Ireland aiming for strong start at Zandvoort
Belmayne A1 Team Ireland will be aiming for a strong showing as season three of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport commences at Circuit Park Zandvoort this weekend. The team has been encouraged by the pace shown during pre-season testing and is hoping to be amongst the front runners at the 2.6 mile Dutch track. The team also enter the new season as the first outfit in A1GP to secure a title sponsorship deal, with Irish property development firm LM Developments who are promoting their North County Dublin, Belmayne development.
Ralph Firman returns to driving duties for the team, his last A1GP event was Laguna Seca where he took 5th in the sprint and 6th in the feature. The former F1 star is now relishing the chance to pick up where he left off in single seaters and get the team's championship challenge off to a flying start.
Zandvoort is renowned as a driver's circuit and last years races saw plenty of action, as eventual champions Germany took their maiden victory in the feature race. With its costal North Sea location the weather could prove to be a factor, adding further intrigue to what should already be a fascinating contest.
Mark Kershaw; Team Owner: "The closed season is finally over and we can't wait for the racing to begin this weekend. I'd like to thank all our sponsors for their support going into the season, particularly LM Developments. We're very proud to be the first A1GP team to have put together a title sponsorship deal. With Ralph back in the car and a very strong technical team I'm confident that we'll be a force to reckon with at Zandvoort."
Dan Walmsley; Race Engineer: "We ticked all the necessary boxes during pre- season testing, particularly achieving a good set-up for Ralph and getting the team to gel. Zandvoort is a very technical circuit, there are lots of bumps which can catch drivers out but we've integrated this into the car set-up. Ralph has raced there on the old circuit and the car should be good, we're aiming for a solid start to the season which we can then build on. The Dutch fans are motorsport crazy so there should be a big crowd and a great atmosphere; it's going to be an exciting weekend."
Ralph Firman: "I'm really looking forward to the race, we were all happy after the test and it's great to be back racing an A1GP car. I've raced at Zandvoort before but that was on the old circuit, it's changed a fair bit since then but I'm sure I'll pick it up quickly. I think the new qualifying regulations are good and we should
see more action in the sprint race, it's just a pity we only get three sets of tyres as we'll have to do one run on used rubber but I guess it's the same for everyone."
New A1GP regulations come into force this season concerning both qualifying and the race. Saturday's qualifying sessions will now decide the grid positions for both the sprint and feature races. Points and prize money will also be awarded to the top ten finishers in the sprint and with grid positions for the feature unaffected by the result of this race teams will have far more incentive to push hard to gain a good result.
The feature race will now have a second pit stop added in, a move that will place greater emphasis on the pit crew and race strategists. The first stop must be carried out between laps 8 and 16, whilst the window for the second stop will only be revealed to teams when the pit lane opens in preparation for the race.