Netherlands Break Lap Record as a New Era of A1GP Begins The Netherlands -- A1 Team Netherlands set the pace in free practice for A1GP Zandvoort, the Netherlands today. Driver Jeroen Bleekemolen smashed the lap record in his new A1GP Powered by...
Netherlands Break Lap Record as a New Era of A1GP Begins
The Netherlands -- A1 Team Netherlands set the pace in free practice for A1GP Zandvoort, the Netherlands today. Driver Jeroen Bleekemolen smashed the lap record in his new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car with a time of 1m 25.387s, as the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport 2008/09 season got underway.
Neel Jani, driving for reigning champion A1 Team Switzerland, was second quickest, an impressive showing considering it was his first taste of the new car. He finished ahead of Ireland's Adam Carroll, and the USA's Charlie Kimball. The fastest times were set in the third morning session on a dry track, after a downpour of rain washed out the majority of dry running in the early part of the day.
The day did start dry however, and it was with after much anticipation, A1 Team Monaco became the first to turn a wheel in an official race weekend in the new A1GP Powered by Ferrari era.
It was just half an hour into the first session that a sudden downpour dampened proceedings, with all the cars retreating to the garages, but the teams soon began to emerge for some exploratory wet laps.
Fifty-minutes into the new season and the red flags were out as A1 Team Australia's John Martin hit the barrier in the slippery conditions. "In the dry it wasn't too bad but we weren't really pushing that hard," Martin commented. "There was then a bit of rain. I went out, did a lap and unfortunately put it in the wall. I started aquaplaning and the car turned straight right."
The session resumed but the second red flag of the day came out when A1 Team Korea's Jin-Woo Hwang beached his car at S-Bocht.
Fabio Onidi put in an impressive lap time for A1 Team Italy to end the second half of practice, an entirely wet session, 1.8 seconds faster than the rest of the field with a 1m 38.845s. "This morning was ok," he said. "After the rain I made a few little mistakes but there was nothing wrong with the car. We have improved the set up and we are continuing to work on this."
Earl Bamber took to the track in New Zealand's Black Beauty, with the 18-year-old set to make his race debut this weekend. Returning driver Adam Carroll, was on good form for A1 Team Ireland as the Celtic Tiger completed its few first laps, which including narrowly avoiding one of the track's local residents -- a brown fox.
Carroll said: "I was on my out lap when I noticed the fox at the side of the circuit, he didn't seem too bothered about the cars as he strolled out into the middle of the circuit so I had to chase him off, which was quite interesting! But it was good. We got a few laps in the dry to get our eye in so we didn't really push too much as we wanted to get a few for the circuit. It then started raining quite heavily but once we got the wet tyres on the car was great. I really enjoyed that session in the wet and the balance felt good."
The strong wind helped dry out the track ahead of second practice, when local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen made his mark. He was happy to end on top going into the first qualifying session of the season this afternoon.
"It went really well, we had dry running as well as running in the wet and we were fastest in the dry and second fastest in the wet so we are looking good," he said.
Charlie Kimball took to the track for the first time today in the USA car, with IndyCar legend Andretti Green Racing now running the squad. After only getting the call on Wednesday, the Californian landed in the UK to shakedown the car at Snetterton yesterday morning, before heading to the Netherlands. A winner at Zandvoort in junior formulae, the 23-year-old will get his first chance to race for his nation on Sunday.
Bleekemolen didn't have a perfect morning, however, after stalling out on track following a spin and causing the session to be stopped. There was a final ten-minute dash when it restarted, but no one was able to better the A1 Team Netherlands driver's time.
China, Brazil, France and Portugal are all now working hard to prepare the cars in time for qualifying after arriving in the Netherlands only this morning.