Zhuhai Visit Ends Scoreless for Canada A weekend that initially promised much for A1 Team Canada ultimately failed to live up to its billing on Sunday as Robert Wickens left Round 4 of the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, at China's...
Zhuhai Visit Ends Scoreless for Canada
A weekend that initially promised much for A1 Team Canada ultimately failed to live up to its billing on Sunday as Robert Wickens left Round 4 of the 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, at China's Zhuhai International Circuit, with a 15th place Sprint finish and a second-straight Feature race retirement.
Second fastest on the timesheets on Friday, Canada looked like being a front-runner at the 4.30km Chinese track, not least as the team arrived off the back of its first podium finish at the previous round in Malaysia. Frustrated not to score and build on that momentum in Zhuhai, Canada heads into the Christmas break 13th in the Nations Standings, on 10 points, while leaders Switzerland hold a commanding 19 point advantage over former champions France (79-60).
Sunday morning's 13-lap Sprint race saw Wickens take the rolling start tenth on the grid, the 18-year-old's second top-ten Sprint start having qualified a season's-high of fifth last month in Malaysia. A solid first lap was marred by contact from France's Loic Duval on the exit of Turn 7. While New Zealand and The Netherlands slipped by in the process, a safety car period would bunch the field back up allowing Wickens to pass Jonny Reid in the Kiwi entry at the re-start.
With four laps remaining contact between Reid and Wickens at Turn 14 left the Canadian languishing outside the points, the Toronto-native eventually taking the checkered flag down in 15th. Germany's Michael Ammermuller celebrated the Sprint win, the rookie driver joined on the podium by Champ Car World Series racer Neel Jani, for Switzerland, and China's own Congfu Cheng in third.
A sluggish start from the sixth row in the afternoon's Feature race proved to be problematic for Wickens. Attempting to make up ground on the run to the first turn, the teenager soon played his part in a four-car incident. Locking up on the approach, Robert ran onto the grass and into the back of Adam Khan's Pakistani entry. While he nursed the stricken car back to the pits for a replacement nose, on his exit a hose from the left hand radiator worked itself loose.
Wickens returned to the pits and while the team was keen to attempt repairs and go for the point on offer for fastest lap of the race, the engine had overheated leading to another frustrating retirement just four laps into proceedings. Narain Karthikeyan took India's maiden A1GP triumph in the Feature, the ex-F1 driver followed on the podium by New Zealand's Reid and South Africa's Adrian Zaugg.
"I didn't give it enough rpm at the beginning so got off the line very poorly," Wickens reflected post-Feature. "From there I got in behind Pakistan, and going into the first corner, when I braked I had some rear brake lock-up and basically I had to go to the inside to avoid Pakistan and I'm not sure if he didn't see me but he pushed onto the grass on the inside and I guess you slow down when you're on the grass and I'm sorry for anyone that I made contact with. It's just too bad it happened. Things started off promisingly but we definitely didn't get the result we deserved as per normal for Canada so far this year. We're determined though and we'll come back to Taupo and just do a better job."
"It's been a tough day today," added Mark Gallagher, whose Status Grand Prix outfit runs the Canadian team. "The Sprint incident with New Zealand really ruined that race and the accident at the start of the Feature Robert has explained. Again we've shown good flashes of pace here and with a good clean weekend, which is sure to come very soon, Canada will be back up there and in the top six!"
The 2007-08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport continues with Round 5 hosted in the New Year at Taupo Motorsport Park in New Zealand, Friday 18th -- Sunday 20th January
Setanta Sports will air Round 4 on Monday 17th December at 7am EST
SPEED will air Round 4 on Thursday 27th December at Noon EST