Kyalami: Series Friday practice report

Lebanon Set the Pace in South Africa Gauteng, South Africa -- Round Five of the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season got underway in Gauteng, South Africa this afternoon with A1 Team France setting the early pace in the rookie session ...

Lebanon Set the Pace in South Africa

Gauteng, South Africa -- Round Five of the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season got underway in Gauteng, South Africa this afternoon with A1 Team France setting the early pace in the rookie session before A1 Team Lebanon's Daniel Morad posted a 1-minute 30.816-seconds lap to end the day quickest overall in the hot Kyalami sunshine.

Sixteen-years after his father won in Kyalami, Nicolas Prost was the first to turn a wheel kicking off the weekend's action in Gauteng, South Africa. The 27-year-old was the first to go faster than the lap record set by Mauro Baldi in a Ferrari 3338 SP in 1998 and over 3-seconds quicker than the time, 1m 36.390s, set by Nigel Mansell in an 'old' Formula 1 car in 1993.

The second car out on track was A1 Team Germany getting its first running of the season with Michael Ammermuller behind the wheel, but it was Prost who ended the rookie session quickest with a time of 1m 33.149s: "

"The track is very nice," said Prost. "It's pretty hilly and it's a bit old -- style, which is nice, with quick corners. It's going to be tough with a lot of competition here, but in the rookie session the car was very good. We made a few bad changes let's say, and I was not that good, but I'm sure it will be ok tomorrow."

Reigning champion Switzerland was first out on track in the final practice of the day, but it was Lebanon's Daniel Morad who emerged quickest, recording a 1m 30.816s, 0.496-seconds faster than anyone else in the final minutes of the session.

"We seemed to get on the pace pretty quickly and it was fine," said Morad. "We kind of put a lot of thought into this one, just to see how quick we can get off the start and it was good. The thing I could really feel in the car was that the tyres are a lot better. I think when we were running in Malaysia the track felt really greasy and the tyres weren't giving that much grip in the hot conditions, but in the cooler conditions it seems to be quite good."

Commenting on what preparation he had done before arriving in South Africa he continued: "Not much! Well actually, I have been playing on my own simulator. I built a simulator up at home but it's not that accurate because I went 10-seconds slower here. I knew the direction of the track though and I knew it was going to be challenging because of the elevation. I have to say that I really like this circuit. It reminds me of one back home in Canada. The track is also an old Formula 1 circuit like this, so a lot of the features are the same and I really like it."

Local driver Adrian Zaugg ended the day sixth with a time of 1m 31.881: "I went out at first, and just felt how the car was, and checked some things as I do usually. Once I got a good feel for the car I just improved some things. At the end I was just kind of building up once things moved in the direction I wanted, so I started to push a bit more to see what lap times I could do.

"It's a great circuit for me," he continued. "It's one of the best circuits I have ever raced on so far. We have blind corners here - fast sweeping corners and then slow corners. In fact they change with each and every lap because everyone was short cutting and throwing gravel, so each lap was quite different. It was great fun driving on this circuit."

On moving from Durban to Gauteng for Season Four he said: "I actually enjoyed Durban a lot. There were obviously some unpleasant memories with the last race I had there, but I have always liked street circuits. But this circuit I would say is even more challenging than Durban was. Even though there are no walls here, I think it's difficult and is an old school circuit with plenty of run-off. It's a real proper circuit."

Five cars did not make it onto the Kyalami track for these two sessions due to a technical issue beyond the teams' control. With Kyalami sitting 2000-feet above sea level, A1GP has had to introduce new parts to the cars' fuel systems to combat the high altitude. Unfortunately, the additional parts were not available to be fitted in time to these five cars. Equivalent running time will be allocated to these teams tomorrow morning to maintain the level playing field.

A1 Team Pakistan will not be competing in Kyalami. The team's entry to Season Four has been delayed so the first time its seat holder, Adam Khan, was able to drive its new Powered by Ferrari car was this week at a test at South Africa's Phakisa Freeway Circuit in Welkom. The team was happy with the test, but Khan will now concentrate on preparing for the remainder of Season Four, Season Five and his role with the ING Renault F1 team.

Also missing is A1 Team Korea which is being restructured. However the team has recently announced a new driver -- 2008 Macau Grand Prix winner Kyoung-Woo Lee -- who is in Kyalami to see the series at close quarters. Once all the various parts of this restructuring are in place A1GP looks forward to welcoming the team back on track.

Some teams loved it and some teams hated it but the PowerBoost 'joker' has been reinstated for Saturday qualifying. The functionality of the new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car allows for the PowerBoost button to be available for an entire lap of Qualifying, and teams will be allowed to use it for one of their four flying laps. The PowerBoost button gives an extra 60bhp on application, so the ability to use it throughout a lap is likely to make a significant difference to the car's capability.

As in Taupo, the Sprint race in South Africa will have a standing and not a rolling start after a great deal of consideration was given to the change implemented in New Zealand. Both these changes will remain a feature for the remainder of Season Four.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Nigel Mansell , Mauro Baldi , Adrian Zaugg , Daniel Morad , Nicolas Prost , Michael Ammermüller