A1 Team USA's Jonathan Summerton made history today when he took his and the team's first ever A1GP race win in this afternoon's Feature race at China's Shanghai International Circuit. Current title leader and pole-sitter Switzerland's Neel Jani lost second gear early on in the race and fifth gear towards the end so, despite a heroic drive, couldn't stay in touch with the American car and crossed the line fifth behind title rival New Zealand's Jonny Reid in fourth.
This afternoon's result keeps the thrilling 2007/08 championship alive and it will now be decided at the final round of the season at Brands Hatch, Great Britain on 4 May.
Florida's Summerton, who turns 20 next week, was joined on the podium by Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque, who put in another incredible performance to finish second and take his third podium finish in only his sixth A1GP race outing. Ireland's Adam Carroll, buoyed by his maiden A1GP victory in Mexico last time out, was also on great form, racing to third position and notching up his and the team's third podium finish of the season.USA's Summerton, who was given an anti-inflammatory dressing by the A1GP Medical Delegate, Dr Paul Trafford, to reduce bruising and swelling in his right hand sustained during the start line incident with New Zealand in this morning's Sprint race, snatched the advantage at the start as Switzerland's Jani struggled to get off the grid.
Summerton had pulled out a one second lead from Jani by lap eight and after some smooth work in the pits and a good out lap, USA held position and continued to pull away from second-placed Switzerland as it became apparent that Jani was driving without second gear. When Summerton came in for his second compulsory pit stop on lap 24, at the same time as third-placed Portugal, the American had a nine second advantage over the Swiss team and again rejoined in the lead. Summerton was never threatened and continued to drive beautifully to cross the line in first place for USA, becoming the 16th nation to win an A1GP race and the 10th this season, taking his and the team's first ever A1GP victory.
Portugal's Albuquerque, who started from third, fell back one position at the start as India's Narain Karthikeyan snuck through to take third. The 22-year old Portuguese rookie snatched it back on lap five however, with a perfectly timed clinical manoeuvre past the Indian car. Having leap-frogged the struggling Swiss car in the final round of pit stops, Albuquerque ran in second place for the final third of the race and went on to cross the line second.
Adam Carroll lost out to India at the start but rocketed past Karthikeyan on the start/finish straight to seize fourth place on lap seven, slotting in behind Portugal. After excellent work in the pits, Carroll gained a place and held third until the end of the race to score Ireland's third podium finish this season and its fourth overall.
Jani, who fell back to second at the start and drove much of the race without second and fifth gear, lost three places to Portugal, Ireland and, crucially, New Zealand, in the second round of pit stops, rejoining the action in fifth place behind the Kiwis in fourth. The pair remained in these positions for the remainder of the race, crossing the line in fourth and fifth place respectively, and the Swiss team are now 29 points ahead of New Zealand in the championship with just one round remaining.
Malaysia's Alex Yoong, who has been on good form all weekend, raced to sixth place ahead of India's Narain Karthikeyan in seventh, who was running as high as third in the early stages of the race. France's Franck Montagny and Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, who are fighting for position in the championship, enjoyed several on-track battles during the 38-lap race and finally crossed the line in eighth and ninth places respectively.
Germany's Michael Ammermüller took the final points-paying position while home nation China's Congfu Cheng, who started 20th, made up five places to finish a commendable 15th in front of his home crowd.
Feature race winner Jonathan Summerton was delighted with his first A1GP victory and paid tribute to the hard work of his team:
'This win is definitely going to build up team morale and we are going to carry that on to Brands Hatch. My hand only hurt when people started wanting to shake it after the race! We did our best to just go out there and go for the win. I knew basically Switzerland was going to be our biggest competition, so I had to go out there and go for the win and I just kept pushing once I got by. We had a bad start to the weekend, but we had to figure out the problem and work from there. The team did a great job working all last night and also hard today. In the pit stops they did a great job and I am glad I am here this weekend and racing to win for us.'
Today's result keeps the title fight alive as Switzerland leaves China on 150 points ahead of New Zealand on 121, giving the Swiss team a 29 point lead with only 32 points up for grabs at the final round in two weeks time. France now has 111 points and Great Britain lies fourth with 99 as it heads home for the season finale at the legendary Brands Hatch circuit in Kent on 2-4 May 2008.