Zandvoort: Team USA Friday report

A1 Team USA opens second season with practice at Zandvoort ZANDVOORT, The Netherlands (Sept. 29, 2006)--A1 Team USA's Phil Giebler had problems with an ill-handling car and an uncomfortable cockpit Friday, running the 13th fastest lap in the ...

A1 Team USA opens second season with practice at Zandvoort

ZANDVOORT, The Netherlands (Sept. 29, 2006)--A1 Team USA's Phil Giebler had problems with an ill-handling car and an uncomfortable cockpit Friday, running the 13th fastest lap in the opening practice for veterans of the A1GP season at Circuit Park Zandvoort.

Giebler covered the 2.6-mile, 11-turn road course in one minute, 31.898 seconds, an average speed of 112.53 mph, in the team's Lola-Zytek. He completed 24 laps in the one hour practice.

"The car is not too happy," Giebler said. "The track is bumpy and the car just keeps skipping across the track. We need to make it more compliant to the road surface. It's not very predictable."

Giebler had a new seat installed and it compounded his troubles.

"We tried to make a new seat and, unfortunately, it's not as comfortable in the car as before," Giebler said. "Between the car and the seat, it was almost undriveable. I couldn't control what the car was doing."

Giebler, of Oxnard, Calif., had not previously driven at Zandvoort, but teammate Jonathan Summerton had. Summerton was an impressive seventh in the two all-rookie practices. It was Summerton's first day in the car.

"Jonathan did a solid job," Giebler said. "His track knowledge helped us. It was a smart move for the team to bring him here. We walked around the track and he had a lot of knowledge. The track is very technical and is one of the trickiest tracks in the series. It's quite narrow for these types of cars. Having him here is a big help."

Summerton, of Kissimmee, Fla., ran 1:31.06 in the first session and 1:31.875 in the second. Summerton ran 19 incident-free laps.

"It was good," Summerton said. "For my first time in the car, I'm happy. I got to know the car and the team. It went really well and, yeah, I had fun. There was a lot of traffic and that didn't help my lap times. I didn't get to put a lap together."

Summerton, 18, is racing this season in the Euro Series Formula 3 and has a best finish of third at the Norisring in Germany. He's in his fourth year of racing. Summerton began his career with a season in karting, followed by Formula BMW in the United States in 2004 and Formula BMW in Europe in 2005.

A1 Team USA extended the offer to Summerton a week ago.

"It's a great opportunity and a lot of fun," Summerton said.

Summerton was driving the most powerful car of his career in the 550-horsepower Lola-Zytek and made a seamless transition. It has 300 more than the F3 car.

"The engine keeps pulling after you exit the corner," Summerton said. "That's the biggest difference from what I've driven before. You're going faster on the straightaway, but you really don't notice it. The car is also heavier than what I've driven before and you can feel it braking and that took a bit of time to get used to."

A1GP added two 25-minute sessions on Friday at each event this season for Rookies. All rookies must be under 25 years old and must have driven in less than four A1GP races.

Giebler and A1 Team USA, which is receiving technical support from West Surrey Racing, will have a one hour practice prior to qualifying on Saturday.

"These guys (West Surrey Racing) are a bunch of smart guys and I'm sure they'll get it figured out," Giebler said. "We can put the old seat back in or make the new one work. We should be fine for qualifying."

A1 Team USA owner Rick Weidinger believes the team can adjust his patriotically themed "We The People" entrant into a higher state of competitiveness.

"We're cautiously optimistic what qualifying will bring," Weidinger said. "We need to get Phil more comfortable in the car and make the car better. We're pleased with the all-rookie sessions. Jonathan did a nice job. He's raced on this track a few times and he put that knowledge to good use."

The Circuit Park Zandvoort on the North Sea Coast of The Netherlands will play host to the first race in the 2006/07 season from 29 September - 1 October 2006. For more information on A1 Grand Prix, including a schedule of the 2006/07 racing season, visit http://www.a1teamusatv.com/races_2006.htm.

-credit: team usa

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About this article
Series A1GP
Drivers Phil Giebler , Jonathan Summerton , Rick Weidinger