A1 Grand Prix proved, for the second time, safety is one of the most important factors in the build of its 3.4 litre V8-engined race cars. At Eastern Creek it was the car entered by A1 Team Japan that suffered a crash that totally destroyed the car but left the driver Hayanari Shimoda unhurt. It was on lap 26 that the car, travelling at high speed, went off the track and crashed into a wall in turn one.
For a few heart-stopping moments while the rescue crews arrived at the scene the driver’s condition was unknown but it rapidly became clear the tub of the car had held up amazingly to the force of the accident. Shimoda was momentarily knocked unconscious but by the time he was extracted from the cockpit and taken to the medical centre he was conversing with the medical staff. A preliminary examination by Dr Paul Trafford, the A1 Grand Prix Medical Delegate, found no further injuries but the Japanese driver was transferred by helicopter to Westmead Hospital for a CT scan and further precautionary checks.
Dr Trafford complimented CAMS, the circuit medical staff, Meditrak and the marshals for their professional handling of the incident.
The race itself was won by A1 Team France, bringing their tally of victories up to six out of eight. A1 Team Great Britain matched their previous highest place from EuroSpeedway Lausitz with a second in Australia and A1 Team Switzerland claimed the final podium position.
At the start of the Feature race, it was the Portuguese car from second on the grid that was away first leading into the turn one. A bad start from France meant that at the end of lap one they were lying second with Brazil third.
The first retirement of the race came from A1 Team South Africa when their car went off the track after swerving to avoid A1 Team Italy on lap one and hit the barrier. The teams started their obligatory pit stop sequence quite early with Ireland pitting first at the end of lap two, having dropped down from fourth on the grid to twelfth. The order at the top of the pack stayed the same until A1 Team Portugal incurred a drive through penalty on lap eight for a false start, a mistake which cost them the lead as France took the opportunity to re-gain the top spot.
Turn two struck again on lap 8 when Mexico and Russia clashed and both went off. A1 Team Lebanon narrowly avoided them, going off the track but managing to continue the race. The safety car was deployed and those who had not pitted at the start seized their chance. At the end of lap nine A1 Team’s France and Great Britain both went into the pits putting Lebanon in front. With no overtaking under the safety car, they withheld their position until the safety car peeled off at the end of lap 12 and then the team’s moment of glory was over as France and Great Britain overtook but they were still in the top three at the end of lap 13.
A1 Team Brazil were then the subject of a drive through penalty for a pit lane infringement, dropping them from eighth to tenth, but the safety car was due to be deployed yet again when the Austrian and Czech Republic cars collided on lap 18. When racing resumed again at the end of lap 21, the Irish car was too quick off the mark starting to overtake before crossing the start finish line. For this the team received a 25 second penalty which was applied after the end of the race and dropped them down from eighth to fourteenth.
France was again able to increase its lead at the front of the field and was pulling away from A1 Team Great Britain when the Japanese car had its accident on lap 26. The safety crews worked as hard as they could to remove the damaged car but when the safety car pulled off at the end of lap 33, the one hour rule would only allow for two further laps which meant a 35 rather than a 40 lap race.
The fastest race lap of the weekend, setting a new lap record for the Eastern Creek Raceway, was recorded in the Sprint race by A1 Team France with a time of 1.19.751 and a top speed of 177.4kph. The fastest lap in the Feature race was also set by A1 Team France with a time of 1.21.015 and a top speed of 174.6kph.
A1 Team France’s Nicolas Lapierre said: ‘The start was not too bad, and I was surprised to see Alvaro on the left so soon, but then the team told me that he had a drive through penalty for jumping the start. I made a small mistake in the first corner as the track was so dirty and Nelson overtook me. Thankfully I managed to get past him again under braking. It was a very exciting race. It went right today, it wasn’t easy but we had a good strategy.’
On sharing the driving with team mate Alexandre Premat, Lapierre commented; ‘It is quite difficult not to be in the car, but we decided at the beginning that we would alternate, so I can’t complain, and I’m really happy with the situation.’
A1 Team Great Britain’s Robbie Kerr said: ‘I had a lock up on the last lap but thankfully, Neel was too far behind to take advantage. It was an interesting race and a good start, I went to the inside of the corner and managed to come away in front and then I was just chasing down Nelson. Nelson gave me room when I overtook, which was fair of him, and then it was a case of being consistent.’
Rounding up the top three, A1 Team Switzerland’s Neel Jani said: ‘In the end I’m just really happy to finish. There were so many safety cars that I’m very happy to finish where I did. The first race was not what we wanted, but the second race was good. We had a good strategy, buy unfortunately Jos (A1 Team Netherlands) was on the same strategy and was always behind me. The first corner is very hard and there was a lot of pressure during the race, but we finished third so it is ok.’
1 France Nicolas Lapierre 1.00.54.068
2 Great Britain Robbie Kerr 1.00.56.547
3 Switzerland Neel Jani 1.00.57.086
4 Netherlands Jos Verstappen 1.00.57.593
5 Malaysia Alex Yoong 1.00.58.955
6 Australia Will Davison 1.00.59.499
7 Portugal Alvaro Parente 1.01.00.070
8 New Zealand Jonny Reid 1.01.02.989
9 Brazil Nelson Piquet Jr 1.01.03.108
10 USA Bryan Herta 1.01.03.896
11 Pakistan Adam Khan 1.01.05.010
12 Lebanon Basil Shaaban 1.01.07.071
13 India Armaan Ebrahim 1.01.08.343
14 Ireland Michael Devaney 1.01.26.140
15 Canada Sean McIntosh 26 laps
16 Japan Hayanari Shimoda 25 laps
17 China Tengyi Jiang 22 laps
18 Austria Mathias Lauda 17 laps
19 Czech Republic Tomas Enge 17 laps
20 Russia Roman Rusinov 7 laps
21 Mexico Salvador Duran 7 laps
22 Germany Adrian Sutil 7 laps
23 Italy Enrico Toccacelo 6 laps
24 South Africa Stephen Simpson 1 lap
1 France 71
2 Brazil 52
3 Switzerland 47
4 New Zealand 32
5 Great Britain 30
6 Portugal 27
7 Australia 26
8 Netherlands 26
9 Ireland 23
10 Malaysia 23
11 Canada 23
12 Mexico 16
13 Czech Republic 8
14 Germany 8
15 USA 8
16 Japan 6
17 South Africa 6
18 Indonesia 5
19 Italy 5
20 Pakistan 4
21 Austria 1
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