to Malaysia race
The first podium of the season is the goal at Neel Jani's favourite circuit
So far, the A1 Team Switzerland has missed out on a podium finish in the World Cup of Motorsport, even though it was only close on a few occasions. Nevertheless, the defending champion is being considered as one of the favourites for the next rounds in Malaysia. In any case, Neel Jani is determined to repeat his overwhelming achievements from previous years next Sunday.
Jani knows the track near Selangor very well. The 25-year old says that he is always feeling very well there. That doesn't come as a surprise: Sepang is the venue of his best results in the World Cup of Motorsport. He already won there three times: 2006 in the sprint race and 2007 both in the sprint and in the feature race. On top of that, he came second twice in 2005 and finished fourth in the feature race in 2006. Moreover, he racked up 43 laps in testing at Sepang in March 2006 as the official replacement and test driver of the Toro Rosso Formula 1 team.
"Indeed, I have a lot of fond memories of Malaysia", said Jani. "I also have come to know the changeable weather over there. Two years ago, I led all the way in the sprint race in the morning in excellent conditions. The weather changed just before the feature race so that we had to start behind the safety car in pouring rain. And in November 2007, we found out that it can also be incredibly hot."
The track, located some 60 km south of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur, not only stands out for its length (5.54 km), but also for its huge dimensions. There is plenty of space for overtaking and spectators have a view of some 50 percent of the track. Last year, Neel Jani established the lap record with 1.49.221 minutes (182.602 km/h). With the new car, the "A1GP powered by Ferrari", this time is likely to be improved considerably, provided conditions are fine.
Although the start of the season didn't exactly go as he had planned, Swiss team principal Max Welti is confident: "We have come to terms with the car pretty well", the 56-year old from Zürich says. "I am confident that we have a realistic chance of scoring our first podium finish of the season. Being successful in Malaysia means a lot to me as Sepang is like my second home." As the CEO of Merkeda Sport System, Welti promoted the racing activities at the circuit that hosted a Formula 1 Grand Prix for the first time in 1999. Earlier on, from 1995 till 1997, Welti had been manager and director of the Sauber Petronas Formula 1 team that had close connections to Malaysia.
Sepang will be the first occasion that a team will be racing in its own country as the leader in the points' standings. After two races each at Zandvoort (Netherlands) and Chengdu (China), Malaysia is leading with 28 points from Ireland and France (23 each), New Zealand and The Netherlands (20 each), Portugal (18) and Switzerland (17). At Zandvoort, Neel Jani finished fifth in the sprint race and retired from the feature race due to a technical problem. At Chengdu, he scored a pair of fourth places.
The A1GP in Malaysia will be followed by a nine weeks' break before the round at Taupo (New Zealand) on January 25th, 2009.
PROGRAMME. Friday. 10.45 - 12.05 (03.45 - 05.05 CET): rookie-practice. 14.00 - 15.00 (07.00 - 08.00): practice. -- Saturday. 11.00 - 12.00 (04.00 - 05.00): practice. 14.15 - 15.10 (07.15 - 08.10): qualifying. -- Sunday. 11.00 - 11.30 (04.00 - 04.30): sprint (rolling start). 15.00 - 16.10 (08.00 - 09.10): feature race (standing start).
A1 WORLD CUP OF MOTORSPORT. Standings after four of 20 rounds: 1. Malaysia 28. 2. Ireland 23. 3. France 23. 4. New Zealand 20. 5. Netherlands 20. 6. Portugal 18. 7. Switzerland 17. 8. Great Britain 16. 9. Australia 13. 10. South Africa 9. 11. Monaco 9. 12. USA 6. 13. Korea 4. 14. Lebanon 3. 15. Italy 2. 16. China 2. 17. India 1. -- 20 nations.
TELEVISION. Schweizer Sportfernsehen SSF (STAR TV channel): Sunday, 20.00 - 22.00 CET. -- Teleclub: 07.45 live. -- Premiere: Sunday, 16.45. -- NT1: Sunday, 15.00. -- AB Moteurs: Saturday, 14.00 and Sunday, 14.00. -- RaiSportPiù: Sunday, 14.00.