Taupo's Thrills and Spills Gives Neel Jani Feature Victory

Talvir SinghCorrespondent IFebruary 1, 2009

After their Sprint race victory one month ago in Sepang, Malaysia, Team Switzerland, kept up their good form by winning the Feature race in Taupo, New Zealand, after the Swiss driver spent ten days in a hospital bed. Team Ireland won the Sprint race.

Neel Jani drove a sensible but commanding victory, proving that he can still challenge Adam Carroll, and Team Ireland, for the right to win two consecutive championships.

They showed great promise in the Sprint race, with conditions looking dusty on track, and sunny in the sky, and Team Ireland on pole position for the third consecutive race.

Adam Carroll dominated the Sprint race, driving superbly all the way from start to finish.

The race was filled with little incidents, with a small collision between Team Brazil and Team Great Britain, with both teams coming away unscathed, but losing a couple of positions each, and retirements from Teams Australia, Lebanon and China.

Team Ireland kept up their brilliant season so far with another great victory from Adam Carroll, proving that they are sure favourites to win the championship this season.

Switzerland finished second after starting fourth on the grid, with Netherlands rounding out the podium, dropping a place from their original starting position.

France, New Zealand, Portugal, dropping down from third, Italy, and Malaysia rounded out the remaining points finishers. Great Britain finished twelfth.

With the Feature race ahead, Team Ireland looked like they were to take a double win, along with their double pole and a fastest lap in the Sprint race.

Carroll started the race smoothly, but received some pressure from Felipe Albuquerque going into turn one, with the Portuguese driver right up behind him. However it was Team Switzerland who were the winners there, gaining two places and moving around the outside of turn one to get passed Netherlands and Portugal, moving to second.

Australia's John Martin gained a couple of positions himself in turn one, moving passed Netherlands into fourth, and Robert Doornbos had an even worst time by conceding fifth to Loic Duval of France.

The first lap was very eventful with teams making great progress, and even teams lower down the field pushing forward, with Team India moving from fourteenth, up to a points scoring tenth, and would later make his way up to seventh.

Chris van Der Drift made the home crowd cringe when he received a puncture on the first lap when he came in contact with Lebanon, forcing him to pit, placing him at the very back of the field, placing the home team out of points contention.

There was further drama as Teams Monaco and Brazil collided, forcing Clivio Piccione off the track, and into the pits to replace the front wing.

Later spins by Teams Great Britain, China and Malaysia were the last of the drama to unfold on the track for some time, with the pit drama about to take place.

The second round of stops were the most crucial for the teams, especially for Ireland and Switzerland, as they both came in on the same lap.

Neel Jani had kept the pressure on Ireland, but slowly fell back, with Portugal producing the fastest lap of the race, and closing on Switzerland.

Ireland's crew made a good stop, with Adam Carroll about ready to continue his domination of the Feature race.

However as he left the pits his car went into anti-stall, and his engine cut out, allowing Neel Jani to sneak passed him in the pits.

Jani's experience of the sport showed through at this crucial part of the race, with him beginning to dominate proceedings from then on.

But then Team Monaco spun off again, and Clivio Piccione beached the Monaco car, producing a Safety Car, which allowed Ireland to close up on Switzerland.

Adam Carroll has been known for great restarts, and Team Ireland were rejoicing, knowing their driver now had a chance.

Once again however, the calm, experienced Neel Jani produced the goods when they were needed, and left Ireland in his dust.

From then, Switzerland cruised home with no problems, but with two lap to go, the team radioed Jani and told him he was losing oil, and that he must refrain from using power boosts, no matter the situation.

Neel Jani was still too quick for Ireland anyway, and he crossed the line like the champion he is to win the Feature race in Taupo, Switzerland's first of the season, with Adam Carroll of Ireland finishing in a tentative second, and Portugal with a satisfied third.

This victory was particularly special for Neel Jani, as he was in hospital for ten days shortly before the race weekend, and for Switzerland, as this victory places them second in the championship, three point ahead of Portugal, and 13 points behind Ireland.

Australia, Netherlands, France, India, USA, Italy, and South Africa rounded out the top ten and the rest of the points finishers, with Team Portugal setting the fastest lap of the race with a 1m 14.898s, giving them an extra bonus point from the weekend.