Kyalami: Team New Zealand Friday notes

BLACK BEAUTY STARTS STRONG IN SOUTH AFRICA There was an air of optimism in the garage of A1 Team New Zealand following a promising start to their weekend at South Africa's Kyalami circuit. Wanganui eighteen-year-old Earl Bamber has returned...


There was an air of optimism in the garage of A1 Team New Zealand following a promising start to their weekend at South Africa's Kyalami circuit.

Wanganui eighteen-year-old Earl Bamber has returned to driving duties for Round Five of the fourth season of A1GP racing action. He ended the day tenth on the timesheets, just over 1.2 seconds off the fastest time of the day set by Lebanon.

Somewhat disguised in the times is the fact that only some teams elected to run brand new tyres in the Friday practise session, while others including New Zealand have a strategy that uses the new tyres later in the weekend. After taking close note of all cars heading out onto the circuit, New Zealand's crew calculated Bamber was only just over 0.2 seconds slower than the fastest nation running on old tyres.

After the problems that plagued Black Beauty last month for New Zealand's home race at Taupo, it is a huge relief to the team to know that they're now on top of these issues. While there is still some fine tuning of Black Beauty to do, the major issue for New Zealand with the brakes appears to be taken care of.

Now the only unknown that won't be confirmed a success until race start is the Launch Control system on the A1GP race-car. The software for the Launch Control has been re-programmed for all nations in a bid to eliminate the slow getaways that plagued New Zealand and other teams at Taupo. While Bamber tests the Launch Control every time he leaves his pit-box in Practice and Qualifying, the real test comes at race start when it's a drag race to the first corner.

Bamber takes part in his last Rookie Session at Kyalami, as this is his third full race weekend for New Zealand, a milestone which precludes him from any future Rookie sessions. For future rounds this is not a huge setback, however the extra time on track for the team's main race driver over rival teams who use a junior driver for the Rookie Session is always a benefit.

Although it's Bamber's last weekend as an A1GP Rookie, an added boost for New Zealand is an additional twenty five minutes of Rookie Practice to be run on Saturday morning at Kyalami. Delays in the arrival of fuel system parts to cope with the high altitude of Kyalami meant New Zealand's Rookie Session running was limited to just twenty minutes. A number of other teams have also been allowed the extra practice.

Returning to Qualifying at Kyalami is the much debated 'joker' PowerBoost lap in Qualifying. The joker lap allows drivers one lap out of their four separate Qualifying runs with the PowerBoost activated for their entire lap. This gives Black Beauty and the other A1GP cars an extra 60 horsepower, but also makes Qualifying extremely unpredictable.

The best lap-time from the first two Qualifying runs counts for the Sprint Race, the second two for the Feature Race. Therefore the 'joker' use of the PowerBoost may see a nation highly placed in one race grid, yet well below their expected starting position in the second grid. While the 'joker' PowerBoost in Qualifying is not loved by all drivers, exciting racing and numerous overtaking manoeuvres can be assured with this format.

Bamber's intense physical training in the lead-up to Kyalami is paying dividends for the young Kiwi, with reports that the altitude of more than 1,700m at Kyalami is causing no upset as he puts Black Beauty through her paces at Kyalami.

The first session of the day for Bamber on day two at Kyalami is the additional Rookie Practice, followed by the final practice session. Then Saturday afternoon sees drivers go head-to-head in four thrilling 'one lap' qualifying shootouts, which goes to air on TV3 at 5pm on Sunday afternoon.

Earl Bamber, Driver

"We're getting quicker and quicker, plus we were held up today on our quickest laps by other traffic."

"We didn't show our true pace in the main Practice session because we had tyres on that had already done the Rookie session."

"I really like the track -- there are lots of fast corners and some bumpy sections. It's a track that needs serious courage."

John Sears, Team Manager

"Earl had some impressive sector times throughout Practice but traffic slowed us too often."

"I think we'll be right there in the hunt with our pace from today."

"With the nature of the circuit I expect the tyres will go 'off' quickly in longer runs during the races."

-credit: new zealand

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Series A1GP
Drivers Earl Bamber