A1 Team Great Britain got its 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport campaign underway today as Danny Watts took the new A1GP Powered by Ferrari car out on the Chengdu Circuit in China for its maiden outing.
With no sign of the forecast rain, the practice sessions today took place in sunny conditions with warm temperatures. Due to GBR not having had the benefit of any testing with its new car, A1GP officials scheduled an extra one hour testing session for the team, along with India and USA, which took place at 0900hrs this morning. The team used this time to run installation laps and ensure all areas of the car were working correctly on its first run ahead of official practice.
Danny then hit the track alongside 13 of his eligible compatriots in the first 30-minute rookie session, performing well straight out of the box. After initially toppling USA’s Marco Andretti to take the quickest time half way through the practice, he was briefly usurped by India’s Narain Karthikeyan before returning to the top of the timesheets with a time of 1:17.934, despite being held up on the lap by Lebanon’s Daniel Morad. Due to a hydraulic leak, GBR did not venture out of the garage for the second 30-minute rookie practice, instead focusing on preparing the car for the one-hour afternoon practice session, which saw all the team’s nominated race drivers out on track.
In the afternoon practice, Danny headed out eight minutes into the session and was immediately on the pace, setting the fastest time with a lap of 1:17.145. France’s Nicolas Prost broke into the low 1:16’s after twenty minutes, taking the fastest lap. As the session progressed, lap times dropped and Danny improved his time to a lap of 1:16.881 after 34 minutes, and set an even faster time of 1:16.601 on his next lap. The second half of the session proved extremely competitive but also littered with red flags and, when the practice came to a close, Danny was in 6th position, the top six cars separated by a mere 0.252s.
Danny Watts: “This morning was the first time we’ve worked on the car and, as we missed the first race, we are playing catch up, but the boys are on top of it. The track here at Chengdu is very difficult and bumpy so we’ve just been exploring different avenues to find out about the car and find out what makes it tick. We have to find a compromise with the set-up to deal with the bumpy, twisty section in the middle and the long straight. I think they’ll be a lot of overtaking opportunities in the race. It’s been a positive start early on, we’re going in the right direction and we look fairly competitive at this stage. Overall it’s been going well and we’ll keep working away – the boys are doing an incredible job.”
Katie Clements, Team Principal: “We were so pleased to finally get the new car on track today and Danny and the team have done a fantastic job. We’ve had a positive start to the weekend with some strong practice results, which we have to be encouraged by considering the disadvantage that we had heading into the weekend. Everyone is working very hard and we will continue that way tomorrow to put us in the best possible position for qualifying.”
Rookie Practice 1aLaps: 10Position: 1st Fastest Lap: 1:17.934
Rookie Practice 1bLaps: N/APosition: N/AFastest Lap: N/A
Free Practice 2 Laps: 19Position: 6th Fastest Lap: 1:16.601 (+0.252)
Saturday’s qualifying starts at 1415 local time (0615 GMT) with Sunday’s 25-minute Sprint race starting at 1100 local time (0300 GMT) and the 70-minute Feature race beginning at 1500 local time (0700 GMT). Sky Sports will broadcast all the live action from Chengdu, China, from 0600 on Saturday 8 November and from 0530 on Sunday 9 November on Sky Sports Xtra