Eastern Creek, Sydney, 5 November - It was a cliff-hanger finish to qualifying for the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Eastern Creek, Sydney with A1 Team France sitting in the garage waiting to see if they had to go out for the final session to defend...
Eastern Creek, Sydney, 5 November - It was a cliff-hanger finish to qualifying for the A1 Grand Prix of Nations, Eastern Creek, Sydney with A1 Team France sitting in the garage waiting to see if they had to go out for the final session to defend their pole position. Current Formula 3 champion, Alvaro Parente put in A1 Team Portugal's best-ever qualifying performance, placing them second on the Sprint race grid for the first time while Neel Jani continued A1 Team Switzerland's strong performance to date, rounding up the top three.
France's stunning performance knocked even more time off the outright lap record for the New South Wales circuit putting in a 1.18.150 lap in the second qualifying session. With all the A1 Teams set for two fiercely competitive races tomorrow, it looks almost certain that an A1 race car will set a new lap record as by the end of the third qualifying session, all 24 A1 Teams had put in times under the existing record.
Commenting on A1 Team France's third pole position of the Series, A1 Team France's Nicolas Lapierre said: 'We did enough to laps to get the time we wanted, we wanted to save tyres for tomorrow. So far so good, we have had a very good weekend so far, we have a good car for tomorrow on some new tyres. The first lap out was pretty safe but then my engineer told me to push very hard on the second lap and I had a very good lap and then after recording some good times we had to wait and see it was good enough. Yes there is pressure on me and I have to keep pushing because I want to hand the car back to Alex on top of the championship in the next race.
A1 Team Portugal's Alvaro Parente went on to say: 'I am happy with this second place because we were struggling in free practice. We improved quite a bit with some new tyres on the car, we still have to improve, but we will keep working to catch A1 Team France. We are working hard and fighting to improve. I made a small mistake on the second flying lap but we have to find a balance now on the old tyres for the race tomorrow.'
A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani said: 'It's a really tough car to drive and the last three or four days including today I haven't been very well, so I have really been feeling it in the car. So I'm quite happy with third place. Unfortunately I lost second place at the last minute but I'm looking forward to tomorrow. We'll be making changes before the race to try and improve and get closer to France.'
Despite a regulation which allows A1 Teams to switch drivers between qualifying and the Sprint race, all teams have decided to retain their qualifying selection and there will be no driver changes.
The Sprint race will be contested over 50 miles lasting up to 30 minutes in duration. With a rolling start at 13.30 EDST, tomorrow's race will be run over 20 laps at the Eastern Creek Raceway on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia. The outcome of the race determines the grid position for the Feature race which will start at 15.00 BST with a standing start. The Feature race will be run over 100 miles (40 laps) lasting up to 60 minutes in duration.