Sepang: Sprint race report

SWITZERLAND SCORES FIRST WIN OF SEASON IN SEPANG Sepang - A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani has converted pole position to a win in the Sprint race at the Astro A1GP Sepang, Malaysia. The Swiss driver led from start to finish to win by over a...


Sepang - A1 Team Switzerland's Neel Jani has converted pole position to a win in the Sprint race at the Astro A1GP Sepang, Malaysia. The Swiss driver led from start to finish to win by over a second from Germany's Nico Hulkenberg and New Zealand's Jonny Reid. A1 Team Malaysia's Alex Yoong was a popular fourth position in his home race, with Great Britain and France completing the top six.

Jani's victory makes amends for his last lap defeat by France's Alexandre Premat in last season's Sepang race. There were no such problems for the Swiss this year however as he pulled away cleanly from the start and steadily extended his advantage over the 10-lap race. Second on the grid Jonny Reid pulled level with Jani going into the first corner, but with the Swiss held his line to stay in front.

Hulkenberg however used the battle in front to his advantage, driving round the outside of Reid into second position. There was light contact between the New Zealand and German cars and Reid's machine sustained suspension damage, which affected the car's handling in the later stages of the race. Reid was distinctly unimpressed by Hulkenberg's actions - a repeat of their clash into the first corner at Brno, which led to both their retirements. With the German and New Zealand teams run by the same outfit, Super Nova Racing, the atmosphere in the post-race conference was frosty; "I am not smiling as I was run into in the first corner by my team-mate," said Reid, "I am not happy about that. We will have to sit down and talk about it again as it is the second time it has happened. We are lucky that we both didn't go off. He was right onto my rear tyre and I think for the remainder of the race the rear suspension was a bit damaged. I am a bit annoyed about it but third place is still third place and it is still good points and we have just got to get down and fine tune the car a bit more and get it right for the main race. We will change things for the next race as I was not too happy with the car as we didn't quite have the pace of the other cars and I was pushing quite hard too and working hard to keep up. We have a lot of work to do and we will see what happens in the main race."

Hulkenberg added, "My start was pretty good and then into the first corner. I just know what happened in the first corner from my view, so I want to watch the TV footage to see what happened. I can't really tell you about this. I am confident but as we saw Neel is really quick on a long distance too, but I think it is a long race and everything can happen."

With a clear track ahead and Hulkenberg and Reid ensconced in their own battle, Jani built on his lead to become the sixth different winner in seven races. "That was clean and constant and I was not trying to push too hard and it worked out," Jani commented. "I hope to do more, but Beijing was not really a race weekend as I guess it could have worked a lot better, but now at the first real race weekend to be back like that is fantastic.

There were clashes off the start further down the field too with Italy, Brazil and Czech Republic picking up damage and returning to the pits. The left-rear suspension of the Italian car was smashed in the impact and driver Enrico Toccacelo fought to bring the car to the garage as the steering slewed it off to the side. While the Brazilian team made repairs and sent Raphael Matos out again, the right-rear suspension and right wing of Tomas Enge's Czech car was too badly damaged and Enge retired in the pits. With the gearbox undamaged, Enge fully expected to be back on the pace for the Feature race. Indonesia's Ananda Mikola also came into the pits and straight into the garage with suspension damage.

The wide, flowing Sepang track provided many overtaking opportunities for the closely matched competition, with South Africa and Australia enjoying a race-long battle for 12th position. After three laps Australian Ryan Briscoe squeezed ahead, but Adrian Zaugg pushed him hard throughout the remaining laps. Singapore and India similarly raced side-by-side over the race with Christian Murchison almost running into the back of Armaan Ebrahim as he outbraked himself on lap seven. Murchison's sustained pressure eventually paid off on the penultimate lap when he pushed through into 15th position.

Switzerland will now start the Feature race on pole, ahead of Germany and New Zealand. The 35 lap race is due to kick off at 15.00 local time.

-credit: a1gp

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Series A1GP
Drivers Ananda Mikola , Tomas Enge , Neel Jani , Adrian Zaugg , Jonny Reid , Christian Murchison , Nico Hulkenberg