2006-07 A1GP Season Review -- Part Three Continuing to take a look back at the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, part three of our review sees a return to Australia's Eastern Creek circuit and the streets of Durban, two tracks that hosted...
2006-07 A1GP Season Review -- Part Three
Continuing to take a look back at the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, part three of our review sees a return to Australia's Eastern Creek circuit and the streets of Durban, two tracks that hosted rounds in the inaugural A1GP season, while also returning to Mexico but this time heading to the capital city -- an event that would prove to be a breakout weekend for A1 Team Great Britain.
Round 7 -- Eastern Creek International Raceway, Australia, Sunday 4th February 2007
The 2.4-mile Eastern Creek circuit had been kind to A1 Team Great Britain when the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport first visited during the 2005-06 season. On that occasion Robbie Kerr led the British charge, posting a top-five qualifying slot before taking home a fifth place Sprint finish and a second place podium in the later Feature event.
Looking to at least replicate the same kind of form, and shake off the previous three non-scoring races endured by the team in Indonesia and New Zealand, things initially looked promising for the British team with Robbie a pole-contender in Saturday's qualifying battle. Taking third on the grid for the Sprint race, a top-three finish was on the cards but a puncture on his front-right tyre put paid to his fight with Germany and New Zealand and led to another retirement.
Starting the Feature race from 19th, Kerr put pedal to the metal to sprint through the tail-end order. Some wheel-to-wheel action with the likes of France failed to dent Kerr's determination and he worked his way up to, and defended, the final points paying position, tenth place, through to the chequered to score a much welcomed and hard-earned point for Great Britain.
GBR Driver Reflection, Robbie Kerr:
"The track was pretty much the same as it had been the year before when we first visited Australia. They'd ironed out a couple of the more significant bumps but really not much else had changed. Eastern Creek's one of the more enjoyable circuits we race at, it's a little hairy in places but it's usually entertaining. Unfortunately for us we didn't have the greatest of weekends despite qualifying in third.
"It felt a little bit at this point in the season that circumstances were continually transpiring against us and stopping us from delivering what we knew was our true potential. What happened again in Australia was incredibly frustrating for everyone in the team. We were all working so hard and we knew it would just be a matter of time before everything came back together again and we'd be finishing races back up where we belonged!"
Round 8 -- Durban Street Course, South Africa, Sunday 25th February 2007
South Africa, as with the previous round in Australia, was welcoming the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport back having hosted one of the most memorable rounds from the inaugural season. The previous year's event had witnessed 100,000 race fans lining the 2.04-mile temporary street circuit, situated just 300 meters from the golden sands of North Beach.
The locals remained as passionate as ever for their racing and this year's event saw the home-favourite's, A1 Team South Africa, returning to the track with an A1GP victory to their credit courtesy of Adrian Zaugg's Sprint race win at the opening round of the 2006-07 season at Zandvoort. Unfortunately for the home support, the South African team, as with the rest of the field, had to bare witness to another dominating performance from A1 Team Germany's Nico Hulkenberg, the teenage rookie sweeping to his third straight 'double' following similar feats in New Zealand and Australia.
Robbie Kerr gave the ex-pat crowd something to cheer about though as the British entry returned to the Feature podium for the first time since Round 4 in Malaysia back in November. The weekend began a little more ominously with Friday's practice session disrupted by a recurring throttle problem followed by a downshift issue with the car's gearbox on Saturday. Forced to miss the first of his four timed qualifying runs, Robbie went on to qualify 11th for Sunday's 15-lap Sprint race.
A ninth place finish gave hope for a strong showing in the 70-minute Feature race and so it was as Robbie launched off the line from ninth to fifth on the opening lap. He later locked in a podium spot with a gutsy move on the Swiss entry. Up to second following the pit-stop round, Kerr held off a late-race charge from New Zealand to secure a superb return to the A1GP podium for Great Britain.
GBR Driver Reflection, Robbie Kerr:
"Well we had a tough start to the South African weekend. Problems with the gearbox in qualifying meant that we missed the first session and while we were able to run in the final three to set our aggregate time, the car just wasn't quite there as we were forced to play catch up to the rest of the field. On a tight twisty street circuit like Durban it's pretty hard to pass so although I only made up two spots to finish the Sprint race in ninth it wasn't a bad result and it set us up well for the Feature.
"Thankfully we came good in the Feature and proved again what we were capable of achieving. I was aware that with the next round in Mexico being at a new track that Oliver (Jarvis) was likely to race there to make the most of his ability to run in the Friday rookie session. With that in mind it was good to get back up there on the podium before handing driving duties over to him. I was happy to have put our run of bad luck behind us and be back on the podium scoring decent points."
Round 9 -- Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez, Mexico, Sunday 25th March 2007
Having raced in Monterrey, Mexico in the inaugural A1GP season, this year's change of venue to Mexico's capital city effectively ensured a level playing field for the 23-competing nations with just one driver, Brazil's Bruno Junqueira, boasting previous experience at the sweeping 2.74-mile Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez thanks to his starts there in the Champ Car World Series.
Great Britain brought back Oliver Jarvis to compete in Mexico, the 23-year-old having last raced in Round 3 in China, scoring the team's first podium finish of the season. The team carried the momentum of Kerr's South African podium into Mexico with the British car comfortably at the front of the field in practice and qualifying -- Jarvis taking third on the grid for Sunday's Sprint race.
A stunning start from the British rookie captured second in the Sprint race, a position he held to the flag to start the Feature race from the front-row alongside earlier winner Alex Yoong for Malaysia. Jarvis left the ex-F1 driver trailing in his wake, as he did the entire field, on his way to a memorable and commanding first A1GP victory for A1 Team Great Britain ahead of the USA and South Africa.
GBR Driver Reflection, Oliver Jarvis:
"I headed into the weekend feeling pretty confident we could get the job done. I was certainly going to Mexico City with the intention of winning and had a decent showing in China under my belt from my last outing so the experience certainly helped. I'd also participated in a few more rookie sessions since China and they'd all been competitive outings for us so we knew the package was good for achieving our goal. We prepared as best as we could ahead of actually running on-track and then when we got out there the car was fast straight away so we felt we had a chance!
"It was my first time running A1GP's qualifying format as the session had been cancelled in China. I was maybe a little cautious, I was disappointed with third but I knew if I had a good Sprint result we had the pace to win the Feature. Obviously that's what then happened! It's pretty hard to describe how I felt. It was an amazing feeling taking the win and it wasn't even so much for me but to see the joy on the whole team and the relief that they'd finally done it. Everyone had worked so hard and for so long that you could tell just how much the win actually meant to them. It was fantastic to be part of it, it was a proud moment for me and it proved to be a catalyst for the team for the rest of the season."