A promising Sprint Race but disastrous Feature Race was the net result of a challenging weekend of racing for A1 Team New Zealand's home race, at the Taupo Motorsport Park.
Leaving the grid for the warm-up lap of the Sprint Race, New Zealand supporters were given an early scare when Black Beauty was slow off the line, after a glitch in the Launch Control system on the car.
When it counted though, van der Drift got off the line for Sunday morning's Sprint Race with a reasonable start. He emerged from the first corner in fifth place after starting sixth. Just one corner later however, he was forced to run wide to avoid cars slowing in front, dropping him back to ninth.
Ireland led from Pole Position, and was the first of the leading nations to come in for their compulsory pitstop. While Ireland serviced their car with a new set of tyres, van der Drift pushed hard out on track before pitting with eight laps remaining.
A slick pitstop from the New Zealand crew had van der Drift stationary for just 9.5 seconds, which vaulted the home nation up to sixth place. Just one lap later, Australia were forced out of the race after heavily contacting a stack of tyres marking the chicane off the main straight at Taupo, which promoted New Zealand a further place up the ladder.
Pressure came on late in the race first from Italy, then Portugal, but Black Beauty was able to hold off the late charge, partly due to van der Drift conserving his PowerBoost allowance early on.
Over the line it was championship leader Ireland first, followed by Switzerland and The Netherlands, with New Zealand holding on to fifth.
Things didn't bode so well for Black Beauty in the fifty lap Feature Race however. The Launch Control problem that raised its head on the warm-up lap of the Sprint Race bit Black Beauty severely as the Feature Race got underway, dropping New Zealand from tenth to eighteenth.
The Launch Control system featured on the A1GP cars requires drivers to hold full throttle, then release the clutch, taking control of the car as it leaves the start line out of the driver's hands. If the launch system senses a problem, it activates 'Anti-Stall' which as the name suggests stops the car's engine from stalling but also severely delays speed off the start.
The early disappointment continued for New Zealand, with van der Drift picking up a flat left rear tyre of Black Beauty on the opening lap, after contact with Lebanon as he worked to fight his way forward.
The end result of the puncture was an extra pitstop for Black Beauty when compared with most other nations, ruling out any chance of a top result.
After the first round of scheduled pitstops, New Zealand emerged in seventeenth place, while Ireland continued their domination at Taupo.
The middle sector of the race was a quiet affair for Black Beauty, as van der Drift kept focused in making sure he made no mistakes.
As the Ireland and Switzerland again headed to the pits for their second scheduled stop, Ireland experienced a problem with their Launch Control system, in a carbon copy of New Zealand's start-line problem. This delayed their pitstop getaway and allowed Switzerland to take over the lead in the pitlane.
With twenty one laps remaining, van der Drift radioed the team informing them of a problem with his brakes, due in part to the front to rear bias adjuster failing. He continued at the best pace he could, and was helped somewhat by a safety car slowing the field to remove the stricken Monaco car.
As drivers tired in the closing stages of the race, mistakes began to become more evident, with China spinning and Indonesia dropping back, before Mexico also found themselves in trouble.
Soldiering on as other nations hit problems, van der Drift crossed the line in fourteenth place, before being promoted to thirteenth after twelfth placed Brazil were handed a twenty five second penalty for causing an avoidable collision.
Switzerland claimed victory in the race, with Ireland and Portugal behind.
While the home crowd weren't able to cheer for New Zealand on the podium this round, they did come out to support Black Beauty in big numbers. The three day crowd at the Taupo Motorsport Park was over 65,000 people.
From here the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport takes a four week break before hitting the track at Gauteng, South Africa.
Chris van der Drift, Driver
"Quite a disappointing weekend really in all. In the Feature Race we could have had a strong race, but that's not the way it turned out."
"In the Sprint Race we had a good start. I put a wheel off which dragged me off line and lost a lot of places, but the team did a really good job to help me make up some places."
John Sears, Team Manager
"It was a decent result in the Sprint Race but quite a few problems in the Feature"
"The pitstops today were great. Both were good in the Feature but unfortunately they couldn't make up any places with where we were on track"
"The start was an issue of the Anti Stall kicking in, which put us right on the back foot."
Sprint race results
Pos A1 Team Driver Laps Time Gap First
1 IRELAND Adam CARROLL 15 19:40.271 -
2 SWITZERLAND Neel JANI 15 19:41.759 1.488
3 NETHERLANDS Robert DOORNBOS 15 19:43.830 3.559
4 FRANCE Loic DUVAL 15 19:48.865 8.594
5 NEW ZEALAND Chris VAN DER DRIFT 15 19:51.937 11.666
6 PORTUGAL Filipe ALBUQUERQUE 15 19:52.936 12.665
7 ITALY Edoardo PISCOPO 15 19:55.230 14.959
8 MALAYSIA Fairuz FAUZY 15 19:56.068 15.797
9 INDIA Narain KARTHIKEYAN 15 20:01.244 20.973
10 SOUTH AFRICA Adrian ZAUGG 15 20:02.301 22.03
11 MONACO Clivio PICCIONE 15 20:04.552 24.281
12 USA Marco ANDRETTI 15 20:10.836 30.565
13 GREAT BRITAIN Daniel CLARKE 15 20:11.276 31.005
14 INDONESIA Satrio HERMANTO 15 20:12.632 32.361
15 BRAZIL Felipe GUIMARAES 15 20:13.405 33.134
16 MEXICO Salvador DURAN 15 20:20.872 40.601
17 CHINA Congfu CHENG 11 15:13.744 4 Laps
18 LEBANON Daniel MORAD 8 11:30.701 7 Laps
19 AUSTRALIA John MARTIN 5 06:55.050 10 Laps
Fastest lap: A1 Team Switzerland set the fastest lap (1m15.021s) of the Sprint race with a speed of 159.4 kph on lap 10.
Feature race results
Pos Team Driver Laps Time Gap First
1 SWITZERLAND Neel JANI 50 1:06:19.574 -
2 IRELAND Adam CARROLL 50 1:06:20.621 1.047
3 PORTUGAL Filipe ALBUQUERQUE 50 1:06:21.953 2.379
4 AUSTRALIA John MARTIN 50 1:06:30.167 10.593
5 NETHERLANDS Robert DOORNBOS 50 1:06:33.976 14.402
6 FRANCE Loic DUVAL 50 1:06:36.997 17.423
7 INDIA Narain KARTHIKEYAN 50 1:06:39.789 20.215
8 USA Marco ANDRETTI 50 1:06:40.373 20.799
9 ITALY Edoardo PISCOPO 50 1:06:42.730 23.156
10 SOUTH AFRICA Adrian ZAUGG 50 1:06:42.921 23.347
11 MALAYSIA Fairuz FAUZY 50 1:06:46.406 26.832
12 BRAZIL Felipe GUIMARAES 49 1:06:32.238 1 Lap
13 GREAT BRITAIN Daniel CLARKE 49 1:06:32.633 1 Lap
14 NEW ZEALAND Chris VAN DER DRIFT 49 1:06:43.944 1 Lap
15 CHINA Congfu CHENG 49 1:06:45.245 1 Lap
16 MEXICO Salvador DURAN 43 0:58:11.542 7 Laps
17 INDONESIA Satrio HERMANTO 42 0:57:36.757 8 Laps
18 MONACO Clivio PICCIONE 33 0:46:53.801 17 Laps
19 LEBANON Daniel MORAD 1 0:01:45.294 49 Laps
Fastest lap: A1 Team Portugal set the fastest lap (1m14.898s) of the Feature race with a speed of 159.6 kph on lap 30.
2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport points standings
Pos A1 Team Points
1 Ireland 65
2 Switzerland 52
3 Portugal 49
4 France 41
5 Netherlands 38
6 New Zealand 35
7 Malaysia 30
8 Australia 30
9 USA 19
10 Great Britain 16
11 South Africa 16
12 Monaco 9
13 Italy 8
14 India 5
15 Brazil 4
16 Korea 4
17 China 4
18 Lebanon 3
19 Indonesia 0
20 Mexico 0
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