A1GP raised the curtain on their second season at Zandvoort, a track which was not part of the inaugural campaign. Both Germany and South Africa captured their first wins in competition, South Africa in the morning's sprint race and Germany...
A1GP raised the curtain on their second season at Zandvoort, a track which was not part of the inaugural campaign. Both Germany and South Africa captured their first wins in competition, South Africa in the morning's sprint race and Germany scoring the victory in the feature race. Drivers Adrian Zaugg (South Africa) and Nico Hulkenberg (Germany) made successful debuts in the events.
Zaugg started the sprint race on pole with the fastest aggregate time from qualifying. Team Mexico's entry, driven by Salvador Duran, started alongside and the two made contact heading to turn one. Zaugg emerged with the lead and a donut on the left side of the car, but no terminal damage. "I made a good start," he commented. "It was hard but fair, and I had to push hard to get back in front of Duran." From there he was off and running.
Behind them France got into the mix, as Nicolas Lapierre took advantage of the first corner collision to gain ground. He made an unsuccessful attempt to pass Duran, who shut the door. That was as close as anyone got to Zaugg, who reeled off a string of fastest laps to increase his margin to the field. In only a 12-lap race passing was always going to be difficult and there was no position change at the front for the remainder of the race. Zaugg won for South Africa, with Duran and Lapierre completing the podium.
The feature race grid is determined by a unique system that compiles the sprint race result, grid, and fastest lap of each team. Zaugg, placing first in all three, began the race on pole for the second time in the day. As it turned out a first corner clash would occur again, but this time Zaugg would not be so fortunate.
The South African car got away slowly from the grid and slipped to 4th behind Mexico, France and Germany. At turn one Zaugg collided with Great Britain's car, piloted by Darren Manning. Zaugg went off the road into a gravel trap and lost his front wing, ending his day and a chance for the Zandvoort sweep.
Duran would not hold the lead for long, as he ran wide on the entry to the Tarzan corner. France and Germany slipped through. Lapierre in the French car pulled out a 3-second lead to Hulkenberg in the German entry. Another dominant drive by the team that won last year's overall title was potentially in store, until Team Pakistan spun on entry into the pit lane for its mandatory pit stop. The safety car came out for a couple laps while the Pakistani car was moved to a safe haven out of harm's way.
Lapierre used his knowledge of these A1 cars to great advantage on the restart, bunching the field at a slow rate and then mashing the gas to gain another 3-second lead before the end of the lap. But another twist occurred, as a downpour hit the track with thunder and lightning overhead. Full wets were in order for all teams on their pit stops, save for Team USA and Phil Giebler, who gambled the weather would once again change. They remained on dry-weather slicks.
While this was going on local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen, in for the dispatched Jos Verstappen in the home team's car (Netherlands), had made a fantastic maneuver to the outside of Manning in the Great Britain entry. Bleekemolen came out of the pit stop cycle only behind France.
The USA moved into the lead but found grip difficult on the dries. France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy (Per Guidi Alessandro driving) all stormed past. On lap 27 Bleekemolen brought the capacity crowd to its feet with another amazing pass, this time of Lapierre for the race lead.
But again the tide turned. Literally the tide of water died down, as a dry line began to form on the circuit. Many of the teams came in once again for slicks. Bleekemolen was kept on track in a risky decision with wets losing their advantage. Lapierre fell out of the fight with mechanical problems. On lap 37, Giebler found his USA car running at an astounding rate on dries, and he carved into the Dutch lead and promptly passed Bleekemolen.
The race's final chapter had not yet been written. Germany had hung around a bit under the radar and on slicks, was on equal footing with the USA. Hulkenberg gained quickly on the stricken Bleekemolen, passing him for 2nd, and finally squeezing past Giebler with only 2 laps left. The Germans scored a dramatic victory, but the USA had done an equally impressive job in finishing 2nd. Bleekemolen fell to 4th on the last turn, after a hard- charging effort from Team Australia and Ryan Briscoe. But no doubt Bleekemolen further endured himself to the locals with his performance, even if the final results didn't show it. Mexico completed the top five.
"I pushed hard and did my best throughout the race," Hulkenberg said afterwards. "I didn't think that I could win after my second stop and I didn't realize what position I was - I thought I was around 10th, until my engineer radioed at told me I was P1! It was a fantastic race and the changeable weather really added to the excitement, as we were all swapping between slicks and wet weather tires."
Germany holds the series lead through one round, 13-11 over Mexico, with round two next week in Brno in the Czech Republic.