Chengdu: Series qualifying report

Great Britain and Ireland on Pole in Chengdu Chengdu, China -- A1 Team Great Britain's Danny Watts claimed pole position for tomorrow's Feature race in A1GP Chengdu, China posting the fastest lap of the weekend so far, a 1m 15.325s. Adam Carroll...

Great Britain and Ireland on Pole in Chengdu

Chengdu, China -- A1 Team Great Britain's Danny Watts claimed pole position for tomorrow's Feature race in A1GP Chengdu, China posting the fastest lap of the weekend so far, a 1m 15.325s. Adam Carroll put in a great performance to take Ireland's maiden A1GP pole position for tomorrow morning's Sprint race.

In the first qualifying segment Australia was first on track to get a banker lap because half the grid opted to wait for the final few minutes of the 10-minute session to record their times. With the dusty track making it difficult to judge how hard to push, many of the teams came out on track late in the hope of getting a clear run.

Switzerland's Neel Jani went out early in the first session clocking a time of 1:15.683s, the quickest of the weekend at that point and good enough for an eventual third place on the grid. Robert Doornbos, on his debut for A1 Team Netherlands, jumped to the top of the timesheets as the seconds ticked away but his time wasn't enough to hold off the late charge from Ireland.

As the chequered flag came out Italy's Edoardo Piscopo went into the gravel due to a broken wish-bone, and caused a lengthy delay. Eventually time ran out due to a logistical problem when trying to recover the car from the gravel trap in turn ten, so the second Sprint race qualifying segment was cancelled.

Carroll's time of 1m 15.423s was therefore good enough to give the Irish squad its first ever A1GP pole position.

A1 Team Netherlands will start alongside Ireland on the front row of the grid, with reigning champions Switzerland third.

As qualifying segment three for the Feature race got underway, Indonesia was first to emerge before Marco Andretti, on his first weekend in the US car, provisionally went quickest with a time of 1m 16.557s. Brazil was next to head the grid but in the final minutes Switzerland, Netherlands, Great Britain and Ireland were all gunning for the top-spot.

Danny Watts put in a fantastic lap of 1m 15.325s as the time ran out. Switzerland provisionally moved into second before being pushed down by a flying Adam Carroll whose time was only 0.031s slower than Great Britain. Filipe Albuquerque had a great final run to boost Portugal up to third, just 0.075s from Watts.

The drivers were geared up for a thrilling session as they prepared to take to the track for the final qualifying segment of the day but France's Nicolas Prost, on an extremely quick lap, went off into the gravel bringing out the red flag.

After a short delay the session restarted, but with none of the top three improving their times and no one else going quicker the top four remained the same. Malaysia made a big improvement from 14th in the Sprint qualifying posting a 1m 15.963s, putting it sixth, behind South Africa for the Feature.

A1 Team China had a disappointing start to the weekend and will start 18th for tomorrow's Sprint race after only setting a time on old tyres due to the cancellation of qualifying two. Ho-Pin Tung then made a mistake on both his runs in Feature race qualifying leaving him 17th on the grid.

After a close-fought session, Watts held onto pole position on Team GBR's first outing of the season.

"I think it was nine days ago I found out that I was actually coming here," said Watts, "so to be sitting here now, in pole position for the Feature race is really amazing. I think the credit's got to go to the team. They've had four hours sleep in the last two nights, working through the night just getting the car prepared and ready for practice yesterday. It's been an amazing few days. It's a new car for the team to get used to. A new driver in the car for Team GBR and luckily the whole package has come together really nicely."

"It feels great to get Ireland's first ever pole position and to make it a double front row start is even better," said a delighted Carroll. "It's quite a bumpy circuit so it's very important to put together a really clean lap.

"We were quick in final practice but we didn't focus too much on lap times from there because we knew we would be quite a lot faster in qualifying with the new rubber. The times are so close and the drivers are of such quality that it feels great to be at the front. The new Powered by Ferrari car is extremely quick with huge levels of downforce and it has really suited the team and my driving so far."

A1 Team Netherland's Doornbos said: "It's great to be here in A1GP. When Jan Lammers called me and asked if I wanted to drive for my own country, it sounded quite cool but I think the car made a big difference in me actually considering it. This year's car is actually quite fast so I can use my experience. I knew there was no time for testing so I had to come straight to China and get on with it."

Commenting on the car he continued: "I couldn't even fit my TW Steel watch in because I don't have a millimetre to spare, but the car has been good. The team has been working well which we showed with fastest time in practice. Unfortunately Adam just pipped me to pole but I think the front row is good."

After two thrilling fights for pole the Chengdu International Circuit looks set to provide the scene for two equally thrilling races tomorrow.

A1GP Chairman Tony Teixeira said: "I want to say a personal thank you to everyone who has made this race possible. There has been a lot of hard work done to bring the track up to the correct standard and I think the result is amazing. We realise the people of this province went through many traumas due to the earthquake, and hope we can highlight their plight and also help by contributing to the Sichuan Earthquake Relief Fund."

Sunday's Sprint race at Chengdu, China will start at11.00 local time with the 70-minute Feature race at 15:00.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Jan Lammers , Robert Doornbos , Marco Andretti , Adam Carroll , Neel Jani , Ho-Pin Tung , Filipe Albuquerque , Tony Teixeira , Nicolas Prost , Danny Watts