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A1 GP - France takes double

2006-02-27 10:08

In the process, the Tricolours team increased its overall lead in the championship and its earnings to a healthy $1.8-million from nine races.

The Netherland's Jos Verstappen finished second after making up two places in the mandatory pit stop for new tyres, ahead of Switzerland's Neel Jani (making his final appearance in A1 before joining the new Scuderia Toro Rosso team in Formula One).

Germany (Timo Scheider) was fourth ahead of Italy?s Enrico Toccacelo, Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, the Czech Republic's Tomas Enge, Matt Halliday of New Zealand, Austria's Patrick Friesacher and Alvaro Parente of Portugal.

South Africa's Stephen Simpson must have felt like a heavyweight boxer who took two big blows too many. Starting from 17th on the grid after Vulindlela's electrical problems in the sprint race, Simpson was 14th when he made his pit stop and was pressuring Great Britain?s Robbie Kerr for 9th place at half distance.

Australia (Christian Jones) crashed on lap 21 and the next four laps were run behind the safety car, allowing to field to bunch up.

Top 10

Simpson was looking at a top 10 finish despite his sprint race set back, but it was not to be.

His car started to lose grip and become difficult to handle and he dropped back to 13th on lap 28. With six laps to go he was 15th and slowing with a suspected fuel pickup problem.

He finally pitted two laps from the end, the victim of the vagaries of the adrenaline game called motor racing.

"This is not how I imagined the day would end," was his post-race comment.

"Even after we had our pole position taken away from us I was confident of a good result. Everyone knew we had the fastest car and there were only two drivers in front of me.

"But it was not to be. Now we must think ahead to round 10 in the United States and put this behind us."

Team South Africa?s technical and sporting manager, Mike Carroll, who has experienced the highs and lows of top level motor racing for many years, preferred to dwell on Simpson?s brilliant practice and qualifying performances.

"Stephen has grown so much and he showed us all yesterday just how good he has become. His time will come. Disappointment and joy go hand in hand in motor sport."

Points tally

After nine rounds of 11: 1 France 153; 2 Switzerland 121; 3 Great Britain 73; 4 Brazil 70; 5 Netherlands 69; 6 New Zealand 64; 7 Malaysia 53; 8 Portugal 51; 9 Ireland 50; 10 Canada 44; 16 South Africa 20.

The "big race" disappointment for Simpson had followed another blow in qualifying.

Simpson bested championship leaders France (with Alex Premat at the wheel) to take the team?s first pole position, and was then relegated to third on the grid for a minor 'technical infringement' and then forced into the pits after nine of the sprint race's 18 laps with a sudden loss of engine power.

The post qualifying scrutineering was as a result of Team France bringing certain alleged technical infringements on Vulindlela to the notice of the scrutineers.

These included the presence of a nut securing the tail light that was deemed not to be an official Lola-supplied part (Lola are the manufacturers of the A1 chassis),

Piece of tape

In addition, a piece of tape securing a bolt to the front wing end-plate (which is acceptable) was deemed to be obscuring a wing adjustment opening (which is not acceptable).

"The tape was there as a result of our losing the front wing in Indonesia, when the bonding failed while we were lying in a good position in the sprint race," said Team South Africa's CEO Dana Cooper.

"Our car was scrutineered after the third qualifying session and was found to be within the rules. When it was again scrutineered after the fourth and final qualifying session, as a result of the other team?s complaint, it was found to be outside the rules.

"Consequently, the race stewards decided to strip us of our fourth session time - which also happened to be the pole-winning time - and this demoted to us to third on the grid behind France and Switzerland.

"We decided not to protest the decision and, while we do not accept that the supposed technical infringements were performance enhancing or outside the rules, we do accept the decision of the stewards and their authority.

"We believe that the penalty imposed on us was too severe for the nature of the alleged 'technical infringements'," said Cooper.


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