A1 Team Great Britain won the Feature race at this afternoon's 2007/08 season-opener at AquaSP A1GP Zandvoort, the Netherlands. Oliver Jarvis took the chequered flag and his second Feature race win after a stunning drive in perfect weather conditions, ahead of South Africa and Switzerland.
Displaying the Scottish flag on the rear wing of the newly-liveried GBR challenger in tribute to the late World Rally Champion Colin McRae, Jarvis defended third place off the grid despite an early challenge from the Swiss car and by lap three the British star had moved up into second behind pole-sitter South Africa.
A1 Team Germany, closely followed by Switzerland, France, Mexico and New Zealand were hot on the heels of the leading duo. Meanwhile, Portuguese rookie Joao Urbano spun off the track and slammed into the tyre barriers, blocking the pit lane entrance briefly and bringing out the yellow flags until the end of lap five.
It didn't take long for Jarvis to reel in Zaugg, who had romped into the distance at the start of the 45-lap race, and by lap six the South African was firmly in his sights. As the first pit stop window opened at the end of lap eight, Great Britain and Germany were the first teams to head in for their mandatory stops, both pitting on lap nine from second and third place respectively, rejoining the action in the same order.
Race leader South Africa pitted on lap 12 and rejoined in second position behind Great Britain, who had gained track position after a series of flying laps from Jarvis and fast work in the pits. On lap 15, after all 22 cars had completed their first stop, the race order settled briefly to Great Britain, South Africa, Switzerland, followed by New Zealand, Mexico and Germany.
Great Britain's Jarvis continued to ease away from Zaugg and by lap 22 he had pulled out a three-second lead on today's Sprint race winner. The leaders pitted together as soon as the second mandatory pit stop window opened at the end of lap 30, Jarvis gaining a four-second advantage during the stop for new tyres. He rejoined nine seconds ahead of the South African car.
The British star visibly slowed on the last lap and coasted home to take Great Britain's fourth, and his second, A1GP win. A1 Team Great Britain now lies second in the championship on 19 points, just one point ahead of France.
An emotional Jarvis said: 'The whole team has done a fantastic job all weekend and I'm really pleased with today's result - a great way to kick off the season for the team. I was actually starting to slow down about five or six laps from the end. My pit crew were a little bit worried about fuel consumption so I started to back off - there was no rush because I had a big gap. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. You're representing your country, but not just that, my family are here so it was quite a proud moment for me after a difficult start to the weekend.'
Great Britain's Jarvis was joined on the podium by South Africa's Zaugg and Switzerland's Neel Jani.
South Africa is now comfortably leading the 2007/08 championship on 28 points as the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport heads to Brno, Czech Republic in a fortnight.
Zaugg struggled to get the best from the South African charger: 'I tried to push as hard as I could. With the second set of tyres I was able to close up on him (Jarvis) during the first couple of laps. It was a tough race but the conditions were changing all the time so it was quite difficult to get the maximum from the car.'
On the team's nine-point advantage in the championship after today's win and second place, Zaugg commented: 'It sounds good but it's early days and it's just the first race weekend. We have to keep delivering good results and we should be up there.'
Third-placed Neel Jani driving for Switzerland said: 'The start was really good; I was nearly in the wall because of Germany so Olly got past me at turn one and then I was just trying to keep up with the guys in front of me. I was catching Adrian at some stage and he kept falling back again, it was just a bit like a cat-and-mouse game in the end. It was an exciting race but unfortunately I couldn't do better than third - I'm happy with that though and it's a great start to the season for A1 Team Switzerland.'
The fourth and fifth spot were taken by Mexico's Salvador Duran and France's Loic Duval.
A1 Team Ireland's Ralph Firman was on fine form today, charging through the field and picking off seventh-placed Netherlands after the second round of pit stops, going on to steal sixth from New Zealand on lap 33. Firman continued to push hard and crossed the line in sixth behind France's Duval.
Local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen, who was squeezed onto the gravel at the start and pushed back to 14th, brought the Netherlands car home in a commendable eighth, having started 11th on the grid. The Dutchman pulled off a series of stunning manoeuvres throughout the 70-minute race, thrilling his home fans who had turned out in force to support the 25-year-old.
The final three point scoring positions were taken by the Netherlands, Germany and the Czech Republic.