Beijing: Team Ireland preview

Ireland Aiming for Chinese Revival A1GP set to thrill fans on the streets of Beijing Dublin, 7 November 2006: The first ever grand prix style motor race on the streets of Beijing will see A1 Team Ireland aiming to score its first championship ...

Ireland Aiming for Chinese Revival
A1GP set to thrill fans on the streets of Beijing

Dublin, 7 November 2006: The first ever grand prix style motor race on the streets of Beijing will see A1 Team Ireland aiming to score its first championship points in the highly competitive A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. The Chinese capital plays host to the third round of the series this Sunday and a demanding 3.1kms street circuit has been built close to the city centre, giving local fans a real spectacle as the 23 nations entered battle for honours between the track's unforgiving walls.

Rathfarnham's Michael Devaney, supported by Reserve and Test driver John O'Hara, is aiming to re-start his campaign for Ireland after a frustrating opening two rounds of the series netted a zero points tally. Following the second round in the Czech Republic team bosses secured the agreement of the A1GP management to return the Irish car to manufacturers Lola International. The car, which had a new chassis to start the season, was found to have some potentially serious defects which the team, with A1GP and Lola's support, was able to repair before it was shipped out to China.

"The results in the opening two races were unusual because we were significantly off the pace and unable to close the gap to become anything like a threat to the leading teams," said A1 Team Ireland's Mark Gallagher. "It was also noticeable that, in the wet conditions during the race in Holland we were a lot more competitive, which suggested some degree of chassis flexing or movement. Thanks to the support from A1GP and Lola International we have been able to pinpoint problems and we will know during Friday practice in Beijing to what extent we have closed the performance gap."

First out on the Beijing street circuit for Ireland will be O'Hara in the 'Rookie' test session, the Kildare man fresh from a full day's testing on Monday in the Aran Racing Formula 3 car at Batangas in the Philippines. O'Hara, who has a home in the Philippines after twice finishing runner up in the Asian Formula 3 Championship, is hoping to see the team make a fresh start this weekend in China.

"It's sometimes the case that even a new chassis can develop problems and I've seen it in Formula 3 before. Hopefully the work that was done to the car back in England and then having it fully rebuilt will give us a step in performance and hopefully we'll be able to start making the right kind of progress with the set-up. The Beijing track looks pretty tight and like most street circuits it won't be so much about speed but keeping the car off the walls and coping with the lack of grip, especially on a new surface."

For Michael Devaney the frustrations of Holland and the Czech Republic have been put behind him and he too is aiming for a stronger showing in China.

"It was good that the team secured A1GP's agreement to have the car fully checked out and also that they found some issues. It would have been more of a worry if it had been found to be perfect! I can't wait to get back behind the wheel and push from the very start. None of the drivers will know this track so it will be equal for everyone. John and I will just have to work hard with our engineer Andy Miller to find the best possible set-up on Friday and go from there. I am sure it will be tough because new street circuits are always going to be tricky, but it'll be great to race in Beijing and give the Chinese fans something they'll never forget."

China's decision to host an A1GP race in Beijing underlines the capital city's determination to showcase its ability to organise major sporting events just under two years before it hosts the Olympic Games. Devaney and O'Hara will be among the drivers to be given tours of the city's Olympic sites on Thursday afternoon, though no doubt local media attention will be focused on Beijing's A1 Team China driver Congfu 'Frankie' Cheng who finished 3rd behind Ireland's Paddy Hogan in this year's UK Formula Renault Championship.

"It is quite something for Beijing to have built a street track for A1GP and it will be stunning to see the 23 cars racing at 170-180mph in the city centre," said A1 Team Ireland owner Mark Kershaw. "Given the phenomenal growth in China's economy and its increasing importance as a source of business for Irish companies, it is going to be fantastic to see the Irish car out their competing against some of the world's largest nations on the streets of Beijing. Later this season we will also be racing in Shanghai, which of course also hosts a Formula One event, but staging a race in Beijing really is a coup for the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport."

-credit: a1 team ireland

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About this article
Series A1GP
Drivers Michael Devaney , John O'Hara