Portimao: Series Friday practice report

The Netherlands' Sets the Early Pace in Portugal Algarve, Portugal -- Vodafone A1GP Algarve, Portugal got underway this morning with New Zealand's Earl Bamber setting the early pace in the rookie session and the Netherlands' topping the ...

The Netherlands' Sets the Early Pace in Portugal

Algarve, Portugal -- Vodafone A1GP Algarve, Portugal got underway this morning with New Zealand's Earl Bamber setting the early pace in the rookie session and the Netherlands' topping the timesheets in afternoon practice

Round Six of the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport began today in Portugal as the A1GP Powered by Ferrari cars took to the new 4.69-kilometre Aut0x00f3dromo Internacional do Algarve for the first time with the drivers giving it great reviews.

Robert Doornbos looked strong on his return to A1 Team Netherlands' posting a 1-minute 31.962seconds early on in this afternoon's first official practice session.

New Zealandcontinued its consistent pace this afternoon with Earl Bamber back behind the wheel of Black Beauty to record the second quickest time of the day. Fresh from his podium success in South Africa, Monaco's Clivio Piccione put in a great last lap to move up to third as the chequered flag came out which pushed Italy's Vitantonio Liuzzi down to fourth on his A1GP debut.

Home favourite, Filipe Albuquerque clocked the fifth fastest time, 1-minute 32.570-seconds, 0.608 seconds adrift of the Netherlands'.

"It's a great track here," said The Netherlands' Robert Doornbos. "For me, it's not easy to swap cars, especially as I arrived last night from Texas where I was testing on an oval there so this is a completely different car. Every time I have driven the car I have been strong and finished on the podium. This will be my last time in the car this season because I have Indy Car commitments, but I'm looking for a win to leave the team on a high note."

Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque's session came to an early end this afternoon after getting stranded out on track: "I was struggling on braking with the rear and that time I was just too late to catch the clutch. I asked the marshals to push as I knew the car would start."

Earlier today A1 Team New Zealand's Earl Bamber got his weekend in the Algarve off to a good start, by topping the timesheets in the opening rookie session. Bamber lapped the new Aut0x00f3dromo Internacional do Algarve in 1m 34.147 seconds, as the track dried from morning rain.

France's Nicolas Prost was second quickest, half a second behind with a similar margin back to Switzerland's Alexandre Imperatori.

The major talking point of the session was that it was stopped for a lengthy period after a huge accident befalling Brazilian female Ana Beatriz.

She went straight on at the first turn, scrubbing off little speed before heading into the tyres head first. The safety cell of the A1GP Powered by Ferrari car stood up well to the crash, and Beatriz was able to walk from the car unaided.

Unfortunately the car sustained considerable front end damage and so Felipe Guimaraes was unable to run in the afternoon.

The session was then prematurely ended, after a spin to new USA rookie Robbie Pecorari.

New Zealand's Bamber said: "I think the circuit is really great and they have done a fantastic job with the circuit. There are a lot of blind brows; corners where you can't see the exit when you enter. Turn 11 you can't see the apex when you start to brake, so it's a great challenge and I'm really enjoying it. I think we've got quite a strong car so hopefully it continues tomorrow."

In the first morning rookie session there were some additional cars and drivers on the track. In the case of A1 Team Italy and A1 Team Germany it was their respective drivers' lack of experience in the A1GP Powered by Ferrari car that was the reason for this extra running, as both Vitantonio Liuzzi and Andre Lotterer are new to the series. In the case of A1 Team GBR's Dan Clarke, while this is his second A1GP event he has considerably less experience in the car than the other drivers. Unfortunately due to technical problems Clarke had to sit out the afternoon session.

A1 Team Pakistan is yet to make its Season Five debut and Portugal was not a possibility as its driver and seat holder, Adam Khan, is fulfilling his duties with the Renault F1 team.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Andre Lotterer , Robert Doornbos , Adam Langley-Khan , Clivio Piccione , Vitantonio Liuzzi , Robbie Pecorari , Daniel Clarke , Filipe Albuquerque , Nicolas Prost , Earl Bamber , Alexandre Imperatori , Felipe Guimaraes