A1GP » 22 February 2009
Bleekemolen ends Netherlands victory drought in Kyalami
Jeroen Bleekemolen sealed his nation's first victory in some 45 races in the sprint outing at Kyalami in South Africa this weekend, producing a faultless performance to prevail by just over four seconds from Portugal's Filipe Albuquerque, with a delayed Neel Jani coming in third for defending champions Switzerland.
From pole position, Bleekemolen made a clean getaway from the standing start to lead the chasing pack into turn one for the first time. Jani similarly had a great start from third to snatch second position away from Albuquerque, whilst behind the leaders India's Narain Karthikeyan moved up from fifth to fourth.
The former Jordan Grand Prix ace was not able to hold onto his position for long, however, as an aggressive move by feature race pole star Clivio Piccione pushed Monaco past and up into fourth. With championship leader, Ireland's Adam Carroll, also sensing an opportunity to get ahead only a few corners later, Karthikeyan suddenly found himself relegated to sixth.
Further down the order, China's Ho Pin Tung and New Zealand's Earl Bamber were enjoying a good battle for eleventh, with a lap three effort from the former looking to have got the job done, only for Pin Tung to out-brake himself again and allow 'Black Beauty' to re-take the position.
Malaysia's Fairuz Fauzy moved up ahead of France's Nicolas Prost for eighth, whilst Bleekemolen was storming away at the front, having established a substantial 4.6-second lead over Switzerland by only lap four. Behind the top two, Portugal led Monaco, Ireland, India, South Africa, Malaysia, France and Italy as the pit window opened.
The Netherlands and Switzerland were first to blink, with the following three runners all staying out on-track for an extra lap. Bleekemolen had a smooth stop, but Jani lost time having to get away slowly to manoeuvre around Malaysia's car, which had pitted just in front.
Albuquerque came in a lap later still for Portugal, in the process reclaiming second place from Switzerland, with Bleekemolen now having extended his advantage to a dominant 6.4 seconds. With the race's only mandatory stop completed by all, Portugal led the chase from Switzerland, Monaco, Ireland, India, South Africa, New Zealand, Malaysia and France.
A1 Team Australia's superb pit work boosted John Martin six places up the field to his eventual finishing position of twelfth, whilst fellow Antipodeans Team New Zealand also gained three spots during the pit visits, vaulting Earl Bamber up into points contention.
Albuquerque, meanwhile, was on a charge, setting the fastest lap of the race on lap nine to narrowly close down the gap, but there was worse news for Great Britain's Danny Watts and Brazil's Felipe Guimares, who came together whilst fighting over 15th position. The pair touched heading into turn one, with Watts' car spinning into the gravel and out the race.
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