Wickens Leads Canada to Taupo Feature Podium A1 Team Canada celebrated a return to the Feature race podium today in Round 5 of the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport as Toronto's Robert Wickens delivered a stellar performance to finish...
Wickens Leads Canada to Taupo Feature Podium
A1 Team Canada celebrated a return to the Feature race podium today in Round 5 of the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport as Toronto's Robert Wickens delivered a stellar performance to finish runner-up to Germany's Christian Vietoris at New Zealand's Taupo Motorsports Park.
Wickens successfully converted fourth on the grid to a well-earned second place, the 18-year-old rookie's first Feature race finish in three attempts and the first Feature podium for Canada since Vancouver's Sean McIntosh led the team to victory in Indonesia in the inaugural 2005-06 A1GP season. Having landed a third place Sprint podium on his A1GP debut in Malaysia last November, Robert scored his second top-three finish in six starts, his efforts at Taupo taking Canada's points tally to 22, the team climbing to 12th in the A1GP Nations Standings at the mid-season turn.
Sunday morning's 14-lap Sprint race was instantly forgettable for Canada. Starting eighth Wickens was caught up in a four-car, first corner incident. While he was able to continue, Robert's race would end in retirement three laps shy of the checkered due to suspension damage while New Zealand's Jonny Reid celebrated victory before an ecstatic home crowd -- his win only the second 'home' triumph in A1GP history following Robbie Kerr's victory for Great Britain at Brands Hatch last season.
Skillful driving and some slick team-work in the pits proved key to Canada's Feature race success. Dropping from fourth to seventh at the start, a broken clutch stop to blame, Robert picked up the pace to sit third at the time of his first pit stop on lap 10. Graduating to third again by lap 23, as a third Safety Car period littered proceedings, Wickens soon took the fight to Germany and France in first and second respectively -- the gap between the trio less than a second when racing resumed.
A lightening fast second stop from the Canadian pit-crew allowed Robert to pass France's Loic Duval on pit-lane and set up a nail biting sprint to the checkered with Germany maintaining its position at the head of the pack. Holding second Wickens latched onto the rear of Vietoris in the German entry as they headed a train of four cars tailed by France and New Zealand to the flag. Vietoris held on to claim the win for Germany a mere 1.18 seconds ahead of a jubilant Wickens -- scoring Canada's best finish of the season, with France's Duval completing the Taupo podium celebrations.
"There's no doubt our podium was deserved today," enthused Wickens. "The guys did an outstanding job in the pits and the result is testament to the progress made by the team since coming together in Zandvoort at the start of the season. Our previous podium in Malaysia was awarded after the fact so it's great to physically be there today with the team celebrating and sharing the champagne, especially after they worked so hard to repair the car following the Sprint race. I had a clutch stop break at the start of the Feature so I lost time exiting the pits as I had to wait a bit before leaving the box -- it didn't do the team justice but the result shows just how well the team worked executing each stop!"
Simon Cayzer, A1 Team Canada's Team Manager commented, "The Sprint was obviously disappointing but we knew we had a good car and after the repairs we didn't want to change too much for the Feature. We had two very good pit stops from the team which was great as we haven't had a chance to do many in the races to-date. Robert was in good company in the Feature and we only finished a second behind the winner so I'm really happy!"
The 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport continues with Round 6 hosted at Sydney's Eastern Creek Circuit in Australia, Friday 1st -- Sunday 3rd February.
Setanta Sports Canada will broadcast Round 5 as a tape delay on Monday 21st January at 8am EST