Jani's dream race: two wins and 32 more points give championship lead to A1 Team Switzerland At the third round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Sepang-Malaysia, A1 Team Switzerland driver Neel Jani fulfilled his dream and won the two ...
Jani's dream race: two wins and 32 more points give championship lead to A1 Team Switzerland
At the third round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport at Sepang-Malaysia, A1 Team Switzerland driver Neel Jani fulfilled his dream and won the two consecutive races of the Malaysian week-end: The 10-lap sprint race on the 5.44 km long track leading from start to chequered flag and the main feature race after having been challenged by Brazil, Sergio Jimenez. The team has now collected 61 points in the championship after six race starts, ten points ahead of A1 France. There is no other driver and circuit combination quite like Neel Jani and Sepang International Circuit in A1GP.
Starting the sprint race from pole on the grid after an exciting qualifying on Saturday, where Jani had put the A1 Team Switzerland car on pole position in all four qualifying attempts. Jani kept the advantage at the start of the sprint race. The Swiss driver controlled the race from start to end, immediately dug the gap with France and Canada and remained in the lead until the chequered flag. Neel Jani managed to cross the line almost four seconds ahead of second-placed A1 Team France driver Loic Duval and clocked a first fastest lap on lap 2 with 1.49.862 and on lap ten with 1.49.221. This is Neel Jani's second win for the sprint race on this Malaysian track and the Swiss driver scored a first 16 points for his team.
In the feature race, Neel Jani had a phenomenal start and again kept the leadership. By the end of lap two, Switzerland had pulled out a 2.701 lead from France. Then everything went smooth and Neel clocked fastest lap with 1.51.099 on lap 5. An accident on lap 8 caused the safety car to go out. Then the pit window was opened (8-16) and Brazil took the lead from Switzerland in the pit lane with Indonesia third, after the pit stop as the race was still under safety car. Once the safety car was off, the fight was hot between UK, France and Switzerland behind Brazil. Neel was lapping a regular 1.51.359 as it was Brazil's turn to become fastest lap in 1.51.056 on lap 13.
With eighteen laps to go Jani was catching up Brazil and was only 0.604' and on the following lap only 0.156' away from Brazil putting the leader under pressure. The second pit stop windows opened on lap 22(til lap30) and changed the race game plan; Neel Jani came in for the second pit stop on lap 23 with 12 laps to go just before the pit lane got crowded. It was logical for Switzerland to retake the lead and take the second chequered flag of his week-end with a 8.414' lead ahead of Brazil's Jimenez.
It is no wonder that Neel Jani had a bright smile on the podium. Scoring another 16 points, Switzerland took the lead of the championship, (61 points), ten points ahead of France. Neel Jani said: "The start of the sprint race was a bit messy. I braked too late and went wide and almost touched cars with France. But I was lucky and maintained the car and the lead. The car was perfect on both the slow and quick corners."
Neel continued to comment about the feature race: "A superb race! An unbelievable week-end! I am fantastically happy! In the feature race, the safety car disrupted our flow as we were blocked in the pit lane Finally I got this feature race even if it did not fall so easily in my hands. We were sitting at the end of the pit lane stuck with a red light after our pit stop and Brazil took the lead of the race. I had a good fight with Great Britain and France after that and I maintained the 2nd position. A great drive and really entertaining! I maintained the pressure over Sergio Jimenez until my pit stop and made sure not to come in at the same time than he did. James Robinson, my engineer, had a splendid strategy for our second pit stop. The pit crew did a fantastic job. I started to push again when I rejoined the race and after a while, I was in position to work back up in the classification and retake the lead which lasted till the end of the race. My dream is fulfilled and I won two races on this fantastic Sepang track. We getting to understand each other better and better in the team and I hope we can continue like this all year round. Just a fantastic week-end and I was able to fight for this second consecutive win all through the race. I really like this flowing track. Sepang is definitely one of my favorites. I hope to maintain our advantage in Zhuhai even if I have never been there before. I learn tracks fast. So it should not be too difficult of a challenge."
Max Welti, Team Principal, A1 Team Switzerland commented: "I am very proud for the team and the country about our two race wins. To earn two poles, the fastest laps in each sprint and feature races and two wins the same week-end is a fantastic achievement from Neel Jani and the entire team. Neel controlled the two races remarkably well. In the feature race Neel drove superbly after an excellent start and the car was extremely competitive, and Neel was able to fight in a tough way. It brought Team A1 Switzerland to two consecutive wins in the same week-end, a first in the history of our young team A1 Switzerland. It was great team work all along the race, including the pit stops, showing how much our young team has progressed. I would like to congratulate the drivers, Rahel Frey and Neel Jani and everyone in the team for an extremely professional job over the weekend and the best ever races of our young team's history today. A1 Team Switzerland could not have done better this week-end. Really proud that Neel did the double!"
Q and A with Neel Jani after his dream of two wins Sunday, November 25, 2007
Q: Happy with the result in Malaysia?
A: Mission accomplished indeed! Two poles, two wins and two fastest laps! Two good starts and a good show! I really fulfilled my dream to win two consecutive races in one A1GP World Cup of Motorsports week-end. Until now a win a feature race always looked like something unreachable.
Q: Was the race easy?
A: Not so much -- but the second pit stop almost changed everything in the race game plan; I came in for the second pit stop. The team did a fantastic job. We came just before the pit lane got crowded and also before Brazil. Then it was logical for Switzerland to retake the lead over Brazil's Jimenez. Good strategy from my engineer James Robinson. Excellent! Because in any case I was not too sure that Brazil had the right to overtake in the pit lane with the red light on. I just did not believe what was happening!
Q: After Malaysia, is Switzerland leading the Championship?
A: Yes, the team has now collected 61 points in the championship after six race starts. We are ten points ahead of A1 France.
Q: Did the circuit or the car gave you the advantage today?
A: A combination of my strong drive, the qualities of the track at Sepang International Circuit and the car that was really perfect with good team work.
Q: How easy difficult is it to be with a new team like you have this year?
A: I think that we have the proof that we have a great team by now. The car is excellent. It has a consistent base.
Q: What is your target for the year?
A: Clearly win the Championship. With ten points ahead of France, I suppose we have a good basis even if the season will still be long ahead of us.
Q: What is next now?
A: I fly back home where I have not been for at least four weeks. I go home and I know that after the bright sun here the snow is waiting for me.
Q: Are these wins a turning point in the season?
A: This win is a build up exercise for the team. The car was perfect -- I love Sepang. But the season is still long.
Q: What do you take away from this experience?
A: A superb race! An unbelievable week-end! I am fantastically happy! I hope to maintain our advantage in Zhuhai even if I have never been there before. I learn tracks fast. So it should not be too difficult of a challenge."
Next race: Zhuhai (ROC) 14-16 December 2007