Dubai, 9 December -- A1 Grand Prix's home race got off to a flying start today when 24 A1 Teams took to the track earlier than usual with two extra test sessions. A1 Team Great Britain made history when Katherine Legge became the first female...
Dubai, 9 December -- A1 Grand Prix's home race got off to a flying start today when 24 A1 Teams took to the track earlier than usual with two extra test sessions. A1 Team Great Britain made history when Katherine Legge became the first female driver to get behind the wheel of an A1 race car and the ground-breaking trend of the weekend continued when the FIA approved the use of the helicopter recovery system tested at the Dubai Autodrome yesterday.
The usual practice sessions were held in the afternoon with all the A1 Teams working on their set up for tomorrow's qualifying. A1 Team France's Nicolas Lapierre, who recorded the fastest lap of the day said: 'We had a very good day, during the first session the track was very dirty, but in free practice we worked on the car and we were improving every time. The track was getting faster too, so it was hard to see where the time was coming from. The track is really nice, there are a few good corners. It's quite a long track though, so I think it will be hard to get a perfect lap in qualifying tomorrow, as it is easy to make mistakes.'
Ralph Firman, driver for A1 Team Ireland, who was just over one tenth of a second off France's pace said: 'There was quite a lot of dust, but by the last lap it was fine and the temperature was dropping too as the sun set, which made a big difference.
The track looks smooth but there are lots of ripples in it which can throw the car off balance, but it's the same for everyone. I'm confident with the car, and hopefully I'll be doing the rest of the races now so we will be able to make steps forward.'
A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani also spoke about the challenges of the Dubai Autodrome: 'There are quite a lot of corners where you can go off and as soon as you get off the racing line the car starts to slide.'
The three fastest lap times were all recorded in the second official practice session as drivers got to grips with a track that is brand new to many. The second practice session was red flagged as A1 Team Malaysia split oil on the track, after damaging the oil sump on a kerb.
Speaking of the significance of A1GP's home race, A1 Grand Prix's CEO Tony Teixeira said: 'Every race has been significant as they have all been a first, but Dubai is especially significant as it is the home of Sheikh Maktoum and the city where we visualised the concept of A1 Grand Prix'. Commenting on the A1 Recovery trial, Tony said 'We are delighted that we have been given the green light to use this system, should it be needed over the weekend. Should cars go off the track between corners two and 10, they can now be removed by helicopter. It is another new innovation from A1 Grand Prix.'
Representing the Arab world, A1 Team Lebanon is also viewing the Dubai race as their home event. Seatholder, Tameem Auchi said: 'We've been working hard to increase interest in A1 Grand Prix in the Middle East, as there is not a lot of awareness about single seat racing in our region. We've had a really good reception and more and more people are supporting us. We are very proud to be representing the Arab world, and have the flags of all the Arab nations on our car this weekend.'
Basil Shaaban who will drive for A1 Team Lebanon in tomorrow's qualifying sessions said: 'I will be racing for the rest of the weekend, and so will have the honour of racing here. This is particularly special as I grew up in Abu Dhabi. In general it feels better to be racing here, nearer to home and in a country where people speak your own language.'