A1GP 2008/09: Neel Jani Equals "The Hulk's" Winning Record

Talvir SinghCorrespondent IMarch 23, 2009

I would first like to apologise for not writing any articles for a long time. My University work has swamped me down and I haven't had a chance. I know this happened nearly a month ago now but here is an A1GP article for Gauteng, South Africa.

The sunny, picturesque scene of the Gauteng circuit in Kyamlami, South Africa, saw Team Switzerland's Neel Jani take the championship lead away from Adam Carroll and Team Ireland, and equal Nico Hulkenburg's record number of wins for a driver in an A1GP career. Team France still hold the record of most wins with 15.

The Swiss driver carried on his fun of form from the last round at Taupo, New Zealand, by recording another Feature win and securing a third place in the Sprint race.

However, the Sprint race saw a different team take the winning honours, as it was Team Netherlands, who haven't won a race since Beijing in the second season, who took victory.

Jeroen Bleekomolen piloted his A1GP powered by Ferrari car superbly, and was completely untouchable, as he was just over 4.5secs clear of Team Portugal in second, demonstrating his dominance.

There was plenty of drama to accompany this race as Team China tried to get passed the New Zealand car of Earl Bamber, who fought to hold onto the last point scoring position.

China's Ho-Pin Tung threw everything he had at Bamber, and even got passed him twice, on laps four and five, but overshot it both times and ran wide, and from then couldn't get passed.

There was also some pit drama for Switzerland, as they could have finished second, but Team Malaysia got in their way in the pits, and he got leapfrogged by Team Portugal, after just managing to creep by the Malaysian car.

Team Great Britain's Danny Watts had more bad luck this time around by swiping the Brazilian car on the start/finish straight, and beaching his car on the gravel. He also picked up suspension and front wing damage.

When the chequerd flag was waved after lap 14 and Team Netherland's Jeroen Bleekomolen picked up the victory, with Portugal and Switzerland rounding out the podium.

Team Ireland, who qualified sixth, fought his way all through the race, to pick off Monaco's Clivio Piccione on the final lap to get fourth place, with India, South Africa and New Zealand rounding out the points finishers.

This was only a glimpse of the excitement from the weekend of racing, with the Feature race providing excellent racing and some controversy.

This was the moment when Neel Jani would show his experience as an A1GP driver, and take the championship lead from Team Ireland.

When it comes down to it, raw pace isn't the only factor that determines a race victory, its also about being cautious and waiting for the right moment, which is exactly what Jani did to secure himself his ninth A1GP career victory.

Team Monaco were very quick in qualifying, as Clivio Piccione put himself right at the front of the grid to give himself Monaco's first pole of the season.

As the race started, Piccione got off to a brilliant start, with Teams Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, and Switzerland going four abreast into the first corner.

Team Switzerland were the winners in that tussle as the experienced Jani guided his A1GP powered by Ferrari car passed the others into second, with Australia's John Martin being forced onto the grass behind Malaysia and New Zealand.

There was also trouble for championship contenders Team Portugal, who stalled on the grid, ending up at the very back, fighting his way through the pack from then on.

However, Team Ireland, who already suffered some bad luck in the Sprint race with only a fourth place under their belt, were the first victims of the race, with Team Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy bumping into the back of Adam Carroll, after he tried to shut the door on Fauzy, causing him to spin.

This put Carroll in the gravel and out of the race, giving championship contenders Switzerland and Portugal a chance to close the gap as much as possible.

There was more damage to be done by Team Malaysia as four laps later, after a tussle for third place, Earl Bamber was next into the gravel, putting Team New Zealand out of the race.

Teams Australia and Brazil picked up the pieces from that battle as they moved into fourth and fifth.

Teams France and Mexico also had a coming together on the same corner in the same lap, putting Mexico out of the race, and leaving France to try and recover themselves.

Fairuz Fauzy was to have more bad luck as he spun his car and ended up going into the pits for a long stop, placing him further down the pack.

Team Australia, who were looking to get themselves a podium finish after getting themselves up into third, and catching Neel Jani, had an incident in the pits, with Team Germany blocking their way out, causing the engine to stall.

John Martin and Team Australia's chances of a podium finish went up in flames along with the engine, giving Brazil a chance at scoring themselves their first podium finish since the first season.

However, Team Monaco were out in front and dominating, with Clivio Piccione clearly showing himself to be the dominant driver in the Feature race, after building up a 2.8secs lead over Team Switzerland.

This was all to change in the first round of pits stops as the Monaco pit crew put in a slow stop on Piccione's car, giving Switzerland the chance to leapfrog Monaco on their first stop, giving Neel Jani the lead.

Team Brazil were also looking exceptionally good as Felipe Guimares was quickly catching Piccione, and soon the 17-year-old took second place.

From then on, Team Switzerland dominated, as Neel Jani's experience once again showed through, as he drove quickly, but sensibly, giving himself an unchallenged lead over Team Brazil.

Towards the end of the race, the Team Brazil garage had worried looks on their faces as they were facing a fuel pressure problem on the car, causing Guimares to be cautious over the last two laps.

Out in front there were no problems for Neel Jani as he saw the chequered flag to give himself his ninth victory in his A1GP career, demonstrating his immense abilities as an A1GP driver, and giving Team Switzerland a three point advantage over Team Ireland.

Team Brazil managed to finish second despite the fuel pressure problems, and an ecstatic Emerson Fittipaldi waved his young driver home, with Clivio Piccione following closely behind to record Team Monaco's best result to date with a third place.

Team Netherlands, who had a quiet race, finished fourth, with Team Portugal quietly battling their way up to finish fifth.

My driver the day however was Team Lebanon's Daniel Morad, who was quickest in practice, had bad luck in qualifying, but drove fearlessly to give Lebanon their best result of sixth.

Teams Great Britain, USA, Indonesia, and Italy rounded out the rest of the points finishers, with Team Malaysia obtaining a bonus for a fastest lap of 1:28.306 secs.

With two rounds to go, there are only nine points separating the top three, with Team Netherlands only eight points behind them, potentially making it a four way battle to the end.