A1GP Gets Set For Thrilling Zhuhai Debut After a sensational event at Sepang, which saw Switzerland secure a double victory and steal the championship lead from New Zealand, A1GP World Cup of Motorsport returns to Asia to make the first of two...
A1GP Gets Set For Thrilling Zhuhai Debut
After a sensational event at Sepang, which saw Switzerland secure a double victory and steal the championship lead from New Zealand, A1GP World Cup of Motorsport returns to Asia to make the first of two visits to China this season, as 22 nations prepare to take on the Zhuhai International Circuit for the first time this weekend (14-16 December).
The series is set for a thrilling debut at Zhuhai on a level playing field as none of the teams have ever driven the 4.3 km circuit in anger and all 22 A1GP drivers will be taking on the unknown, keen to learn the new track as fast as possible. The teams will have no previous data to rely on when setting up the car, putting a lot more emphasis on the rookie driver and developing nations' practice session on Friday morning.
Zandvoort Feature race winner Oliver Jarvis is no longer eligible to represent A1 Team Great Britain in the rookie session, as he has competed in more than the limit of six races that participation in the session allows. For Zhuhai, GBR has recruited a new rookie in Danny Watts, 2002 Formula Renault UK champion and a race winner in British Formula Three and the Porsche Carrera Cup. Although this will be his maiden outing for the British squad, Watts has a wealth of racing experience and is not completely new to A1GP, having tested the biofuel-powered development car in the off-season.
Brazil's Sergio Jimenez will take part in his final rookie session at Zhuhai as the team looks to build on the success it achieved last time out in Sepang, Malaysia where the 23-year-old from Sao Paulo scored Brazil's first podium in 43 races. The team currently lies eighth in the championship, having notched up three top-ten finishes so far this season.
A1 Team Portugal has named the first three drivers set to benefit as part of its new FPAK A1GP Portugal Junior Team project. Goncalo Araujo will travel to China next week and will take part in the rookie session at Zhuhai while Bruno Serra and Frederico Duarte will appear for the nation at later rounds. The team announced last month that it was to join forces with its national motorsport governing body in a pilot scheme to encourage its youngest and brightest talents into A1GP.
Michael Ammermuller will again represent A1 Team Germany at Zhuhai. The 21-year-old qualified in the top four when he made his debut in Sepang last month but his races did not go according to plan. The German received penalties in both the Sprint and Feature races for on-track incidents with other cars, and ultimately the team did not score any points. However, Germany is convinced of his potential and has opted to recall him over Christian Vietoris, who raced for his nation in the first two rounds at Zandvoort and Brno.
Home nation A1 Team China's lead driver, CongFu Cheng, who last drove at Zhuhai in 2002 in a Chinese Formula Renault race, thinks it is a relatively easy circuit to learn and predicts lots of close racing and overtaking. China's rookie driver, Marchy Lee, knows the circuit well having raced there in previous categories and became the first driver to lap Zhuhai in an A1GP car when he completed demonstration laps in front of thousands of fans at the official launch of A1GP Zhuhai, China in September. The 31-year-old from Hong Kong considers Zhuhai to be his 'home' circuit, as he learnt to drive single-seaters there over 10 years ago and won the inaugural China Formula Campus Championship there in 1997.
Danny Watts, A1 Team Great Britain:
'It's a privilege to be asked to drive for A1 Team GBR in Zhuhai. I will be contributing a hundred per cent to the team both in and out of the car throughout the weekend in order for us to have the best opportunity to achieve two strong results and hopefully a couple of wins to boost us up the Championship table. I obviously want to be quickest in the rookie session, but also intend to make sure the car is a hundred per cent prepared with the best set-up possible in order for Olly to get into the car and win.'
Sergio Jimenez, A1 Team Brazil:
'The team was very happy with the podium in Malaysia because it had been a long time since the last one and showed just how hard we have all been working. We have been improving race on race, and are looking to continue that in China. For me, Zhuhai will be a different challenge and I'm feeling confident because no-one has driven the track before so it will be a level playing field for all the A1GP drivers.'
Emerson Fittipaldi, A1 Team Brazil seat holder:
'This season A1 Team Brasil is becoming more competitive every race and we are looking to continue that. I am so happy with the way the team is performing and we are aiming for a top three position again in China. We know that the opposition is tough and many teams are improving, but I am confident we can be right in the mix again.'
Michael Ammermuller, A1 Team Germany:
'I've wet my appetite. The championship is excellent, I'm enjoying racing and enjoy working with this team. In Zhuhai I aim to score similar results to those which we'd hoped for after qualifying on the second row and those which we were robbed of long after the race had finished.'
CongFu Cheng, A1 Team China:
'It's not a difficult circuit to learn because no corners are blind. You arrive into a corner and you can see where the apex is so it's quite easy to know where your braking points are. In general it's quite a smooth circuit and I think the difference between a good lap time and the pole lap will be very close. Many of the corners are second gear corners followed by long straights so there should be lots of opportunities to overtake. The first corner will be pretty exciting and the last corner is quite quick - some drivers will try to make up time there so they might take risks and end up in the gravel.'
Marchy Lee, A1 Team China:
'Turn 14 is a good viewing spot for spectators as it's the fastest corner and leads into the long start/finish straight. It's always quite exciting at turn one too. Another good place to watch from is turn seven which is a hairpin corner, so you should get to see the cars fighting for position and passing each other there.'
The A1GP Zhuhai, China event runs from 14-16 December, starting with the rookie driver and developing nations' sessions on Friday from 11.00 to 11.25 and again from 11.35 to 12.00. All 22 teams can take part in the later practice session from 14.00 to 15.00. Final practice and qualifying for the Sprint and Feature race will take place on Saturday with the two races scheduled to run on Sunday at 11.00 and 15.00 respectively.
Pre-event PR activity:
The pre-event PR activity for the Zhuhai race weekend will take place on Thursday morning in the Palace Ballroom at the Holiday Inn Hotel, Zhuhai. The focus of the event will be cooking and nutrition. The drivers will take part in a dim sum making contest and the media will be invited to taste the food and 'judge' the culinary skills of the drivers. The chef and invited media will award points for quality, quantity and team work. Drivers from the following nations will be taking part in the event: China, New Zealand, Switzerland, Mexico, USA, Portugal, Indonesia, Germany and Lebanon.
About Zhuhai circuit:
Zhuhai is situated on the south coast of the country, which borders the special administrative region of Macau, a short ferry ride from Hong Kong. The circuit itself features lots of potential for overtaking with several tight corners and two straights of 900m and 500m in length.
Zhuhai International Circuit became China's first permanent motor racing circuit when it opened in 1996. The 4.3 km / 2.7 mile circuit was designed by Chinatrack Consultant Ltd, a consortium that includes Kinhill Engineering (now known as Halliburton KBR) in Australia, who designed and acted as project manager for the popular Adelaide F1 Circuit. In 1999, circuit upgrading work was carried out by renowned circuit designer Tilke GmbH.
Track length: 4.3 km (2.7 miles)
Lap record: To be established