Having established itself as the team to beat in the opening 'half' of the fourth A1 Grand Prix campaign, Team Ireland underlined its superiority at Taupo by winning the first sprint race of 2009.
Adam Carroll converted one of his two New Zealand pole positions into victory to extend the Irish team's advantage at the head of the standings after seeing off reigning champion Switzerland, which saw Neel Jani claim a valuable second spot. Team Netherlands' Robert Doornbos finished third, ahead of France's Loïc Duval and local favourite Chris van der Drift.
Carroll made the perfect getaway to lead into turn one and make an early break as Doornbos overcame his concerns about the start to slot into second. The top five held station in grid order, but Team New Zealand made a slow start, and Great Britain, Brazil, USA and Monaco all lost time on the first lap.
A slick stop from the Irish pit crew helped Carroll retain his advantage after the vivid green machine became the first to make its mandatory stop, while some fantastic work from the Swiss team saw Jani – who showed few ill-effects of his recent fever – emerge right on the tail of the Irish car.
“I am a hundred per cent fit now, but obviously I feel the fact that I didn't do anything for the last twelve days,” the erstwhile Champ Car driver admitted.
Doornbos stayed out an extra lap before pitting, but a slow getaway cost vital time and dropped the IndyCar aspirant to third. After making a good start, Portugal also lost out in the pit-stops, dropping down to seventh after looking good for a possible podium finish.
With five laps to go, Jani increased the pressure on Team Ireland, but Carroll produced another faultless drive to withstand the attention and take a third victory of the season.
“It was a great race,” Carroll admitted, “I am very, very happy as it is a hard little circuit and easy to make mistakes. If you push hard, miss your braking or go wide, it is really dirty off line. You have to work hard all the time.”
While disappointed at not being able to unseat Carroll from top spot, Jani admitted that he was satisfied with second place after being able to vault ahead of Doornbos during the pit-stop window.