13 April 2009
Clarke scores first points for GBR.
Team Great Britain recovered from a tough start to the Portimao A1GP weekend as Dan Clarke scored his first points for his country in a typically exciting encounter on the new Autodromo Internacional do Algarve to provide a morale boost for an operation that went into administration last month.
The former Champ Car driver had been playing catch up following technical issues on Friday which left him with precious little running, and Saturday's qualifying session had subsequently resulted in 13th place on the grid for the sprint race and 16th for the feature. The first race of the weekend offered little respite either, with Clarke making up one position by the end of the opening lap, but losing it again in the restart melee following an early safety car.
He pitted as soon as the window opened and, after each of the teams had made their mandatory stops, was up again, lying twelfth. However, any thoughts of further progressed were banished when the red flag was flown for a multi-car accident, halting the race early, with the GBR car still outside the points.
“I didn't capitalise on the start as much as I could have, but I managed to stay out of trouble and turn some consistent laps, learn more about the car and bring it home ready for the feature race,” Clarke commented.
Further drama marked the start of the main race, and came on the warm-up lap with the Netherlands' Robert Doornbos pulling off with an electrical fire. Despite gaining one position as a result of the Dutchman's misfortune, Clarke did not make the best of starts, but still improved to 14th by the end of the opening lap. Over the next few laps, he kept moving forward, and was up to eleventh when the first pit window opened.
The British team opted to stay out on track while the leaders pitted, with Clarke taking his mandatory stop a few laps later. With a quick tyre change from his crew, he maintained his position as the race reached half-distance and then moved steadily forward through the second part, finally taking the chequered flag in seventh place.
“I'm pleased that we scored points today," he concluded, "If I'd been told on Friday that we'd finish seventh, I wouldn't have believed it, so we managed to turn it around today.
"All the changes we made kept improving the car and I was learning and using it as a test session as well as a race, so it's been very productive. We've definitely made progress which will help towards the Brands Hatch event, which is at a circuit I know well. As a home race, I want to do well in front of the fans and I think we now have a good foundation for this.”
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