Chengdu: Team New Zealand preview

VAN DER DRIFT TO MAKE RACE DEBUT FOR A1 TEAM.NZL IN CHENGDU European based Kiwi racing driver Chris van der Drift will suit up to drive 'Black Beauty' for Round Two of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport this weekend at the Chengdu International...

VAN DER DRIFT TO MAKE RACE DEBUT FOR A1 TEAM.NZL IN CHENGDU

European based Kiwi racing driver Chris van der Drift will suit up to drive 'Black Beauty' for Round Two of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport this weekend at the Chengdu International Circuit, China.

A1 Team New Zealand currently sits in third place in the championship points standings, with nine championship rounds remaining between this weekend and May 2009.

Van der Drift drove the new 'Powered by Ferrari' A1GP car for New Zealand in pre season testing in September this year. However commitments to the final round of his International Formula Master campaign prevented the Hamilton born driver from racing for his home nation at Zandvoort, The Netherlands at the season opening round.

Since winning the International Formula Master title, twenty-two-year-old Rotterdam based van der Drift has spent considerable time in Asia, testing then racing a GP2 car most recently in Shanghai, China.

Added value of van der Drift's GP2 experience for A1 Team New Zealand was the race format which included a compulsory pit-stop. With pit-stop experience now under his belt, the quick Kiwi is even better prepared to compete with the hopes of New Zealand resting firmly on his shoulders.

A critical factor of races with pit-stops is the pressure of the 'in' and 'out' laps. Team strategies come in to play during the in-lap, as drivers are not necessarily called in to the pits on the same lap. If a team's strategy leaves the driver on the track for an extra few laps, there is usually considerable pressure on the driver to find every last ounce of speed in the car while rivals service their cars.

Add to this the new tyres fitted to the car during a stop, and the out-lap becomes critical as the driver maximises the performance of the car. Pressure on the out-lap is just as high, as drivers often complete the lap while racing competitors despite their tyres not being up to full operating temperature.

Given that A1GP sees nation compete against nation, drivers can work together for the good of their team. With this in mind, A1 Team New Zealand has some local knowledge to draw on for Chengdu. Earl Bamber, who put in a stunning drive for New Zealand at Zandvoort last month has driven a handful of laps at Chengdu in a Formula V6 Asia race-car.

Bamber describes the 3.367km circuit as "a great challenge with the elevation changes and blind brows". He also noted the circuit as especially difficult should it rain. Located in the Sichuan province in South West China, the circuit offers drivers an exciting mix of terrain that includes long straights and an undulating infield section.

While A1 Team New Zealand endured a relatively strong build up to the season opening race at Zandvoort, the same could not be said for many fellow teams. Delays in the build of the new 'Powered by Ferrari' A1GP car meant some teams were still building their car while others were practicing on track.

The month long break before Round Two has allowed teams affected by the build delays to prepare properly, and should ensure a far more competitive grid for the remainder of the season.

Practice at Chengdu gets underway on Friday, as well as Saturday morning. Saturday afternoon then features the nail-biting four 10 minute qualifying sessions. Racing action takes place with the Sprint Race and Feature Race on Sunday.

Chris van der Drift, Driver

"I've been looking on the internet at some videos of the track. It looks pretty tight and twisty in places!"

"Driving the GP2 car has been good preparation for the weekend. The cars are similar in style, they're both big cars."

-credit: new zealand

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Series A1GP
Drivers Chris van der Drift , Earl Bamber