A1 Team New Zealand's Black Beauty roars into life in just over three weeks for the team's home race in Taupo, over the weekend 23-25 January 2009. In the build up to the race, the team is proud to announce Hamilton born Chris van der Drift as the driver to power Black Beauty around Taupo for the third time that A1GP action hits New Zealand.
Having shared driving duties with Earl Bamber for the current season of A1GP racing, van der Drift gets back behind the wheel for Round Four of Season Four of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport.
2008 has been a year of on track success for van der Drift, the 22-year-old driver winning the International Formula Master title in style after claiming second overall in the same championship in 2007. On his way to securing championship victory, the young Kiwi won six races, and was on the podium a total of ten times.
van der Drift grew up and raced in New Zealand until he was 17, and won a huge number of New Zealand Kartsport titles in this time. He now bases himself in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, as he chases the motor-racing circuit around the globe.
'Vandy' as he's known to his friends and fans was on duty at Chengdu, China for Round Two of the current season of the A1GP championship. The weekend proved to be one to forget, with the bumpy nature of the circuit not mating well to van der Drift's aggressive and late braking driving technique.
The team took home just two points from Chengdu, but the allowance for teams to drop their lowest points score of the season will no doubt help the team at the tail end of the season.
As a proven championship winner and impressively fast driver, the selection of van der Drift to drive at Taupo makes sense. Both Chris and the team believe he is well placed to bounce back from the disappointment of Chengdu.
The fact that Taupo is a new circuit doesn't bother van der Drift, as he's spent much of his career learning new circuits during competition in A1GP, as well as Formula BMW, International Formula Master and GP2 racing.
The eight week break in A1GP racing between Round Three at Sepang, Malaysia and Round Four in Taupo is providing the team's Engineers valuable time to analyse data collected from the opening three rounds with the new 'Powered by Ferrari' A1GP racer. Together with data from the first generation A1GP car, countless hours have been spent by the technical gurus of A1 Team New Zealand looking for any advantage possible. With this knowledge, van der Drift and Black Beauty will be well prepared to hit the ground running in Taupo.
Jonny Reid, who drove Black Beauty to a race win in the Sprint Race at Taupo last season, will join the team in Taupo but not in the driver's seat. While Reid has considerable experience driving the Taupo circuit, he is yet to be behind the wheel of the new model Black Beauty. The new Black Beauty is different in just about every area compared with the previous A1GP car.
While there are no doubts as to Reid's race winning ability in the A1GP, the tight format of an A1GP weekend provides a limited number of practice laps. The restricted nature of practice at Taupo would not allow Reid a reasonable number of laps to properly familiarise himself with the new Black Beauty.
Meanwhile Earl Bamber, who starred for the team this season both at the season opening round at Zandvoort, The Netherlands, and at Sepang is unable to drive at Taupo due to other racing commitments. The 18-year-old first competes in Bahrain on 23-24 January for the GP2 Asia championship, then heads to Estoril, Spain the following day for a further testing duty.
Bamber steered Black Beauty to third in the Sprint Race at the last round of the A1GP championship at Malaysia's Sepang circuit, and backed the Sprint result up with sixth place in the Feature Race.
A1 Team New Zealand sits third equal in the points table with 31 points, still well within reach of current points-leader Ireland who have scored 43 points to date. A1 Team Portugal is second in the standings heading to Taupo with 35 points, while France is tied with New Zealand for third.
The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport's return to New Zealand for the third instalment of racing around Taupo can be expected to be the fastest yet. The 'Powered by Ferrari' A1GP car introduced for the current season is more powerful, and will be more spectacular that seen previously at Taupo.
Major improvements over the old car include carbon fibre brakes which allow drivers to brake deeper into a corner, as well as a revised aerodynamic package for increased downforce.
Race-fans that make the journey to Taupo to see van der Drift and other nations racing wheel-to-wheel, will also enjoy the aural symphony of the Ferrari engines screaming as the drivers extract the most out of them. The Ferrari engine delivers 600 horsepower, an increase over the previous A1GP car.
In the build up to the Taupo race, Black Beauty will first be unveiled to Kiwi fans at the SKYCITY Supercar Show in Central Auckland, between 15 and 20 January. Alongside Black Beauty, a raft of exotic cars will be on display, including the brand new Aston Martin DBS which features in the latest James Bond movie.
An added bonus for fans from the upper North Island of New Zealand attending the Taupo race is the Auckland Anniversary Day public holiday on the Monday following the A1GP weekend.
Tickets are selling fast for Round Four of the A1GP at the Taupo Motorsport Park, and can be purchased from www.A1GPTAUPO.com.
Chris van der Drift, Driver
"Taupo is an important race for the team. Seeing as I haven't done much racing in New Zealand in my single seater career, it's so fantastic to have the opportunity to drive Black Beauty at Taupo."
"I haven't driven on the [Taupo] circuit in its current form, but I know the circuit and have walked it when I was helping Earl Bamber in 2006."
"The sound of the new A1 racecar is on another page! They really have that typical Ferrari engine note."
"I'll treat Taupo like another race. I don't feel too much pressure, and won't let that get in the way of my performance."
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