Germany Take The Double
Taupo - A1 Team Germany has taken its first double win of the series with driver Nico Hulkenberg leading the SuperPoints A1GP Taupo, New Zealand from start to finish. Rookie driver, Loic Duval impressed in his first A1GP race holding second place for A1 Team France despite constant pressure from Jonny Reid who piloted Black Beauty to achieve the best result for a home nation at any A1GP event.
As the cars started the second lap, A1 Team Germany led France, New Zealand, Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy ahead of South Africa and Great Britain. Unfortunately for South Africa their position at the front of the field was not to last as their drive through penalty taken at the end of lap four for a jump start saw them drop down to 17th position.
Further down the field, the Czech Republic began closing the gap with Brazil piling the pressure on throughout lap seven. The pair approached turn 12 side by side but as both drivers kept up their speed the cars left the track, cutting over the grass and returning with A1 Team Czech Republic ahead and A1 Team Brazil with a destroyed front wing.
As the mandatory pit stop window opened at the start of lap eight, race leader Germany was the first to pit, followed on the same lap by the Netherlands, Great Britain and Italy. France and New Zealand came in on the next lap and the pressure was on the pit crews to get their respective cars out ahead of each other. Both crews pulled off flawless pit stops but the French left the pit lane one second ahead.
After a driveshaft failure put A1 Team Ireland out of the Sprint race and twentieth on the Feature race grid, driver Richard Lyons began to push the bright green car up the field as the other teams pitted. By the time they pitted on lap 12, the second driver to be experiencing his first A1GP race had moved up to 11th. Despite a good pit stop and some impressive overtaking attempts, the luck of the Irish ran out as a later error saw the car clip the curb, break the rear suspension and put the team out of the race just five laps from the end.
Back at the front of the pack, Switzerland made the most of the gap created while Germany, France, New Zealand and the Netherlands pitted, so. when the red and white car made its mandatory pit stop it was able to leap frog the Dutch, into fourth and hold that position for the rest of the race.
New Zealand kept the pressure on France throughout the race making several close attempts at overtaking but near faultless performances from both on a tight and slippery track kept the positions at a stalemate.
While the success of the weekend saw both France and New Zealand move up in the championship standings, a disappointing weekend for Mexico saw them drop from third to fifth. Great Britain who started the weekend second in the standings dropped down to fourth place after an impressive Sprint race performance was dampened by a battery failure which forced the team to retire from sixth on lap 40 of the Feature race. However, there was no such disappointment in the A1 Team India garage as the team scored its first ever points for seventh place thanks to the efforts of another newcomer to the series, Narain Karthikeyan. As if this was not enough, he also managed to set the second fastest lap of the race less than two tenths of a second slower than that set by Germany.
A1 Team Germany's Nico Hulkenberg was delighted with his first double win of the series, commenting: 'I got into my rhythm, I was able to find my pace and I could make a little gap between us. My manager was a little bit sick this week and I think I have caught something off him but I am all right. I drank a lot, about four litres before the race and I am okay. I want to say a big thank you to the team as we had a good strategy and a great pit stop. I am so pleased to be here and to have won the race and I am really looking forward to Australia now.'
His first taste of an A1GP race weekend impressed France's Loic Duval who like, Hulkenberg is looking forward to the next race at Eastern Creek in Sydney (2 - 4 February 2007). Duval said: At the end it was not so bad unfortunately I was not first but for my first experience in A1GP I think it was quite good. I am fine with the team and happy to be in this series so I hope the next race will be better.
'I think the problem this weekend we were quick on the first two laps and then it was more difficult to drive the car, but anyway it was my first race and the team did a really, really good job. They did a great pit stop. At the end it was not such a bad weekend. Nico was just quicker than me, but this was my first experience with the team during a race and I think we can improve the car so now we see for the next race.'
The 80,000 plus crowd over the weekend spurred on the home nation making them the first A1 Team to set foot on the podium in front of their home crowd. Driver Jonny Reid commented: 'It was tough out there. I was sliding around. I knew if I could get in front I could pull away gradually. There was not much between us. I think we were quicker overall but I just couldn't put that into second place. When we had the back markers I knew that would cause some confusion so I put the pressure on but there were no mistakes made by the French team. Loic did a very good job under pressure and credit to him. That was a tough race for us all and I am happy with third place.'
Commenting on the success of his home race, Reid continued: 'Everyone has done a fantastic job. Credit to everyone in A1 Team New Zealand, A1GP, the Government everyone who has put this event together. This is our second best overall placing at an A1GP event so we can take those points and look forward to Eastern Creek.'
With over 80,000 people attending over the race weekend, the first A1GP race in Taupo proved to be a great success. 'New Zealanders should be incredibly proud of today's event. In excess of 80,000 fans experienced the thrill and excitement of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Taupo. The racing was incredibly close from start to finish with two podium places for the home team. Now we're looking forward to heading across the Tasman to Sydney for round seven' commented A1GP chief executive officer, Pete da Silva.