A1GP Gears Up For Zandvoort Season Opener
Zandvoort, The Netherlands -- Fresh from the final pre-season test session at Silverstone, Great Britain, A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads straight to Circuit Park Zandvoort in the Netherlands to kick off the 2007/08 season on 28--30 September, one year after the seaside town hosted the first race of last season.
The one and a half day official test session, which took place at Silverstone's National circuit and saw A1 Team New Zealand top the time sheets on day one and A1 Team India take control on day two, was incredibly close and has set the scene for the start of one of the most competitive A1GP seasons to date.
Several exciting new changes to the sporting regulations have been introduced for this season which will inevitably make for more unpredictable racing, including a revamped qualifying format and a second mandatory pit stop in the Feature race.
Host nation A1 Team Netherlands was on strong form at the test and 25-year-old driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, who finished second in his home race last year and is entering his third consecutive A1GP season with the team, has his sights firmly set on the top step of the podium this year:
'We had an encouraging test and I think we have already found a good base to start from in Zandvoort. Last year we couldn't win so I hope we will finish it off this year. It's not going to be easy because there are a lot of quick guys and good teams but for sure we are going to go for it. Last year was great with all the home fans and support - if it's like that again with all the people in orange and everybody going crazy then it's going to be awesome.'
Bleekemolen's Dutch team-mate and rookie driver Arie Luyendyk Jr is looking forward to racing in front of his home crowd and putting on a show for the fans throughout the action-packed weekend:
'I'm looking forward to Zandvoort, it should be a great weekend. We have loads of our Dutch sponsors there and we're doing some demo laps of Circuit Park Zandvoort in the rookie car on Friday and Sunday, so I'm very much looking forward to being a part of it.'
A1 Team GBR's Oliver Jarvis, who competed in the rookie session at Zandvoort last year but did not race, can't wait to get behind the wheel of the British car at the thrilling season-opener in The Netherlands:
'I'm really looking forward to the start of the new A1GP season and getting back in action at Zandvoort this weekend. It was a really good atmosphere there last year -- I arrived as a rookie driver and then unfortunately had to leave after the rookie session on the Friday due to other commitments. The atmosphere was fantastic and the way the fans - not just from the home nation but all the other nations too - got behind the event was amazing. It's a great way to start the season. There's going to be some fantastic racing this year; the track's quite physical and quite demanding on the drivers so I think there's going to be a lot of close racing and it's going to be tough to overtake. It's going to be one of the closest seasons by far.'
Reigning champion A1 Team Germany, who won the Feature race at Zandvoort last year, is aiming for a repeat performance. 18-year-old German driver Christian Vietoris is eager to show what he can do and hopes to emulate Nico Hulkenberg's victory:
'We've had an encouraging couple of tests at Silverstone and we're really looking forward to racing at Zandvoort. I know the track and I think we have a good car at the moment. I hope I can deliver the same result at Zandvoort for the team as Nico did last year.'
India's Narain Kathikeyan, who slashed the lap record for an A1GP car around Silverstone's National circuit at the final pre-season test last week, has high hopes for A1 Team India this year and believes the team will be front runners at every round:
'Well, it's a brave statement to say that we are going to win the championship, but let me say that we will be fighting for it at least. I certainly hope everything works out well. For an emerging nation like India to be top of the A1GP it's going to be a huge thing back home. Now we will have to see how it all ends up.'
India's best performance to date in A1GP was during the 2006/07 season at Brands Hatch in April when Karthikeyan finished fourth in the Feature race.
A1 Team New Zealand's Jonny Reid has never raced at Zandvoort and is excited about getting to grips with the 2.6 mile circuit and launching New Zealand's challenge on the 2007/08 championship, having finished runner up to Germany last season:
'I can't wait. Especially after the test last week. My confidence is back after having a break that I really wanted to have so now I'm in the zone again and ready for the first race at Zandvoort. It's going to be a tough weekend and you can't count the Netherlands out at home, but I definitely think we can be right there amongst it if not at the top. Can't wait -- its going to be fantastic.'
While the A1GP Zandvoort, The Netherlands will run from 28--30 September, A1GP's weekend schedule will run over the Saturday and Sunday only. Two one hour practice sessions and qualifying for the Sprint and Feature race will take place on the Saturday with the two races running on the Sunday. Friday will see a host of support races and off-track activities entertain the crowds in order to meet the circuit's noise restriction requirements. In addition, Arie Luyendyk Jr will be performing demonstration laps in the A1 Team Netherlands rookie car on Friday and Sunday.
The support series for the A1GP will be the Formido Suzuki Swift Cup, the Benelux Racing League (including the BRL Light series, the Formula Ford BeNeLux championship and the Dunlop SportMaxx Clio Cup.
About Circuit Park Zandvoort:
Motorsport experts and drivers consider Circuit Park Zandvoort a real 'drivers' circuit'. With its sweeping corners through the dunes, the seaside track is considered one of the most technical and challenging circuits in the world. Drivers rate corners like the 'Tarzanbocht' and 'het Scheivlak' as some of the most interesting and exciting in motor racing.
Designed by a team led by 1928 Le Mans winner, Sammy Davis, the track is 4,307 meters (2.6 miles) in length. Circuit Park Zandvoort has hosted 29 Grands Prix in its history, the last taking place in 1985.