Taupo: Team Switzerland preview

A1 Team Switzerland aiming for victory in New Zealand Neel Jani still slightly affected after virus In Taupo (New Zealand), the A1 Team Switzerland will be starting into the second third of the season with the aim to head into the top three in...

A1 Team Switzerland aiming for victory in New Zealand

Neel Jani still slightly affected after virus

In Taupo (New Zealand), the A1 Team Switzerland will be starting into the second third of the season with the aim to head into the top three in the intermediate standings of the Nations' Cup of Motorsport. In any case, Neel Jani plans to challenge for victory, even though he has not yet completely recovered from a bad virus infection.

Last week, Jani had had to abandon his fitness training in Austria. "All of a sudden, I had high fever, a headache, balance problems and cricks. After two days, I could barely walk anymore." The doctors initially feared meningitis. Finally, a lumbar puncture revealed that I had been caught by a different virus, which couldn't be cured with antibiotics right away. Therefore, Jani postponed his flight to New Zealand, which had been scheduled for Saturday, to Monday. "I am not totally fit yet", he reported from New Zealand on Wednesday. "But with the help of my physiotherapist Helmut Fink, I should be more or less all right by Sunday."

The city of Taupo is located in the middle of New Zealand's northern island. The nearest airport is in Auckland, some 250 km away. The average air temperature in January is 19 degrees and the time difference to central Europe is twelve hours. The race circuit, embedded in picturesque scenery with volcano hills, is on the northern bank of Lake Taupo, the country's largest lake with a size of 616 km2. The circuit is 3.5 km long, includes a straight of 830 metres and is run anti-clockwise. Because the first corner is particularly challenging, not only the main race, but also the sprint will have a standing start.

Last year, Neel Jani established the lap record at Taupo with 1:14.679 minutes (168.7 km). This time is likely to be improved significantly, courtesy of the new race car, the "A1GP powered by Ferrari", provided the weather remains fine. In January 2008, the rather high winds had blown a lot of dust onto the track, which caused many incidents. Jani was affected, too: on Saturday, he landed in the gravel trap four times, three times in practice and once in qualifying for the sprint race.

In the two races held last year, the Swiss team wasn't particularly lucky either. In the sprint race, Jani retired on the first lap already after a collision with Malaysian Alex Yoong. He ended up 14th and last in the feature race after having had to run through the pit lane five times instead of the normal two pit stops. Initially, he was penalised for an alleged jump start and later on for overtaking during a safety-car intervention. A collision with Pakistan's Adam Khan resulted into an additional stop. A bonus point for setting the fastest race lap was only a slight consolation.

After two races each in The Netherlands, China and Malaysia, Ireland is leading In the standings of the Nations' Cup of Motorsport with 43 points from Portugal (35), France (31), New Zealand (31), Malaysia (29) and Switzerland (28). At Zandvoort, Neel Jani finished fifth in the sprint and retired due to technical failure in the feature race. At Chengdu, he scored a pair of fourth places. At Sepang, Jani claimed the first pole position, the first victory and the first fastest race lap of the season, but retired only a few hundred metres into the feature race after having spun.

The A1GP round in New Zealand will be followed by a four weeks' break prior to the race at Gauteng (South Africa) on February 22nd. The event in Indonesia, which had been scheduled for February 6th till 8th, can not be held as planned after the FIA had found the surface of the new street circuit in Djakarta unsuitable.

-credit: switzerland

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Series A1GP
Drivers Alex Yoong , Neel Jani , Adam Khan