A1GP: Rounds 7 & 8 – Taupo, New Zealand – 25 January

Sprint race

Adam Carroll extended Team Ireland’s advantage in the A1GP standings with a lights-to-flag victory in the spring race at Taupo.

The sprint race had a standing start for the first time in A1GP, because of problems in previous years caused by the short run from start line to first corner resulting in the field compacting too abruptly resulting in collisions. This time everyone made it through the first turn.

Although Carroll pulled out an early gap, Team Netherlands’ Robert Doornbos was able to reel him back in as the race went on. Team Ireland pitted first with Doornbos coming in a lap later: despite a quicker in-lap and faster pit work, Doornos wasn’t able to take the lead because he was delayed while exiting his pit bay, and Neel Jani was able to steal second place in the process.

Although starting from third, Felipe Albuquerque was another victim of pit lane hold-ups in the cramped space, and ended up a rather disappointing 6th place. Ahead of him, Team New Zealand’s Chris van der Drift had made a costly mistake on the first lap that saw him lose several places, but he recovered to finish 5th behind Tram France’s Loic Duval.

Team Australia and Team Lebanon retired with suspension problems, while Team China’s Congfu Cheng was the only other retirement following a late spin into the gravel.

Results

 Pos  Driver            Team           Time
  1.  Adam Carroll      Ireland        19:40.271
  2.  Neel Jani         Switzerland    +   1.488
  3.  Robert Doornbos   Netherlands    +   3.559
  4.  Loic Duval        France         +   8.594
  5.  C.van der Drift   New Zealand    +  11.666
  6.  F.Albuquerque     Portugal       +  12.665
  7.  Edoardo Piscopo   Italy          +  14.959
  8.  Fairuz Fauzy      Malaysia       +  15.797
  9.  N.Karthikeyan     India          +  20.973
 10.  Adrian Zaugg      South Africa   +  22.030
 11.  Clivio Piccione   Monaco         +  24.281
 12.  Marco Andretti    USA            +  30.565
 13.  Dan Clarke        Great Britain  +  31.005
 14.  Satrio Hermanto   Indonesia      +  32.361
 15.  Felipe Guimaraes  Brazil         +  33.134
 16.  Salvador Duran    Mexico         +  40.601
 17.  Cheng Cong Fu     China          +  4 Laps
 18.  Daniel Morad      Lebanon        +  7 Laps
 19.  John Martin       Australia      + 10 Laps
 Fastest lap: Jani, 1'15.021 on lap 10

Feature race

Neel Jani shook off the serious viral infection of recent weeks to pull off a quite remarkable win in the Taupo feature race today.

He made a brilliant start, sweeping round the outside from 5th on the grid to almost pull past Adam Carroll through the first turn, as behind them Robert Doornbos had a bit of a nightmare, sweeping from side to side but utterly failing to keep anyone behind him after a very sluggish pull away from the line. But even worse was home favourite Chris Van Der Drift, who was struggling even before a collision with Team Lebanon left the New Zealand car limping into the pits with a puncture and Daniel Morad stripped of his front wing, the mounting too damaged to allow him to replace it or continue.

Carroll held the lead and Jani slotted in behind him ahead of Filipe Albuquerque in the Team Portugal car, and for much of the race the three seemed evenly paced and sticking close together. Even the first of the two mandatory pit stops failed to make much of an impression.

However, the second pit stop sequence saw Carroll jammed in tight behind Jani in the pits who was in on the same lap, and the full lock swerve he had to do to pull out and around the Swiss pit crew seemed to upset the car’s anti-stall speed limiter electronics – it stuttered and threatened to shut off entirely, and Jani was able to pull out and pass the Irish driver to claim the lead.

Carroll’s car quickly recovered from its hiccup and he stayed close to the back of Jani for the remainer of the race, but not even a safety car period (while marshalls removed the beached Indonesian car from the gravel) giving him any opportunity.

There was some late drama when pit communications revealed that Jani was losing oil, but the Swiss car held together to the end  to claim the win. The oil may possibly explain a curious incident toward the end of the race when two cars both spun off going int o the same corner, and Team France almost followed suit but Loic Duval just saved it – although it allowed Robert Doornbos to slip past him to reclaim 5th place and make some amends for the terrible start.

Team USA’s Marco Andretti incurred a post-race penalty for crossing the white line while exiting the pits, dropping him from eighth to 11th in the revised results and promoting Team Malaysia into the final point-scoring position.

Brazil’s Felipe Guimaraes was also penalised after the race, after being found to have caused an avoidable collision when he turned in on Monaco’s Clivio Piccione, forcing the Monaco car make an uncomfortable bunny hop through the gravel that wrecked the front nose and necessitated a pit stop for a new one.

China’s Cheng Cong Fu  received a drive-thru penalty in the race after leaving his pit area with the rear jack still attached, for it to fly off further down the pit lane.

Dan Clark’s debut for Team GB was underwhelming, never really breaking into the top ten even before a mid race spin left him luck to be able to carry on and not end up beached on the gravel.

 Pos  Driver            Team           Time
  1.  Neel Jani         Switzerland    1:06:19.574
  2.  Adam Carroll      Ireland        +     1.047
  3.  F. Albuquerque    Portugal       +     2.379
  4.  John Martin       Australia      +    10.593
  5.  Robert Doornbos   Netherlands    +    14.402
  6.  Loic Duval        France         +    17.423
  7.  N. Karthikeyan    India          +    20.215
  8.  Edoardo Piscopo   Italy          +    23.156
  9.  Adrian Zaugg      South Africa   +    23.347
 10.  Fairuz Fauzy      Malaysia       +    26.832
 11.  Marco Andretti    USA            +    45.799
 12.  Dan Clarke        Great Britain  +    1 lap
 13.  C. van der Drift  New Zealand    +    1 lap
 14.  Cheng Cong Fu     China          +    1 lap
 15.  Felipe Guimaraes  Brazil         +    1 lap
 16.  Salvador Duran    Mexico         +    7 laps
 17.  Satrio Hermanto   Indonesia      +    8 laps
 18.  Clivio Piccione   Monaco         +   17 laps
 19.  Daniel Morad      Lebanon        +   49 laps

Championship standings

Adam Carroll’s continuing excellent form allows Team Ireland to stretch its lead in the front, but Neel Jani’s strong run in the feature race means Team Switzerland jump into second place and have emerged as the main rival for the championship.

Pos Team        Points
1   Ireland         65
2   Switzerland     52
3   Portugal        49
4   France          41
5   Netherlands     38
6   New Zealand     35
7   Malaysia        31
8   Australia       30
9   South Africa    17
10  Great Britain   16
11  USA             16
12  Monaco           9
13  Italy            9
14  India            5
15  Brazil           4
16  Korea            4
17  China            4
18  Lebanon          3
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