Eastern Creek: Series feature race report

South Africa Wins in Sydney Ahead of Home Event Australia -- A1 Team South Africa secured its second A1GP race win of the season in this afternoon's action-packed Feature race at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway, closing the gap to third-placed ...

South Africa Wins in Sydney Ahead of Home Event

Australia -- A1 Team South Africa secured its second A1GP race win of the season in this afternoon's action-packed Feature race at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway, closing the gap to third-placed Switzerland in the championship standings. The weekend brought the championship battle even closer together with leaders New Zealand and France both heading to the next race in Durban, South Africa on 96 points.

Adrian Zaugg drove a sensational race in treacherous conditions as the heavy rain continued to pour down, to cross the line almost 20 seconds ahead of Switzerland's Neel Jani in second. The result is a huge boost for the South African team as it gears up for its home event in three weeks time.

Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, who briefly fell back a place after making a good start from third on the grid alongside China in fourth, took the third and final podium position after a strong race in difficult conditions.

The on-track action began before the lights went out to signal the start of the 42-lap race with pole-sitter New Zealand's Jonny Reid grinding to a halt just after leaving the pits to form up on the grid. The marshals were not able to push start the stalled car uphill and as a result Black Beauty started from pit lane. Moments later Sprint race winner Loic Duval stalled the French car on the formation lap and was forced to start the race from the back of the grid, potentially putting both title rivals out of contention.

Brazil's Sergio Jimenez was on brilliant form this afternoon, racing from ninth on the grid to a solid fourth place, the nation's second best result of the season. The Brazilian team, who now lie ninth in the championship standings, was joined at Eastern Creek by 2002 FIFA World Cup winning Brazilian midfielder Juninho, who is currently playing for Sydney FC.

Having started from the back of the grid due to a clutch problem that caused him to stall, France's Loic Duval made steady progress and by lap 16 he had caught USA's Jonathan Summerton and Canada's Robert Wickens and the trio commenced a three-way fight for sixth place. In an ambitious move four laps later, Duval snuck down the inside of the American car, forcing Summerton to run off the track and ultimately ending his race.

The French team, still hampered by its clutch problem, received a drive through penalty for causing the avoidable collision and Duval's race was finally over when he failed to get the car going after his second compulsory pit stop on lap 31.

Home nation Australia's John Martin wowed the crowds as his impressive form continued, carving his way through the field from 14th to bring Jackaroo home in a superb fifth place, the nation's best ever result on home soil.

Germany's Michael Ammermuller just managed to fend off the Netherlands's Jeroen Bleekemolen across the line, the pair taking seventh and eighth place respectively. New Zealand's Jonny Reid, who started from pit lane and China's Congfu Cheng, who was hit with a drive through penalty for making a false start, took the final two point-scoring positions.

Just outside the points was India's Narain Karthikeyan who crossed the line in 11th position, closely followed by Pakistan's Adam Khan in 12th, who drove a solid race to secure the team's best result of the season.

Feature race winner South Africa's Adrian Zaugg praised his team's good tactical call in difficult conditions before the first round of pit stops:

'I have to thank Humphrey my engineer and the whole team for that call. I could see I was able to go at a better pace than at least Robbie and Neel, so I thought we had a good chance. We stayed out and put in some good laps and then pitted and got out ahead. It was very very hard in these conditions. Each time I was trying to get a move or to pass someone but when you come so close the visibility gets so bad you can't see anything. It was just safer to wait until we got a chance for some clear laps and that's all we did. The track conditions stayed pretty consistent but there was maybe a little less rain right at the end.'

Commenting on winning the Sydney Feature race ahead of his nation's home event in three weeks time, Zaugg said:

'The win gives you lots of confidence but each time it's a new race and a new day and I always give it my best, but definitely we have a great motivation coming to Durban.'

Second-placed Switzerland's Neel Jani, who benefited from his title rivals New Zealand and France starting from the back of the grid, said:

'I had a bad take off but the second part of my start was good. As the cars were rolling down I had to have my foot on the brake as I didn't want to have the same mistake I had at the last race when I was penalised for making a false start. It was still enough to be P1 into the first lap and I could just keep that position with more or less the same pace as the guys behind me. Then we came in on the first lap possible for the first pit stop. South Africa stayed out which was the better call but I think their pace certainly was pretty quick and it would have been hard to keep them behind us.'

GBR's Robbie Kerr, who endured a difficult weekend last time out in New Zealand, raced to a solid third place and was pleased to notch up some more championship points for the team:

'After the disappointment of Taupo where we didn't score any points, GBR had to get a good result and the podium is a nice way to do it. Unfortunately it wasn't two places higher, I'm sure I would have a bigger smile on my face if it was! The initial take off was good, but unfortunately as I ran over the start finish line where New Zealand would have been, the rear wheels just span up a little bit and we just lost traction from that point on. I just had to slow the car to regain traction and then try to accelerate again and by that point Brazil and South Africa had gone past. We had to get a good result here and it wasn't worth taking a big risk.'

New Zealand and France both leave Sydney with 96 championship points, but the Kiwis hold the title lead due to number of race wins. Switzerland lies just three points behind in third place ahead of South Africa in fourth on 76 points, as the series heads to Durban, South Africa for round seven on 22-24 February 2008.

-credit: a1gp.com

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Series A1GP
Drivers Narain Karthikeyan , Robbie Kerr , Adam Langley-Khan , Jeroen Bleekemolen , Neel Jani , Robert Wickens , Adrian Zaugg , Loic Duval , Jonny Reid , Jonathan Summerton , Congfu Cheng , John Martin , Sergio Jimenez , Michael Ammermüller