Switzerland Wins Dramatic Durban Feature Race (Provisional results only) South Africa - Title leader A1 Team Switzerland dominated the action in Durban this afternoon to win the incident-packed Feature race, as the tricky turn one claimed...
Switzerland Wins Dramatic Durban Feature Race
(Provisional results only)
South Africa - Title leader A1 Team Switzerland dominated the action in Durban this afternoon to win the incident-packed Feature race, as the tricky turn one claimed numerous victims throughout the 48-lap race. Today's results move the Swiss team 10 points ahead of France in the championship standings while New Zealand now lies third, having scored a meagre two points after enduring a frustrating weekend in South Africa.
Superb work by the French team in the pits helped Loic Duval on his way to securing second place behind Switzerland, an incredible feat considering the Frenchman only arrived at the track from Japan on Saturday morning and qualified eighth. Portuguese rookie Filipe Albuquerque wowed the crowds by racing to third position from ninth on the grid, taking an impressive first podium on his A1GP debut.
With just nine laps remaining, Canada's Robert Wickens, who was on great form and running in second for much of the race, spun out at turn one and was hit by GBR's Oliver Jarvis as he rounded the tight hairpin and could not avoid the Canadian car. The incident brought out the safety car and no sooner had the race restarted than it was all over due to am ambitious move from local hero Adrian Zaugg.
The South African driver, who started 15th, had climbed to seventh when he made a determined dive down the inside at turn one and hit the unlucky Jeroen Bleekemolen in the Dutch car, causing a major pile up involving five cars. Bleekemolen was out of the race, which continued for a short period under the safety car, but still classified in fourth position when the race was brought to a premature end by a red flag.
It was the third time during the Feature race that a multi-car incident at turn one led to a safety car period when the field squeezed through the tight hairpin eager to take advantage of one of the few overtaking spots on the narrow street circuit.
Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy had a superb afternoon, making his way through the field to finish fifth, having started from 12th on the grid. China's Congfu Cheng was also on impressive form, racing from 11th to sixth and collecting a bonus point for setting the fastest lap.
Khalil Beschir was heartbroken as the Lebanese driver was on course to score his nation's first ever championship point when the race was red-flagged with just one lap remaining.
Feature race winner and championship leader Switzerland's Neel Jani, who has been suffering with a stomach bug and dehydration, was grateful for the safety car periods:
'I had a lot of stomach pain and cramps and obviously many runs to the toilet, so this morning I felt really bad. I got two litres of fluids by drip and that was a little bit better afterwards but still the cramps and everything was still going on, so the race was really tough and in the end I really had problems to concentrate. I really felt how dehydrated I was and the concentration was really getting tough in the end so I was happy with all the safety cars. My mechanics did a superb job. They got the car ready and the pit stops were good, so I have to thank the team that they gave me again the car and I just had to drive it.'
France's Loic Duval, who will not be able to compete in the remaining three rounds of the A1GP season due to prior commitments, was very happy with second in the Feature race today and thought it was one of the best races of his A1GP career:
'The team did a great job. We overtook everybody. I mean on the track we were faster than them and fortunately for us Canada spun - I was pretty lucky actually because I almost crashed into him. It was just a great race, maybe the best of A1GP for me. It's like a victory for us so now I feel really happy. I want to thank all my team because it's the last race for me. I want to wish them the best for the rest of the season.'
Portuguese newcomer Filipe Albuquerque was pleased to finish on the podium at his first A1GP event:
'I was pushing all the time and it was easy to make mistakes because the tyres were getting worse. I did some mistakes also, but it happens to everyone and it's not easy to push for over 40 laps without making a mistake. I'm happy with a third place, I built up to fifth so I was already very happy because I came up from ninth after the first corner and the speed was good. Not enough like Switzerland or France but enough to be P3.'
Switzerland leaves Durban on 118 points ahead of France on 108 and New Zealand on 98, as the thrilling nation versus nation series heads to Mexico City for round eight of the 10-event championship on 14-16 March 2008.
All results remain provisional while the stewards of the circuit continue to carry out investigations.