Durban: Series Sprint race report

Canada Takes Sprint Race Victory in Durban South Africa - A1 Team Canada secured its first ever Sprint race victory in this morning's action-packed race held around the streets of Durban in glorious sunshine, while Switzerland regained the title...

Canada Takes Sprint Race Victory in Durban

South Africa - A1 Team Canada secured its first ever Sprint race victory in this morning's action-packed race held around the streets of Durban in glorious sunshine, while Switzerland regained the title lead as France failed to score any points and New Zealand picked up one point for setting the fastest lap.

Eighteen-year-old rookie Robert Wickens, the youngest ever pole-sitter in A1GP, got a good start and despite being hit from behind by New Zealand's Jonny Reid at turn one and losing his five second lead due to a safety car period towards the end of the thrilling 15-lap race, Wickens managed to keep Great Britain and Switzerland behind him to take Canada's maiden Sprint race victory and the first win of his A1GP career.

GBR's Oliver Jarvis, who was wheel-to-wheel with Jonny Reid in Black Beauty as the pack tussled for position going into turn one, managed to gain two places and hold second position, despite sustaining damage to the distinctive red, white and blue car. Reid was forced to pit for repairs and was finally classified 21st.

Canada and GBR were joined on the podium by Switzerland's Neel Jani in third position. The 24-year-old Swiss star started the race fifth and made up two places to score crucial championship points for his nation and regain the title lead from New Zealand.

China's Congfu Cheng was on superb form, racing from 10th on the grid to finish fourth. Fifth place was taken by the Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen who was taken out of the race as it approached its final lap by Germany's Michael Ammermuller.

After a safety card period for Bruno Junqueira, who hit the wall on lap nine after bouncing over the kerbs on the chicane and damaging the bodywork of the Brazilian car, the action restarted with just two laps remaining. The pressure was on and with Germany close behind the Netherlands, Ammermuller pushed to overtake, running into the back of the Dutch car taking them both out of the race and bringing it to a premature conclusion. German driver Michael Ammermuller was later excluded from the race for this manoeuvre.

A1 Team Australia's John Martin, who was hospitalised overnight with a suspected stomach bug, brought his car home in an impressive seventh position while Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque crossed the line eighth on his A1GP race debut with Mexico and Malaysia taking ninth and tenth. All the teams moved up a place as a result of Germany's exclusion.

France's Loic Duval, who arrived in South Africa on Saturday morning from a prior commitment in Japan, finished the incident-packed race 12th behind USA's Jonathan Summerton in 11th. Host nation South Africa's Adrian Zaugg, who started from 20th on the grid, worked his way through the field to cross the line in 14th position behind Pakistan's Adam Khan. Again, each team moved up one place as a result of the German exclusion, giving the USA an additional point in its championship campaign.

India started the Sprint race from the back of the grid and will start the Feature race from the same position, as the team chose to replace regular race driver Narain Karthikeyan, who injured his wrist in free practice on Friday, with rookie Parthiva Sureshwaren.

The 22 nations are now preparing for the main event of the weekend in Durban, a 70-minute Feature race with two compulsory pit stops, which starts at 15:00 this afternoon.

Robert Wickens, who is clearly enjoying racing around the streets of Durban, was delighted to give Canada its first Sprint race victory:

'It's a great experience. I knew that we had a very good chance at winning the race because we were quick in qualifying and we had a really solid race car through practice so I was basically going into the start with my whole goal just to make it into the first corner, and that was slightly hairy. I broke and I think either Jonny thought I was going to break later or maybe he over shot it, I don't know. I'm not going to jump to any conclusions but I saw him coming really quick behind me so I actually let off the break to try and give him more space, but we still made contact and damaged my car a little bit as well. I love the circuit, I've always really enjoyed street circuits my entire life and this ones no different. It's a really fast street circuit and it's probably one of the coolest street circuits I've ever raced on.'

GBR's Oliver Jarvis, who raced from fourth on the grid to finish second despite damage sustained at the start, is also a big fan of street circuits:

'It's great to come back to South Africa, they have done a fantastic job. I've had some good results on street tracks so I was looking forward to coming here. I got a great start and managed to break extremely late around the outside, I actually thought I was going to get the lead but unfortunately New Zealand tagged Robbie Wickens of Canada, which just pushed him out wide which compromised me a little bit. Then as I tried to go around the outside of the corner, New Zealand again drove into the side of me and damaged the car quite a bit. I managed to get into second but from then on I was really struggling so was never quick enough to challenge for the lead but was happy to finish on the podium. The car will be fixed and we will try to make a few changes assuming that it was the set up and not the damage that we are struggling with and hopefully we can have a repeat performance.

'I think it's great that A1GP has included street tracks in the calendar. It offers something very different as a driver. It's very technical, it's a particularly fast street track but there's just no room for error. It takes a lot of courage but also a lot of finesse to be quick round here and it's fantastic that we have returned here once again.'

This afternoon's Feature race pole-sitter Switzerland's Neel Jani, who now leads the championship by six points from New Zealand, said:

'Well I started fifth so I knew it would be already tight and at the first corner it was. Then I was quicker than Jarvis (GBR) but he was making so many mistakes I thought I'd better keep my gap and see what he does, in case he got too nervous so I could challenge him. So I guess I just went for the points because I knew the other two (New Zealand and France) were out of the points, so I've got that championship lead back now. I think we have a quick car so we should be able to fight for the win this afternoon.'

-credit a1gp

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series A1GP
Drivers Bruno Junqueira , Narain Karthikeyan , Parthiva Sureshwaren , Adam Langley-Khan , Neel Jani , Oliver Jarvis , Robert Wickens , Adrian Zaugg , Loic Duval , Filipe Albuquerque , Jonny Reid , Jonathan Summerton , Congfu Cheng , John Martin , Michael Ammermüller