger those numbers are the more value we have to offer to our sponsors. That is why we take this award with great pride and are extremely grateful to our fans. We hope to be able to offer them much more in the future."
Commenting on driver Doornbos' award he added: "It goes beyond saying what a great driver and talent Robert Doornbos is, he definitely contributed to the spirit in our team and drove all of us, including Jeroen Bleekemolen, to the best of our abilities. He truly deserves this award and we are proud that he was able to do it with our team."