23 November 2008
Sepang: Jani becomes latest winner.
Neel Jani became the fifth different race winner this season as A1 Team Switzerland took victory in a dramatic sprint race at the Sepang - with Jani continuing his strong run of form at the Malaysian circuit.
After an accident caused the race to be stopped, the Swiss driver controlled the re-start and made a slick pit-stop to take a comfortable win in the hot and humid conditions. France's Loic Duval finished second ahead of a charging Earl Bamber for A1 Team New Zealand.
As the cars came in formation towards the rolling start, an incident involving USA, Brazil and India brought out the red flag. The pack appeared to pick up pace as it approached the start line, but then backed off causing a concertina effect towards the back of the field, with Marco Andretti and Felipe Guimaraes both going over the back of Narain Karthikeyan.
After a 30-minute delay the cars lined up in single file to start behind the Safety Car, but Danny Watts was now in trouble having to crawl back to the pits as the Great Britain car was stuck in first gear.
With the race finally underway, Switzerland held the lead as the pack came round for a cautious single file race start. Further down the field, David Garza was under pressure losing out to Dutch driver Jeroen Bleekemolen, who grabbed seventh round the outside of the Mexican at turn nine.
South Africa then made a move down the inside of the final hairpin to pass Mexico and as the pair both ran wide, home nation Malaysia was right in the thick of the action, as Fairuz Fauzy snatched eighth going through on the inside of both cars. South Africa tried to fight back and as the pair went wheel-to-wheel they touched with Malaysia picking up a left rear puncture. Fauzy limped back to the pits much to the disappointment of the Malaysian crowd.
After three laps the order at the front settled with Switzerland having a 2.3-second lead from France, New Zealand, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Netherlands and South Africa. With changes to the regulations this season, the cars headed towards their first ever mandatory Sprint race pit stop with France and New Zealand being the first to dive in.
France had a slower stop, and New Zealand's Earl Bamber was released alongside France. With New Zealand's nose being just ahead France was forced to ease off allowing Bamber to take the position as the pair exited the pit lane. However, the team made the call to give the position back to France to avoid any further penalty for what could be deemed to be an unsafe release.
A lap later Jani pitted and, after a slick stop by the Swiss crew, rejoined with a comfortable lead. A great stop from the Irish team also leap-frogged Adam Carroll ahead of Italy and into fifth. On lap seven the order was Switzerland still up at the front from New Zealand, France, Portugal, Ireland, Netherlands, Italy and Australia.
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