No decision in A1GP title race in China Victory, gearbox failure and pitstop problems for Swiss team After two thirds of the Shanghai feature race, the Swiss team looked very much likely to be heading for the final two season rounds at Brands ...
No decision in A1GP title race in China
Victory, gearbox failure and pitstop problems for Swiss team
After two thirds of the Shanghai feature race, the Swiss team looked very much likely to be heading for the final two season rounds at Brands Hatch on May 4th as the new champions in the A1GP Series. Then, a problem during the second pitstop blew all hopes of victory that was well within reach. Nevertheless, before the finale in Great Britain, Switzerland has a comfortable margin of 29 points over New Zealand. None of the other teams is able to win the title any longer.
Neel Jani, who had won the 10 lap sprint race in the morning in an impressive way, fell victim to a mistake during the second tyre change. The lollypop man had given the driver the sign to drive off, but the right rear wheel hadn't been fixed properly. Jani dropped back to fifth place behind Ireland and New Zealand and retained his position, in spite of a gearbox failure that had already occurred earlier on.
The problems had started on the tenth of 38 laps during the feature race, when Jani reported the loss of second gear on the radio. Shifting from first into third gear and vice versa, which was necessary as a result, cost quite a lot of time in a couple of corners, Jani still managed to defend his second place behind the USA until the second stop. At the start, the Swiss, who was on pole position, had deliberately backed off a little bit to avoid making a jump start. This allowed Jonathan Summerton to take the lead and went on to secure the very first victory for the USA, the 16th country to win a race. Filipe Albuquerque scored 22 points for Portugal after finishing second in the feature race and third in the sprint, with Neel Jani scoring as many points for Switzerland.
"The gearbox blew my hopes", Neel Jani reported. "Without second gear, that we normally use six times per lap at this circuit, there was no way of making up for the time we have lost in the pits." The list of the fastest lap times per driver revealed how much he was affected by the problem. Jani had to make do with 14th place, while the Swiss car had shown to be the fastest car by far in the sprint. "Shifting down before the hairpin, which we are approaching at 290 km/h, was particularly bad", Jani said. "The rear wheels locked up when we left out a gear." When the mechanics opened the gearbox after the race, they found little bits that had come off the second gear. These could very well have caused far bigger damage. In any case, shifting into third and fifth gear was affected later on as well.
A lights-to-flag victory in the sprint
In the sprint, Neel Jani almost dominated proceedings at will after having started from pole position. His position never in jeopardy, he took the chequered flag after ten laps with a margin of 4.6 seconds over Canada and also notched up an extra point for setting the fastest lap time. New Zealand and France, Switzerland's main rivals in the battle for the title, failed to score. Jonny Reid collided with the car of the USA (Jonathan Summerton) after the start and Franck Montangny had to make to with 12th place after a troublesome qualifying (18th place).
"Today, we have seen once more that there are always many unexpected things in racing", said team principal, Max Welti. "Now, we will have to be patient until Brands Hatch. But Neel has done a good job, even with a blunt weapon. Thanks also to the pit crew, in spite of the bad second stop, that cost us some three seconds. The first stop was very quick in 10.4 seconds."