Zandvoort: Team Ireland preview

Irish team aiming for success in the World Cup of Motorsport Dublin, 25 September 2006: A1 Team Ireland is fully prepared and aiming for a strong result in this weekend's opening round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport set to take place at...

Irish team aiming for success in the World Cup of Motorsport

Dublin, 25 September 2006: A1 Team Ireland is fully prepared and aiming for a strong result in this weekend's opening round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport set to take place at the famous Zandvoort Circuit in the Netherlands. Rathfarnham's Michael Devaney and Kildare's John O'Hara will both take the wheel of Ireland's A1GP car during the weekend, the former set to start the season as the team's principal driver with O'Hara joining the line-up to participate in the new Rookie Practice Session which will take place on Friday afternoon. Ireland will be taking on competition from up to 25 countries, the top target being France, dominant winners of the inaugural title.

The second A1GP World Cup of Motorsport sees the Irish team with a full year of experience to its credit and the technical team strengthened under the leadership of Team Manager Dave O'Neill, from Tralee, and Technical Director Andy Miller, formerly of the Stewart and Jaguar Formula One teams.

For 21 year old Michael Devaney the new A1GP season marks a major career step after last year acting as Reserve Driver and deputising for main driver Ralph Firman at the A1GP events in the UK, Australia and China. The former runner up in the 2005 German F3 Cup has spent the summer training before participating in official testing with the team in Silverstone at the end of August. He has driven at Zandvoort previously when he raced in the German Formula BMW series in 2003.

"I am looking forward to racing in Zandvoort and getting back into the car after the summer lay-off," said Michael Devaney. "It's going to be a tough season because it was clear at the Silverstone test that everyone has upped their game. However we have also made some key improvements and I'm going to Holland with the aim of starting the season with a good result. We are capable of achieving it, that's for sure."

John O'Hara, twice runner-up in the Asian F3 Championship, joins the team after participating in a 95 lap evaluation at Snetterton Circuit in the UK back in August. He will play a critical role in collecting valuable data during Friday practice and working closely with Devaney and Miller throughout the weekend.

"It's terrific to have the opportunity to join A1 Team Ireland straight from Formula 3 and to be in amongst international competition. I'll be starting the season in Zandvoort by driving in the Friday afternoon 'Rookie' practice session, which will be important in terms of gathering data for the team and learning about the track, but also difficult because the track will be very green and probably dusty."

Before A1 Team Ireland starts work in anger this weekend the team will be giving Northern Ireland's John Watson a run in the 550bhp A1GP car, the five times Formula One Grand Prix winner and runner up in the 1982 Formula One World Championship set to give television viewers a unique commentary from the cockpit of the car. Watson last raced at Zandvoort in the 1983 Dutch Grand Prix, as McLaren team mate to Niki Lauda.

Team Owner Mark Kershaw and Team Principal Mark Gallagher have high but realistic hopes for the team's second assault on the World Cup of Motorsport.

"Having a year's experience under our belt will surely help our cause," said Kershaw, "and in every area we are better prepared than last year when we managed to pull the team together in only six weeks. We learned a lot, mainly about the importance of combining speed and consistency with bullet proof reliability, so those are the key areas for the team to focus on. Success in the series is not about one-off results, it's about regularly piling up the points."

"We are fortunate in having a strong driver line-up with Michael and John making an ideal pairing," added Gallagher. "Michael has already proven his credentials in A1GP and we have high hopes for him as there's no question our target is to win. First we have to secure that elusive victory that will set us on a path towards challenging for the title, so that's a major goal. It's great to have John O'Hara join us, bringing with him the experience of two successful seasons in Formula 3 and I have no doubt that Michael and he will work well together all season. It's a shame both can't race at the same time, but with an eye on the future we have to bring on Irish driving talent every season."

The schedule for this weekend includes two practice sessions on Friday, final practice on Saturday morning followed by official qualifying, a short 20-minute Sprint Race on Sunday at 11.00am and a 70-minute Feature Race at 15.00 which includes a mandatory pit stop. The 2.642 miles/ 4.227 kms Zandvoort track has undergone a series of changes since Formula One last raced there in 1985, including being shortened to 1.6 miles before being returned to something close to its previous layout in 1999. One thing that has not changed is that Zandvoort features one of the most thrilling corners in racing, the famous Tarzan corner at Turn 1 offering the bravest of drivers a great overtaking opportunity at the end of the pit straight.

-credit: team ireland

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About this article
Series A1GP
Drivers Niki Lauda , John Watson , Ralph Firman , Michael Devaney