Taupo: Team USA preview

A1 TEAM USA looks for improved qualifying at Taupo, New Zealand Summerton to drive in 3rd straight A1GP round A1 TEAM USA enters the fifth round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season this weekend (Jan. 18-20) at Taupo, New Zealand...

A1 TEAM USA looks for improved qualifying at Taupo, New Zealand
Summerton to drive in 3rd straight A1GP round

A1 TEAM USA enters the fifth round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season this weekend (Jan. 18-20) at Taupo, New Zealand knowing it must develop a more competitive "We the People" car for qualifying to start putting more points on the board.

"We have a strong car by the Feature race, but we need to work on getting better for qualifying," driver Jonathan Summerton said. "We need to start closer to the front to finish at the front, particularly in the Sprint race."

The Sprint is 19 minutes plus one lap and runs without a pit stop. The short duration makes it difficult to move up significantly and the race pays the same amount of points as the 69-minute-plus-one-lap Feature, which has two mandatory pit stops.

Summerton, of Kissimmee, Fla., has qualified 11th for the Sprint in both events he's driven for A1 TEAM USA this season. He finished 12th in both, at Sepang, Malaysia and Zhuhai, China. In the Features, Summerton qualified 13th at Sepang and seventh at Zhuhai and finished 10th in both, scoring A1 TEAM USA's two points this season.

Summerton was headed for a top-five in the Feature at Zhuhai before a pit stop was disrupted when A1 Team France's Loic Duval drove too close to the A1 TEAM USA pit, hooked an air hose and sent A1 TEAM USA left-rear tire changer Orlando Ledesma flying into the pit lane. Ledesma and two other crewmen sent tumbling weren't hurt, but it cost A1 TEAM USA 19 seconds and eight positions.

"Hopefully, we won't have anything like that again," Summerton said.

The 19-year-old says A1 TEAM USA still has some work to do making the Lola-Zytek faster for the races, too.

"We've made some progress," Summerton commented. "We're not happy to be running just inside the top-10. We need to be fighting for the wins. We can get there by qualifying better and running slightly better in the races."

A1 TEAM USA will open the event Friday with Charlie Kimball, of Camarillo, Calif., driving in the two 25-minute all-rookie practices.

"Jonathan and I have similar driving styles and it's my job to deliver a good baseline setup to him," Kimball said. "It's an honor to drive for A1 TEAM USA and I want to contribute as much to our effort as I can."

After Kimball's two rookie sessions, Summerton will have a one-hour practice Friday and a one-hour practice Saturday to prepare for qualifying and the races. Qualifying is Saturday and the Sprint and Feature races are Sunday.

A1 TEAM USA owner Rick Weidinger is ready for a top-tier performance.

"We have an outstanding pair of drivers and a solid team," Weidinger said. "We were more competitive at Zhuhai even though our results didn't show it and we expect to be stronger at Taupo. We have six rounds remaining and it's time we started delivering on our potential."

A1 TEAM USA has promoted Marc Lawrence to Team Manager. Lawrence was previously the team's chief mechanic. The Taupo round is a homecoming for Lawrence, who is from Hamilton, New Zealand.

-credit: a1teamusatv.com

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Series A1GP
Drivers Charlie Kimball , Marc Lawrence , Loic Duval , Jonathan Summerton , Rick Weidinger