29 April 2009
Clarke out to continue British rule at Brands.
Great Britain's Brands Hatch grand prix circuit once again plays host to the final round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, the venue having been a fixture on the schedule since it hosted the inaugural A1GP races in September 2005, but home success may not be so easy to come by this time around.
A1 Team Great Britain boasts one of the best 'home' records in A1GP history, with Robbie Kerr celebrating sprint race victories at Brands in both 2007 and 2008. On both occasions, the popular British ace also came close to adding feature race wins, collecting runner-up slots as the passionate home fans were denied by sterling winning efforts from Germany's Nico Hulkenberg and India's Narain Karthikeyan respectively.
While Britain leads the way with four straight top three finishes at Brands, a total of eleven other countries have enjoyed a trip to the podium there, with Brazil the only team to have swept both top spots after current Renault F1 pilot Nelson Piquet Jr claimed the races that marked the opening of A1GP's first season. Germany and Italy join Brazil in making two podium appearances, while Australia, France, India, Ireland, Mexico, New Zealand, reigning champions Switzerland and the USA will all be looking to improve on solitary visits this weekend.
With its financial problems now taking centre stage, Team Great Britain may not be in position to challenge at the front this season, but that won't prevent Dan Clarke from attempting to fly the flag for his country on home soil. The A1GP finale will be the 25-year old's first return to Brands since he triumphed in the prestigious Formula Ford Festival in 2004, having spent the intervening years racing in British F3 and the US-based Champ Car World Series.
The weekend will also be only Clarke's third A1GP outing, following starts in New Zealand and Portugal earlier in the year, and he will be looking to improve on the seventh place finish he achieved in the Algarve feature.
“I've had quite a lot of success at Brands Hatch previously, so I'm looking forward to going back there to compete,” he reflected, “I'm feeling very positive heading there, not least since we've had a bit of time since the last race to prepare for this one. I'm still relatively inexperienced with the A1GP car, but we made progress in Portugal and scored - which was a decent result. I've been working with the team closely over the past few days and I think a podium is a reasonable target if all our efforts pay off!
“This weekend is obviously the first time that this generation of A1GP car has run at Brands Hatch, so it's a fairly clean sheet, but I'm racing against drivers with a lot more track time behind the wheel of this car. I know the layout well though and I love the high-speed corners, in particular Paddock Hill, which is a great place for spectators to watch from. With the high loads, the feature race will be relatively physical, and there are some similarities with the track we raced on in Portugal earlier this month.”
While unable to previously experience the famed, almost partisan, atmosphere that invades Brands Hatch when A1GP comes to town, Clarke is hoping the home support will further aid A1 Team Great Britain's on-track efforts come race day.
“Unfortunately, my race commitments in the United States have prevented me from attending the A1GP events at Brands, but I've certainly heard plenty about how vocal the crowd gets for the British team," he noted, "It adds another element to the weekend being the British driver in the British car at the British race and that's what's great about being in A1GP.
"I'm anticipating a lot of crowd support, it brings with it a certain degree of expectation, but I have to concentrate on my own programme and understanding of the car. However, if all goes well, I don't think a podium is out of the question.”
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