Shanghai: Penultimate round preview

A1GP Returns to the Far East Shanghai - A1GP World Cup of Motorsport prepares for its second trip to China this season, visiting the Shanghai International Circuit next weekend (13-15 April). Last year at the state of the art facility,...

A1GP Returns to the Far East

Shanghai - A1GP World Cup of Motorsport prepares for its second trip to China this season, visiting the Shanghai International Circuit next weekend (13-15 April). Last year at the state of the art facility, 82,000 fans gathered to watch a thrilling season finale in which A1 Teams Malaysia and Czech Republic claimed surprise victories to close A1GP's first season in the unpredictable fashion that characterises the series' racing. A1GP is proud to have The Bank of Shanghai as title sponsor of the event.

This year, Shanghai hosts the penultimate round of the 2006/07 season where A1 Team Germany will go all out to take the series title from reigning champions France. Currently standing 27 points clear of second place New Zealand, Germany, with regular driver Nico Hulkenberg back behind the wheel, could potentially win the series after this weekend's Sprint race. Germany need to be 28 points clear of New Zealand after the Sprint race or 17 points clear after the Feature race to finally claim the championship title.

While the World Cup battle may be down to just two teams, the race is still wide open for second and third place. A1 Teams Great Britain, France, Malaysia, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Italy, Mexico, USA and Canada all in the running.

However, there is no doubt that the majority of fans heading to the Shanghai circuit next weekend will be there to support home team China. Congfu Cheng will return to the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport for the Shanghai round of the series when he steps back behind the wheel of A1 Team China's dragon-emblazoned race car.

Having already represented China in the first four rounds of the season, scoring points in the Netherlands Feature race and both the Sprint and Feature races in the Czech Republic, Congfu Cheng has clearly demonstrated his competitiveness in the A1GP car. Cheng will compete on behalf of A1 Team China in the last two rounds of the series in Shanghai and Brands Hatch, Great Britain.

Bank of Shanghai is the title sponsor of the Shanghai A1GP race and is also the strategic partner for A1Team China. Shanghai is China's financial capital and bringing international sports to the city can elevate its international status. Through its sponsorship of the A1GP Shanghai race, Bank of Shanghai aims to support the local economy, portray the finance industry's corporate responsibility and develop a sporting culture in China.

A creation of ace track designer Hermann Tilke, the Shanghai International Circuit can hold over 200,000 spectators and has established itself as one of the most impressive circuits in the world since it opened in 2004. The site is based on what is essentially swampland and thus its construction relied upon some imaginative techniques. The track and buildings are propped up by 40,000 support piles and are buoyed by a layer of floating polystyrene.

Tilke's track design offers a series of challenging turns but the most exciting feature is the 200mph back straight leading into an unusually wide hairpin, ideal for overtaking. The gentle banking at the ever-tightening opening sequence of corners has also proved popular. The technical nature of the circuit means it is one of the hardest tracks to learn for the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport drivers. Teams will have to produce a balanced set up for the long straights and the combination of slow and high speed corners.

Only three drivers expected to sign on this race weekend took part in last season's Shanghai race; Indonesia's Ananda Mikola, Italy's Enrico Toccacelo and Malaysia's Alex Yoong. While Malaysia will no doubt be looking to replicate last season's success and potentially move them in to second place in the championship standing, their experience of the track may not give them the advantage expected. For this weekend's race, A1GP has opted to use a slightly altered circuit configuration, cutting out turns five, six and seven and reducing the lap distance from 5.453km to 4.602km.

'Shanghai International Circuit is one of the longest tracks that A1GP visits so we have taken the decision to reduce the lap distance in line with our other circuits. The move will ensure the field is kept tight throughout the race distance, delivering an exciting race for the fans and ensuring that the level playing field at the heart of A1GP is maintained,' commented David Clare, A1GP's CEO for the Asian region.

Unfortunately, A1 Team Czech Republic's Tomas Enge will not have the opportunity to repeat his Shanghai Feature race victory of last season. Enge is currently in recovery following surgery on a broken elbow sustained in an accident last weekend when leading the GT2 class in the American Le Mans Series in St. Petersburg, Florida. He is progressing well and is expected to return to racing in July. In the meantime, Filip Salaquarda who drove in the Durban rookie session for A1 Team Czech Republic is expected to step in.

The weekend's racing action kicks off with the rookie driver and developing nations' sessions on Friday 13 April from 11.00 to 11.25 and again from 11.35 to 12.00. Drivers under 28 years old who have competed in less than three A1GP races are eligible to participate along with drivers from China, India, Indonesia, Lebanon and Pakistan. All teams can take part in the later practice session from 14.00 to 15.00. Final practice and qualifying for the Sprint race will take place on Saturday, with the Sprint and Feature races scheduled for Sunday 15 April at 11.00 and 15.00 respectively.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Ananda Mikola , Tomas Enge , Alex Yoong , Nico Hulkenberg , Congfu Cheng , David Clare