Portugal Takes Maiden A1GP Victory

A1GP Chengdu, China (Round 2 of 10)   

Filipe Albuquerque claimed A1 Team Portugals maiden win in the A1GP Chengdu, China Feature race to become the 17th different nation to take an A1GP victory. Portugal took the lead thanks to a slick first pit stop and held off the charge from A1 Team Irelands Adam Carroll in the closing stages. Great Britains Danny Watts took the final podium position after starting on pole but dropping back after his two mandatory pit stops.

From pole position, Watts made a good start to lead the pack into the first corner. Portugal also made a great start from third to challenge Ireland for second position. Ireland, starting on the dirtier side of the track, struggled to get traction, allowing Portugal to get a good run round the outside of turn one on the racing line and take the position. Starting eighth, Robert Doornbos A1 Team Netherlands car stalled on the grid forcing the immediate deployment of the safety car before the end of the first lap, while the car was pushed back to the pits. The team got the car re-started and Doornbos made his way back out, albeit a lap down.

Great Britain led from Portugal, Ireland and Monaco as the race re-started on lap four with Watts powering across the line with a clear gap at the front. Carroll was right on the back of the Portuguese car, having a look around the outside through turn one while also defending from Monacos Clivio Piccione in fourth.

Watts lead was now 1.5-seconds from Portugal as the first mandatory pit stop window opened. Great Britain were first to dive into the pits with Monaco, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and China also following suit. A lap later Ireland pitted with a quick, clean tyre change from the Irish squad getting Carroll back out on track in second, but when Albuquerque pitted on the next lap, a blisteringly quick stop from the team handed Portugal what would be the lead of the race, after the field had all pitted.

As Great Britain and Ireland made their way through traffic, Albuquerque began building up a comfortable lead when New Zealand appeared to be slowing along the pit straight with an electrical problem. Chris van der Drift eventually managed to get Black Beauty going with seemingly no further problem.

By the end of lap 14 Portugal had a 2.385-second lead from Great Britain and Switzerland were starting to hunt down Ireland for third. Albuquerque increased his lead to four seconds, leaving him in a strong position in the lead.

Portugal now led from Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, Monaco, France, USA and China.

Further down the field Lebanons Daniel Morad was having a good battle with Italy for 14th as the second pit stop window drew closer. For the second round of mandatory pit stops it was Portugal and Great Britain who were first to come in. Ireland took advantage of the extra time out on track, pushing hard on his in lap to try and make up time on the pair in front. Portugal re-joined in the lead but Watts emerged in traffic losing vital seconds. A1 Team Ireland made another great stop and Carroll was able to take second from Watts and set his sights on a second win of the day. On new tyres, Carroll set the fastest lap of the race so far, 1m 16.003s, his pace allowing him to close the gap on Albuquerque and as the pair started lap 33 the Carroll was visibly closer, just 0.422-seconds adrift.

The order was now Portugal, Ireland, Great Britain, Switzerland, Australia, Malaysia, France, Monaco, USA and India.

After going a lap down at the start Doornbos from Rotterdam in the Netherlands, showed what might have been if he had kept his eighth grid-slot as he clocked the fastest lap of the race, a 1m 15.212s on lap 33, faster than yesterdays pole position time set by Danny Watts. 

On lap 35 the battle for fifth began to heat up as Malaysias Fairuz Fauzy challenged John Martin for position eventually passing the Australian two laps later with a great move around the outside of the first corner. On lap 38, Frances Nicolas Prost tried the same manoeuvre on Martin but gave him a little too much space and spun into the gravel on the exit after getting onto the dirtier part of the track.

The safety car was deployed for a second time on lap 40 as the French car was recovered. With the pack bunched back together, all advantages were lost and when the race re-started five laps later the race was back on to the finish.

A1 Team USAs Marco Andretti was now running in eighth on his debut weekend as the cars came around for the re-start. Ireland was now in prime position to challenge for victory and as racing resumed Portugal and Ireland were both on the PowerBoost button into turn one. Ireland momentarily edged alongside, but Albuquerque held station and despite a number of exciting challenges the top eight remained the same to the finish. South Africas Adrian Zaugg and Chinas Ho-Pin Tung were the only nations to move forward in the closing stages, taking 9th and 12th respectively.

Despite all Carrolls efforts, Filipe Albuquerque crossed the finish line to take the teams first ever series victory and became the 17th nation to win in A1GP. Malaysias fifth position was enough to hold on to the championship lead, but Irelands points haul brought them right into contention, and they now sit equal second with France on 23 points.

Race winner Albuquerque said: The lap times were getting faster and faster. In the second stint, I was really fast, faster than anyone else. I was pulling away and had four seconds and everything was under control. But then Ireland was way too fast with the new tyres. I could not go any faster so I just had to keep the car on the track, not make any mistakes and get the win.

After a successful day in which he claimed Sprint victory and second in the Feature race, Irelands Carroll said: Well thats the start we really wanted at Zandvoort. I came here determined to have the best weekend we could and at least try to win a race or come away with a couple of podiums.

Practice actually hadnt gone that well but I knew the circuit was extremely tricky and put the new tyres on to try to do a good lap in qualifying as you had to start at the front here to try and win. Its just great for the team and everybody. Its the confidence we all need and I really think we can challenge the rest of the season for the championship.

Third placed Great Britain driver Watts said: How quickly the ten days have gone from getting the call, getting on a plane and arriving here to walk around the circuit. We never would have thought wed be going away with two podiums - two third places.

When I saw the car when we arrived here, it was still in bits with a lot to do. I think the two podiums have to go to the mechanics. Theyve been working so hard through the nights so its been a huge effort from everyone within the team. For them, its been a fantastic weekend. Were just really glad to come out of our first weekend in A1GP with a big haul of points.

Feature race results

Pos  A1 Team /  Driver /  Laps/  Time/  Gap First1 PORTUGAL  Filipe ALBUQUERQUE 51 11:23.179 -2 IRELAND  Adam CARROLL 51 11:23.750 0.5713 GREAT BRITAIN  Danny WATTS 51 11:27.981 4.8024 SWITZERLAND  Neel JANI 51 11:30.336 7.1575 MALAYSIA  Fairuz FAUZY 51 11:36.481 13.3026 AUSTRALIA  John MARTIN 51 11:38.723 15.5447 MONACO  Clivio PICCIONE 51 11:39.415 16.2368 USA  Marco ANDRETTI 51 11:39.869 16.699 SOUTH AFRICA  Adrian ZAUGG 51 11:41.209 18.0310 INDIA  Narain KARTHIKEYAN 51 11:41.938 18.75911 NEW ZEALAND  Chris VAN DER DRIFT 51 11:42.854 19.67512 CHINA  Ho Pin TUN 51 11:43.305 20.12613 LEBANON  Daniel MORAD 51 11:45.759 22.5814 INDONESIA  Satrio HERMANTO 51 11:54.464 31.28515 MEXICO David GARZA5011:37.063 1 Lap16 NETHERLANDS  Robert DOORNBOS 50 11:40.217 1 Lap17 KOREA  Jin Woo HWANG 50 11:58.454 1 Lap18 FRANCE  Nicolas PROST 37 50:48.185 14 Laps19 ITALY  Edoardo PISCOPO 30 42:26.221 21 Laps20 BRAZIL  Felipe GUIMARAES 13 19:28.502 38 Laps

Fastest lap: A1 Team NED set the fastest lap (1m15.212s) of the Feature race with a speed of 159.4 kph on lap 33.

2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport points standings

Pos/  A1 Team/  Points1 Malaysia  282 Ireland  233 France  234 New Zealand  205 Netherlands  206 Portugal  187 Switzerland  178 Great Britain  169 Australia  1310 South Africa  911 Monaco  912 USA  613 Korea  414 Lebanon  315 Italy  216 China  217 India  118 Indonesia  019 Brazil  020 Mexico  0

Next race: A1GP Sepang, Malaysia, 21 - 23 November 2008.