Youth Wins Over Experience in Mexico

Youth Wins Over Experience in Mexico image

Text: / Photos: | posted December 16, 2005 08:00

In a nail-biting finish to the Feature race at the A1GP Mexico City, Mexico, A1 Team Great Britain took its maiden victory of the series with the USA finishing in their best ever position less than seven tenths of a second behind. South Africa took the final step on the podium claiming the spot with a sound pit stop strategy and defending well for the second half of the race.

As the lights went out and the cars left the grid, it was Great Britain's Oliver Jarvis that came off best, storming ahead of the pack into turn one. The USA with Jonathan Summerton back behind the wheel after the crash that saw him retire early from the Durban race, tucked in behind. Pole-sitter Malaysia was slow off the start line, instantly dropping down to seventh as China, Italy, South Africa and the Netherlands all slipped ahead.

The bad luck France suffered this morning continued into the Feature race as an impact in the starting scrum damaged the car and forced the team to pit for a new nose cone and front wing at the end of the first lap. As the rest of the field fell into position, Italy overtook China for third, Malaysia began to recover from their starting, mistakes overtaking the Netherlands for sixth, and Portugal took Australia for ninth and then began a charge up the field.

Portugal, having only rejoined the series in Durban, fought strongly putting aggressive maneuvers on the competition that even the most experienced of drivers failed to defend against. Starting the fourth lap, Parente overtook home nation Mexico for eighth before making an impressive move on the outside of the Netherlands one lap later for seventh.

Further down the field, Brazil's Bruno Junqueira, starting from 20th on the grid after the Sprint race incident, made his first aggressive maneuver of the race, challenging India's Narain Karthikeyan. Unfortunately for Brazil, the move did not pay off and, as Junqueira struggled to control the car, Germany and Ireland made their way through to 16th and 18th respectively.

As the pit window opened on lap eight, the teams prepared for their mandatory stop, with race leader Great Britain the first to pit. A smooth stop from the team saw the red, white and blue car re-join the race after 38.9 seconds, a strong stop that was to help maintain Jarvis' position at the front of the race. Unfortunately the same could not be said for the Netherlands as the car stalled, dropping the team to the back of the pack.

For host nation Mexico, the weekend was to end in further disappointment after their Sprint race collision, with Durban heading into the pits for a second time on lap 14. Unfortunately for the home crowd, this was to be the end of Mexico's race as a fuel pump problem forced the team into retirement. The team salvaged something from the weekend, scoring the bonus point for the fastest lap of the race in this morning's Sprint race and getting the car repaired to return to the track for a lap of honor after the race.

The pit stops continued with the race lead changing from USA to Portugal to Canada before the last two pitted on lap 17 putting GBR back in front, ahead of the USA and Ireland, the only team on the track still to pit. With all the stops taken by the end of the 19th lap, the race began to settle with Great Britain leading the USA, South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, Portugal, New Zealand and Australia.

New Zealand's Jonny Reid fought to climb up the points throughout the afternoon, aiming to close the gap on Germany and leave the championship title open for another race. His most impressive maneuver was as Malaysia, Portugal and the Black Beauty stormed up to lap Pakistan's Nur Ali on lap 26, overtaking Portugal and putting pressure on Malaysia in one move.

The final excitement came towards the end of the race as leader Oliver Jarvis radioed back to his team reporting vibrations and a possible puncture. With a lead of less than four seconds on the USA's Jonathan Summerton, the team prepared for an emergency pit which, with only seven laps to go, would have cost them the lead. Summerton continued to push the 'We the people car' to the max, closing the gap lap by lap. Luckily for the Brits, the vibrations came to nothing and the Jarvis drove the A1 Team Great Britain car across the finish line 0.690 seconds ahead of the USA.

South Africa, Italy, Malaysia, New Zealand and Portugal followed with Australia keeping within the points despite a poor start and an injured ankle sustained after the Sprint race. Championship leaders Germany, with rookie Christian Vietoris, in the car took two points from a ninth place finish, keeping them at the top of the overall score board but allowing second placed New Zealand to close the gap. A1 Team China, who will be pleased with another point ahead of their home race in Shanghai in a fortnight's time, took the final point of the race in tenth.

Commenting on Great Britain's first ever win in A1GP, Oliver Jarvis said: 'I want to say a big thank you to the team they worked so hard and I am delighted to be up here. In the race itself I got a cracking start and managed to control the pace early on. We scheduled an early pit stop to get the benefit of the new tires and then I pushed to create a gap. At the end of the race Jonathan was pushing hard, but I just maintained a comfortable gap and brought the car home.'

He went on to say: 'I was disappointed in qualifying because our pace had been so good but I have a lot of thank yous to make. The boys worked hard and without them this would not have been possible, but unfortunately our Seat Holder, Tony Clements, could not be here and had to watch this from home. I think Robbie (Kerr) will be delighted for the team as he knows more than anyone else how hard they work. He would have loved to be on that winning step but he would be happy for us as that is the sort of attitude in the team, we work as one and hopefully will be able to continue bringing in the results.'

A1 Team USA's Jonathan Summerton, who is only 18-years-old, recorded the team's best ever finish and said: 'From fifth on the grid we had a really good start and I was able to get up to second from there and just kept pushing. At the beginning of the race I was on old tyres but I think we had a really great run. With about ten laps to go I felt I could perhaps catch Oliver and so started to push. In the end we came up a little short of him, but I am happy in the end as second is good.'

Talking of his Durban clash, he went on to say: 'It is certainly a tough circuit. It was very hard and after the crash in Durban I went back to my doctor at home and got the okay to drive. I came back and told Rick (Weidinger) and came here and finished second. Hopefully now we can win the next race as a win any time is good.'

Adrian Zaugg, driving for A1 Team South Africa commented: 'The start was very difficult as I lost a place and I was very happy not to drop more I did some strong laps before the pit stop and was also able to push hard after it and get up to third. I think our pit stop strategy worked out very well. However, when I came out on my second lap on new tires after the pit stop I was held up, which cost me some time. In the end I think we made some good progress through the whole weekend. I won't be racing in Shanghai but I am sure the team will make good progress. We have had a very difficult season since Zandvoort but I think catching up now and making good progress. Alan van de Merwe was a great support to the team and me all weekend and I am sure he will do good job for the team in Shanghai.'