Ireland Storms to Superb Maiden Victory as GBR Takes Double Podium Mexico -- A1 Team Ireland was on sensational form in Mexico City this afternoon to win the thrilling Feature race from Great Britain and USA, becoming the 15th nation to win an...
Ireland Storms to Superb Maiden Victory as GBR Takes Double Podium
Mexico -- A1 Team Ireland was on sensational form in Mexico City this afternoon to win the thrilling Feature race from Great Britain and USA, becoming the 15th nation to win an A1GP race. It is a fantastic result for Portadown's Adam Carroll in his debut season for the team, and particularly well timed as the win comes just one day before Ireland celebrates St Patrick's Day (17 March). The top three title contenders -- Switzerland, New Zealand and France -- all endured difficult afternoons and failed to score any points.
A green flag signalled the start of the action-packed 47-lap race in hot and sunny weather conditions (36 degrees C), after the first start was aborted due to technical problems with the starting lights.
Twenty-five-year-old Adam Carroll, who topped the time sheets in free practice on Friday, started the race from fifth and leapt up the order to second behind Switzerland's Neel Jani after amazing work from the Irish team during the first compulsory pit stop on lap nine. He held position until lap 34 when he pitted the emerald green car for the second time and rejoined the action as race leader after another sensational stop. The crowds roared as Carroll, who was making his 14th race appearance for Ireland, crossed the line first to take his and the team's first ever A1GP victory.
Great Britain's Oliver Jarvis put in a brilliant performance to race from fourth on the grid to finish second, notching up a double-podium on his final outing for the British team this season and picking up more valuable championship points. Jarvis also scored a bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race and this weekend's points haul moves GBR up to fourth in the title table behind France.
USA's Jonathan Summerton, who scored his nation's best ever result at Mexico City last year when he finished second in the Feature race, was once again on superb form, charging through the field from seventh on the grid to finish third and take the final podium position ahead of the Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Pole-sitter Canada's Robert Wickens got a good start but lost the lead to Switzerland on lap six and fell down the order to third during the first round of pit stops. By lap 31 Wickens was running in fifth place as GBR and USA managed to overtake the 19-year-old who had been battling with an over-heating car and clutch problem from lap one. The Canadian racer, who said this was the hardest race he has ever driven, went on to cross the line in fifth position.
Having snuck through and taken the lead from Canada's Robert Wickens on lap six, title leader Switzerland's Neel Jani dominated the action until lap 34, when he came in for his second compulsory pit-stop at the same time as Ireland. After another stunning pit stop from the Irish crew, Carroll took the lead from Jani, who was shortly after hit with a drive-through penalty for unsafe release from his second stop, demoting the Swiss star to 19th at the chequered flag.
New Zealand's Jonny Reid, who was running in seventh for the first half of the race, ran wide at the chicane on lap 25 and brought out the safety car, allowing the pack to bunch up behind race leader Switzerland. Reid rejoined the action in 18th ahead of Mexico and finally crossed the line 12th.
Home nation A1 Team Mexico's David Garza, who led the race for two laps during the second round of pit stops, scored his nation's best ever home race result, making up eight places from the back of the grid to cross the line 14th.
Feature race winner Adam Carroll was delighted to score Ireland's first win and paid tribute to his team's incredible work in the pits:
'It's been three long years for the team and it's my first year in A1GP. I think everybody just saw our true potential this weekend especially with the guys with the pits stop. We knew they were capable of doing those times and today they pulled it off and it won us the race. I'd just like to say thanks to everybody, we've put in so much effort and this is for everybody who has believed in A1 Team Ireland. Hopefully this is just the start and we will finish the year extremely strongly and try to come back and win the championship next year.
'We tried to relax and just go racing and have a bit of fun. We still put in the hard work but I think everyone was just a bit more relaxed and we were able to show our true potential. We knew the guys could do it and they did and hopefully this is the first of many -- it's just fantastic. I had champagne in my trophy and I don't think the celebrating will stop tonight - it will probably finish sometime tomorrow afternoon, I just hope everybody makes the flight!'
Oliver Jarvis, who notched up two podium finishes today on his final race outing for GBR this season, said:
'Mexico has been a fantastic place for me. I've had four great results here and we really wanted the win today but unfortunately Ireland just did a fantastic job, a whole team effort, but we are happy to go away with two seconds. It's some strong points and we will look forward to going into the last two races and especially Brands Hatch on 4 May.'
USA's Jonathan Summerton raced from seventh on the grid to third, to score the team's third ever podium finish and the second of his A1GP career:
'It was again very similar to last year, we had a very quick car at the end and I was really happy with the car the whole race. At first we had a little bit of a problem but we managed to change a bit of the set up through the tyres and then we just kept chasing people down as quickly as possible. I'm happy with third. I was trying my best but it didn't happen.'
Switzerland leaves Mexico on 128 points ahead of New Zealand on 113 and France, who failed to pick up any points this weekend, on 108. Eight nations, including today's Feature race winner Ireland, are still mathematically in with a chance of winning the championship as the thrilling series returns to China for the penultimate round in Shanghai on 11-13 April 2008.