|Algarve, Portugal – Switzerland’s Neel Jani emerged victorious from an action packed Feature race at Vodafone A1GP Algarve, Portugal this afternoon. The result means Jani now has ten A1GP victories to his name – more than any other driver in the history of the sport. Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque drove a fantastic race to come through to second, while Fairuz Fauzy was third for Malaysia. Ireland’s Adam Carroll finished second on the road, but a subsequent penalty dropped him to fifth.The drama started before the race had even begun as pole-man Robert Doornbos stopped his A1 Team Netherlands car out on track while the field were coming to line up on the grid. The wiring loom chafing ended the Dutchman’s hopes of leaving the team on a high on his last A1GP race of the season.
Effectively on pole now, Carroll also had drama as his crew were last off the grid after trouble getting his car started. Brazil was absent from fifth on the grid after being unable to repair the car after crashing out of the Sprint race earlier in the day. As the race finally got underway, Ireland led the pack into turn one while USA’s Marco Andretti made a fantastic start to move ahead of Malaysia and Portugal into fourth. Albuquerque responded immediately with a great move to re-take fourth from the American driver.
As the cars came around to complete the first racing lap the order was Ireland from Switzerland, South Africa, Portugal, USA, New Zealand, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico and Lebanon.
Lebanon and Mexico made contact resulting in a puncture for Lebanon’s Daniel Morad, whose race then ended in the gravel at turn six. Australia’s John Martin had a problem at the first turn which dropped him down the order.
By lap three, Ireland had a 1.8-second advantage over Switzerland with the pair beginning to pull away from the rest of the field.
A great battle was continuing further down the field for the final points paying positions between Malaysia, Monaco, Mexico, Great Britain and India, with Monaco’s Clivio Piccione pushing hard to pass the Malaysian car. On lap seven there was bad news for the Irish squad as Adam Carroll was given a drive-through penalty for a jump start. With the order now Ireland from Switzerland, South Africa, Portugal, USA, New Zealand, Italy, Monaco, Malaysia and Mexico, the window opened for the first round of pit stops.
Portugal, Italy and South Africa were among the first to pit while Ireland came through for its penalty. A lap later the Celtic Tiger was back in for its mandatory pit stop but with time lost had dropped right down the field. Switzerland made a clean stop to remain out in front while New Zealand had a fantastic stop boosting Earl Bamber up to an effective third ahead of both Portugal and the USA.
Monacore joined ahead of USA but came out on cold tyres, Clivio Piccione made an error and lets Marco Andretti through into what was sixth after everyone pitted.
Black Beauty was now flying in the hands of Bamber who was right on the back of South Africa. Zaugg was under immense pressure but defended well coming down the main straight. However, going into turn three Bamber appeared to lock up and crashed into the rear of South Africa. Portugal narrowly avoided the collision up ahead thanks to Albuquerque’s lightening reactions as the incident brought the Safety Car out on lap 15.
As Switzerland’s 15-second lead disappeared, the field closed up with the order behind Jani now Portugal, Italy, USA, Mexico, Monaco, Malaysia, India, Germany and Ireland. As Switzerland’s 15-second lead disappeared, the incident brought Ireland right back into contention.
The race re-started on lap 19 and Filipe Albuquerque made a brilliant maneuver around the outside of Jani at turn one to take the lead in front of the roaring crowds. USA made a move on Italy and as Vitantonio Liuzzi tried to come back on the inside at turn nine, the pair touched, with the Italian car spinning into the innocent car of Monaco leaving all three out of the race.
The Safety Car was straight back out with the order now Portugal leading from Switzerland, Mexico, Malaysia, India, Australia, Ireland, Germany, France and Indonesia.
On lap 23 the race was back underway with Portugal under immense pressure from Switzerland. The second pit stop window opened on lap 27 with Portugal, Malaysia, India and Ireland coming straight in. Ireland jumped both India and Malaysia after a stunning stop from the Irish team getting Adam Carroll out just behind Portugal. A lap later Switzerland pitted and a quick stop from the Swiss team got their man out comfortably in the lead. Mexico’s Salvador Duran was running an impressive third after great pit stop strategy from the Mexican squad.
With 12 laps to go Albuquerque’s mirrors were full of the emerald green car as Jani continued to pull away in the lead. On lap 32 the timing screens flashed with more bad news as Ireland was awarded another drive-through penalty for overtaking behind the Safety Car. The stewards then made the decision to investigate the incident after the race allowing Ireland to continue its race. Germany also had bad news as Andre Lotterer was given a drive-through penalty also for overtaking under Safety Car conditions.
As Mexico came in for its final stop of the day, Ireland finally made a move on Portugal to take second. In the closing stages of the race, India’s Narain Karthikeyan spun into retirement while Australia retired in the pits.
Ireland now had the gap to Switzerland down to 0.6-seconds as Carroll chased the win in the dying stages of the race. Switzerland held on to the win making Jani the driver who has won the most race victories in A1GP history.
Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque drove a fantastic race to come through from seventh on the grid to take the final podium position in front of his home fans. The 23-year-old bowed down and thanked the crowd for their support this weekend to an almost deafening cheer.
The final race order at the flag was Switzerland from Ireland, Portugal, Malaysia, Mexico, France, Great Britain, China, Germany and Indonesia, however, following a stewards’ enquiry, Ireland’s penalty was upheld. The teams had a 25-second time penalty applied for overtaking Australia under the Safety Car just before a re-start which dropped it down to fifth in the order.
Switzerland therefore regained its championship lead with 88 points from Ireland (86) and Portugal (82) however if dropped scores were taken into account at this stage, Ireland would still remain at the top of the championship by two points.
Race-winner Neel Jani said: “There was everything in it (the race). Coming from third, having second, then to the pit stop and getting the lead, losing the lead and having Adam really put me under pressure at the end. We were a bit lucky today and we were very unlucky yesterday so it’s a balance.
“On the restart he (Albuquerque) caught me down the straight and I just thought I can’t hold it, so don’t fight him too much and just try to get him on the second pit stop, which worked well.
“I saw cars going off and I thought ‘oh that’s another position for Adam coming from the back’ I think it was a great race for us. We can be really happy with what we have achieved today. I had to fight quite hard because Adam (Carroll) was really quick and Portugal too, so I think it will be between the three of us in the end.”
“It was very hard at the beginning,” said local hero Filipe Albuquerque. “We then had a really poor pit stop – another car was coming and didn’t let me out. I still pushed with the new tyres, but I was really disappointed with the third stint – I think the pressures were too high on the tyres.
“I am very proud and coming from P7 I was very lucky and had to fight a lot. I was in the middle of all the battles. I lost my left mirror so I couldn’t see the crash between New Zealand and South Africa. I am pleased to get a podium. It’s good for the standings in the championship. Getting two podiums on home soil is just perfect.”
Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy commented: “Taking our third podium finish of the season today is a good result for us. It has moved us into sixth place of the overall standings, but we’re only three points behind France, so we can fight for this as well. We had a good car and this, combined with our teamwork and a strong race strategy – and a little bit of good fortune – ensured we took a top three spot.”
Feature Race Results
Fastest lap: A1 Team Ireland set the fastest lap (1m31.453s) of the Feature race with a speed of 184.5kph on lap 35.
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2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport points standings
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– Media Release, A1GP