at Inaugural Race Weekend of 2008/9 Season
A1 Team Monaco is proud to be in attendance at Circuit Park Zandvoort, Netherlands, for the inaugural race weekend (4 - 5 October) of the 2008/9 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. Monegasque racing driver Clivio Piccione will be making his A1GP debut not only behind the wheel of the new A1GP ‘powered by Ferrari’ car, but as Seat Holder for the Team.
Clivio Piccione comments on his latest venture: “I am really happy to see the group of people that we have got together. We have a team of extremely professional people, most of them coming from Formula 1, and with the help of Graham Taylor we look very strong on paper. I have been able to see the guys working on the car and think that our work is already very well synchronised and everyone is up for it, so I am very happy about that.”
Circuit Park Zandvoort
Positioned within the sand dunes in one of Holland’s most popular seaside resorts, the Circuit Park Zandvoort has a long history at the highest level of international motorsport. Although a race was held on a street circuit in Zandvoort in 1939, a permanent race track was not built until after the Second World War. Based around access roads built by the occupying German forces in WW2, the historic 4.1km circuit was opened in 1948.
In 1952 the Formula 1 World Championship made its first visit to the circuit for the Dutch Grand Prix, a race that was won by the legendary Alberto Ascari in the Ferrari 500. Formula 1 would visit Zandvoort 30 times, missing races in only 1954 and 1957, with the winners’ list reading like a who’s who of F1 nobility: Fangio, Moss, Hill, Clark, Stewart, Lauda, Piquet and Prost just some of the names to have stood atop the Dutch podium at Zandvoort. But the track had its detractors too, and following the deaths of both Piers Courage and Roger Williamson it was never viewed in quite the same light in which it once had been by the F1 community.
The final F1 race took place at Zandvoort in 1985, after which the circuit operators went out of business. With half of the land sold to housing developers, what remained of the circuit was salvaged and remodelled into a shortened 2km track. But with government intervention in 1992, the circuit was able to develop a brand new International course, giving the track the layout it holds today, with the full circuit extending to 4.3km.
Between 1991 and 2006, Zandvoort was home to the legendary Marlboro Masters F3 race, a one-off winner takes all event which was been won by the likes of David Coulthard, local hero Jos Verstappen, Takuma Sato and Lewis Hamilton.
In 2006 the circuit confirmed the arrival of A1GP and the start of a new era of excitement and international racing. In the four races held thus far, South Africa’s Adrian Zaugg has taken glory in the 2006 and 2007 sprint events, while in the feature race victory has gone to Germany’s Nico Hulkenberg (2006) and Britain’s Oliver Jarvis (2007).
Clivio has previously raced at Zandvoort and gives his impressions of the circuit: “I have been able to race here once a couple of years ago in Formula 3 Masters. I like the layout; it’s a nice, undulating track which you don’t see very much nowadays. A good lap around Zandvoort is quite demanding due to the physical effect, but also because it is quite a tricky track as well. There is only one racing line for the perfect lap, and some parts of the track are quite narrow, so it is quite difficult for overtaking. I think that Qualifying will be the key to a good race. Overall, it is a good track and I am really looking forward to the first race.”
Q&A with Hubertus Bahlsen, Seat Holder, A1 Team Monaco
Q: Hubertus, what is your background in motorsport?
For a couple of years I have raced historic Formula 1 cars and very much enjoy it. It looks low key, but the competition is intense and we race at a semi-professional level. We have the same task as the big teams, but with a much reduced budget and resources. I believe that this form of racing is one of the most exciting and spectacular.
Q: How did the A1 Team Monaco project come about?
At the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Monaco this year I met a young guy on a boat, a racing driver named Clivio Piccione, and he told me that he was planning to put together a team and race for Monaco. After many discussions, we realised that I had to make a deal with A1GP Ltd very quickly or we could not race this season. As you know, it takes quite some time to put a competitive race team together and we completed the deal only five weeks ago. The reason why we decided to have A1 Team Monaco racing this season is very simple. The new 2008 A1GP car is quite sophisticated, with already about 10,000 kilometres testing so far, and it is some two seconds quicker than last year’s car. A1GP expect that by the end of the season the car will be two or three seconds quicker still. This year, every team has to start from scratch, so if you join A1GP with a new team in a year from now, even with the best engineer and a superb driver, the team will be trailing the whole gang by one or two seconds. Now is a perfect time to join the series.
I also decided to join Clivio’s project as there was strong backing from Prince Albert of Monaco and we had, in Graham Taylor, a very experienced team manager who was used to handling a small F1 team successfully.
Q: Could you elaborate on the Team’s support from the Principality?
It was in August that we decided to sign the contract; it had been just an agreement between A1GP Ltd and me until then. But the Prince’s Palace were satisfied with everything surrounding the project and happy that that we would be representing Monaco. There is great responsibility on our shoulders as we represent the Principality within the motorsport community around the world when traditionally the motorsport world comes to Monaco.
Q: So September has been an extremely busy month for you?
We only had a couple of weeks to prepare both the Team and our launch event back home in Monaco. We wanted to encapsulate what people recall when they think of Monaco – the harbour, the yachts, luxury and elegance. We only had a very small window of time in which to hold our launch event as the Yacht Show was also taking place in the Principality last month. We could therefore not host an event in the harbour and so our next choice would have been an exclusive party in front of the Casino, but this was not possible due to access around the square at this busy time of year. We then received a call telling us that the best room in Monaco, Salle Pierre in the Hotel de Paris, was surprisingly free on the exact evening we wanted! We were therefore able to host an event for 370 people and it was fabulous.
Q: Finally, what is you expectation for the Team in its first year?
There are two directions – pure racing and the business side. On the racing side I have trust in Clivio. Everything I have seen from him is very good and he raced against Hamilton and Rosberg in GP2 with success. As can be seen in F1 and in A1GP last year, you do not have to win every race to win the Championship; you just need to maintain solid points performances and this is what I am hoping for with A1 Team Monaco. I believe that if you have a strong team and driver, one who is not an aggressive driver, your chances are good. If you continually take the points and then I suppose that the chances are high that you will rank near the top at the end of the season. For us to finish within the top ten at the end of the year is quite a realistic expectation I think.
On the business side, it is difficult to say as we are only at the beginning of our journey, but interest in the team has been extremely encouraging. The Monaco brand is second to none, and we hope that many companies will wish to partner with us.