A1 Team Great Britain 2006-07 A1GP Season Review -- Part One London, England (May 11, 2007) -- Following last month's A1GP season finale at Brands Hatch, where A1 Team Great Britain finished third in the 2006-07 A1GP Nations Standings with ...
A1 Team Great Britain 2006-07 A1GP Season Review -- Part One
London, England (May 11, 2007) -- Following last month's A1GP season finale at Brands Hatch, where A1 Team Great Britain finished third in the 2006-07 A1GP Nations Standings with three wins, it's now time to reflect on all the on-track action from a thrilling second season of nation versus nation, global competition.
Round 1 -- Circuit Park Zandvoort, Zandvoort, Holland, Sunday 1st October 2006
The 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport kicked off in style with a sell-out crowd at the Dutch seaside resort of Zandvoort. Despite the absence of ex-F1 driver Jos Verstappen, local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen proved to be as popular a draw to represent A1 Team Netherlands at the season-opener and the young racer came within a handful of laps of sparking a 70,000-strong party on the Sunday afternoon having led the Feature race before a late-race pit call put paid to his chances of an incredible first A1GP home victory.
Great Britain fielded 2005 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year winner Oliver Jarvis in the very first 'Rookie-Only' session on the Friday morning in Holland. The then 22-year-old from Cambridge excelled in his first official A1GP outing, placing Great Britain fourth overall on the timesheets before handing over to Yorkshire's Darren Manning for the rest of the weekend.
Manning, a veteran of one previous A1GP race weekend at the 2005-06 season finale in China -- where he scored a Sprint race podium, would make his one and only start of the 2006-07 campaign at Zandvoort. The 30-year-old ex-BAR Honda F1 test pilot and Indy Racing League competitor got the team off to a great start with a fifth place Sprint finish followed up by a seventh place Feature race effort, Great Britain opening its scoring account right from the off, the team exiting Zandvoort sitting seventh in the Nations Standings.
GBR Driver Reflection, Oliver Jarvis:
"Zandvoort for me was a little strange as I flew in on the Thursday night, took part in the rookie session on Friday morning then flew back to the UK later that day so I could qualify for my British F3 race at Thruxton on the Saturday morning!
"Unfortunately I couldn't share in the whole weekend but even when I was there on the Friday you could tell how special an event it was going to be based on the numbers and enthusiasm of the Dutch crowd. It came as no surprise to me, or probably anyone else, when Zandvoort won the best event award at the end of season banquet in London."
Round 2 -- Brno Autodrom, Brno, Czech Republic, Sunday 8th October 2006
With no downtime following a spectacular season-opener at Zandvoort the A1GP circus headed east to the Czech Republic for Round 2 at the Brno Autodrom the very next weekend. As with the previous Dutch round, the 3.36-mile Brno track was hosting its first ever A1GP round and the locals came out in force to cheer on home-favourite Tomas Enge.
With career starts in Formula One, the Indy Racing League, Le Mans, the American Le Mans Series and Grand-Am, Enge arrived at the Czech circuit already an A1GP winner having taken the final win of the inaugural 2005-06 season at the Shanghai International Circuit, China in April '06. While he came up short of the win at Brno the local hero posted a third place Feature race finish -- at that time the best result for a nation on home soil in A1GP.
A1 Team Great Britain endured a mixed weekend blighted by two engine changes and a qualifying penalty. Robbie Kerr returned to race the British entry looking to build on his seven podium finishes from the year before. While the former British F3 Champion had initially qualified fourth, a technical infringement, disputed by the team, saw him dropped to tenth on the grid for the Sprint.
Having successfully avoided the start-line accident that wiped out Germany's race-winning rookie, Nico Hulkenberg, Kerr placed ninth at the chequered. A more productive Feature race saw Robbie battle to sixth at the flag to score five more points, adding to Manning's tally from Zandvoort the week before.
GBR Driver Reflection, Robbie Kerr:
"For me it was great to be back driving the A1GP car. Everything went well in practice but in qualifying we had a slight issue having posted the fourth fastest time only to be dropped down to tenth having had our fastest lap time taken away on a technicality. It was frustrating as we were right at the sharp end of the grid initially before being dropped to mid-pack for the Sprint.
"Brno's an absolutely fantastic location and the track provided some great racing. Unfortunately for Great Britain we didn't get what we wanted from the weekend having been forced back. I had to back off a little at the start of the Sprint to avoid the carnage and then I was held up at the start of the Feature. We were stronger by the end of the Feature race so I was pleased to come away with some points on my return and in light of our qualifying penalty."
Round 3 -- Jingkai Street Circuit, Beijing, China, Sunday 12th November 2006
China's capital city, Beijing, had the honour of hosting A1GP's first street race of the year when the 23 competing nations came to the Olympic-venue for Round 3. It became clear early on though that the original track layout, a 1.929-mile tour round the city's Economic and Technological Development Zone, would prove unworkable with the demands of the 550bhp A1GP cars despite it being granted FIA Grade 2 status.
With Friday's scheduled rookie and practice sessions postponed it was hoped Saturday's track revisions would allow normal service to be resumed but again, this failed to be the case as twenty minutes into practice the call was made to cancel the day's activities to resume track modifications. Fielding rookie Oliver Jarvis for the entire weekend in the hope of maximizing track time with his rookie eligibility, A1 Team Great Britain, as with all the competing nations, faced the unknown heading into the Sunday at Beijing.
Happily for all, racing was the order of the day and Sunday morning saw a somewhat static Sprint race take place with the grid order set from the previous day's limited practice times. Jarvis just missed out on the points but would storm to Britain's first podium of the season in a more eventful Feature race in the afternoon, the 2005 Formula Renault UK Champion taking second at the chequered behind first-time A1GP winners, A1 Team Italy.
GBR Driver Reflection, Oliver Jarvis:
"Things didn't quite go to plan when two laps into the rookie session we were red flagged. The same thing happened the following day after only twenty minutes track time! Frustratingly for me I was running a heavy fuel load and taking my time preparing for my first race starts and I'd only just put in a couple of competitive lap times when practice was stopped and those times used to set the Sprint race grid.
"I knew overtaking would be difficult in the Sprint race so any gains were a bonus, I moved up a spot to qualify seventh for the Feature. We pitted early just before a safety period, the team doing a great job to get me back out without drama. I ended up scoring the team's first podium of the season with a second place. It was pleasing to get a good result from what to begin with looked like being a bad weekend."