British Hopes Hampered by New Zealand No-Score
Sunday 21 January, 2007 -- A1 Team Great Britain's title hopes suffered a blow at New Zealand's Taupo Motorsports Park on Sunday as an eighth place Sprint race finish and retirement in the Feature race for Robbie Kerr led to the team's first no-score of the season in Round 6 of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport.
As a result the British entry drops from second in the points chase to fourth overall with current A1GP Nations Standings leaders, A1 Team Germany, dominating proceedings today with a maximum points haul for Niko Hulkenberg, the teenage rookie having won both the Sprint and Feature races while picking up the extra bonus point for fastest race lap.
Sunday morning's 20-minute Sprint race round the 2.17-mile Taupo circuit brought with it some early drama for the British team. With the first start aborted courtesy of the French entry failing to take its correct grid slot, the second rolling start saw the 22-car field of nations sprint to the tight left-hand first turn. From his sixth place grid position Kerr made a solid start only to see an optimistic Turn 1move by Malaysia's Alex Yoong result in a broken front wing on the British car.
Despite the damage Kerr wasn't willing to pit and lose out on a potential points paying top-six finish. The former British F3 Champion showcased his exceptional car control as he kept the stricken car in the thick of the action but he couldn't prevent the inevitable when he was eventually passed and forced to settle for an eighth place finish outside of the points.
The afternoon's 50-lap Feature race was a more productive affair for Kerr and the team looked good for a top-six placing until mechanical issues, thought to be battery related, put paid to Robbie's efforts with 10 laps to go. An incident-free start to the race saw Kerr boxed in initially, losing a spot to South Africa, but he recovered the position three laps later with what was then the fastest lap of the race.
A slick pit-stop on lap nine kept Kerr in the five-car pack attempting to hunt down race leader Hulkenberg. Locked onto the rear of the Dutch entry in fifth, Kerr and Bleekemolen battled for position for the majority of the race with the British racer's best opportunity coming on lap 32 having run side-by-side with his nemesis through Turn 11. Kerr was kept in check and with 10 laps remaining his race ended prematurely when he lost all control systems and was forced to park on the grass opposite the start-finish straight. The Feature podium mirrored that of the Sprint race with Germany's Hulkenberg in first followed by France's Loic Duval and New Zealand's Jonny Reid.
"Well this definitely wasn't the weekend I was hoping for," stated a dejected Kerr. "We showed we had podium speed in the Feature race but my only hope of getting by the Dutch car was if it made a mistake. As for the Sprint race I don't know what Alex was thinking at the start! I'm looking forward to going to Australia now as I know the track and hope to make amends for this weekend's no-score."
"Well you don't get points if you don't finish," reflected A1 Team GBR Team Principal John Surtees. "It's disappointing to post the retirement as it looked like we'd found a decent set-up without compromising the tyres. Hopefully we'll get our title chase back on-track next time out!"
Round 7 of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport sees a return to Sydney's Eastern Creek Circuit, Australia, Friday 2nd -- Sunday 4th February
-credit: team great britain