A1 Team Switzerland sets the pace in Taupo
23 January 2009 – Round four of the 2008/09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season got underway at New Zealand's Taupo Motorsport Park today with reigning champion A1 Team Switzerland setting the early pace. Alexandre Imperatori started the day as the quickest rookie, while main driver Neel Jani ended the day quickest overall.
Swiss rookie Imperatori set the pace this morning with a lap of 1 minute 18.091 seconds, helped in part to being able to run a new set of tyres. Teams use two sets of tyres carried over from the previous A1GP race in the rookie session, however, with Switzerland's first lap exit from Sepang's Feature, the team had a new set of Michelins available to him this morning, which he used to good effect.
France's Nicolas Prost was second quickest, 0.186 seconds adrift of Switzerland, with Lebanon's Daniel Morad third quickest, particularly impressive thanks to the fact his engineers had worked through the night to replace the engine on his car. Local favourite A1 Team New Zealand's Chris van der Drift had his first taste of the Taupo circuit, finishing fourth quickest in the rookie session.
There were numerous spins as the rookie drivers got to grips with the tight and dusty track, with incidents from Malaysia's Aaron Lim, Ireland's Niall Quinn, India's Parthiva Sureshwaren, Portugal's Antonio Felix da Costa and Monaco's Hubertus Bahlsen.
In the afternoon practice it was Switzerland once again at the top, this time with Neel Jani behind the wheel to record a lap time of 1m 15.971s. This was despite Jani being rushed into hospital last week with suspected meningitis, which ruined his training regime and left him feeling drained. He arrived out in Taupo several days later than normal after getting the all-clear to race.
In another action-packed session, several drivers had incidents in the hot and dusty conditions including Mexico's Salvador Duran, Great Britain's Dan Clarke, Netherland's Robert Doornbos, China's Congfu Cheng, New Zealand's Chris van der Drift, Australia's John Martin, Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy, India's Narain Karthikeyan and South Africa's Adrian Zaugg.
Daniel Morad ended the day second quickest with a 1m 16.106s, after spending the first half of the afternoon session at the top of the timesheets. In the final minutes Australia's John Martin jumped up to third with New Zealand being pushed down to sixth overall.