ALEXANDRE PREMAT (Team France) did a double Sunday at Parque Fundidora in Monterrey Mexico when he won the A1GP feature race, after winning the earlier sprint race.

He also produced the fastest lap, to garner the maximum number of available points for the weekend, placing France 32 points ahead of closest competitor, Team Switzerland, which finished second in the race.

"I'm so happy with today's results," he said, "it was fantastic to win in front of so many of our supporters here from the French community based in Monterrey."

Hard charging JOS VERSTAPPEN (Team Netherlands) finished second, without using his PowerBoost. When asked why, he said "It didn't make much difference here. The straight is very short and it is best to concentrate on the first corner rather than looking for the PowerBoost button."

NEEL JANI (Team Switzerland) finished third, his last race with the series before moving to Formula One and his first race in Bahrain.

The feature race had its usual standing start which went off without a hitch. Almost immediately, Premat pitted for his mandatory pit stop, relinquishing the lead to second starter, Jani. As drivers took pit stops, the lead changed - three more times before Premat regained it on lap eleven and then it was his to lose - and he didn't. The other leaders were Verstappen, TOMAS ENGE (Team Czech Republic) and BRYAN HERTA (Team USA).

While Premat was running his own race, there were battles going on in his wake. Jani, TIMO SCHEIDER (Team Germany) and ENRICO TOCCACELO (Team Italy) were heavy into it, all going for third. But, despite all their racing, they remained in their same third, fourth and fifth place positions for the last 26 laps.

Behind the first group was more competition, with ROBBIE KERR (Team Great Britain), TOMAS ENGE (Team Czech Republic), MATT HALLIDAY (Team New Zealand) and PATRICK FRIESACHER (Team Austria), and they finished in that order. This puts Great Britain three points ahead of Brazil going into the California round.

A1GP has PowerBoost, a concept similar to the 'Push To Pass' in Champ Cars. The drivers have a steering wheel accelerator button which can be used to jack up the speed with a temporary 300 hp acceleration. The driver has to keep the button pushed for the increased power. The drivers are allowed four boosts in the sprint race and an additional eight for the feature race.

There is no cheating on the usage as the button deactivates after allotments are effected. After the race, Zytek engineers reset the system.

Eager to regain its third place in the points standing ahead of rival Team Great Britain, CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Team Brazil) jumped the start and was given a drive through penalty.

PATRICK CARPENTIER (Team Canada) had a problematic pit stop. First with a speeding ticket after he pushed the wrong button and accelerated instead of slowing for his pit stop and then with a stuck right wheel lug nut. These cost him a lap in the race, and he finished fifteenth.

Carpentier was one of two newcomers to the series this weekend. The other was GRAHAM RAHAL (Team Lebanon), teenage son of BOBBY RAHAL. The youngest driver of the weekend finished fourteenth. Now he moves onto the next round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where he has prior experience.

Rahal raced there last fall in the Star Mazda race, finishing on the podium. And it's not like his dad can't give him some pointers. Bobby Rahal has raced there so many times he has a corner named after him.

Premat's fastest of the 13 fast laps was 1:21.000 set on Lap 17 of the 36-lap race. He turned eight of the fastest laps and this was the Team's fourth fastest race lap this season. Herta was the second fastest driver with a 1:21.193 on Lap 15.

As for time, pit stops for the teams who only had one stop were good for Australia, Netherlands and New Zealand - all who had the lowest elapsed time of 0.49 seconds. Pit stops are mandatory in the A1GP Feature Races.

The race had but one caution during the 36-lap race. ANANDA MIKOLA (Team Indonesia) put a pass on CHRISTIAN JONES (Team Australia), going very wide in to the grass, coming back to T-bone Jones, strewing debris on the track. Thus ended the day for the second-generation Aussie driver. Mikola limped to the pits for a quick nose job and finished the race, one lap down.

There were 21 starters for the Feature race, as HAYANARI SHIMODA (Team Japan) crashed out in the earlier sprint race in a spectacular barrel roll down the front straight. He was unhurt but his day ended early.

Fourteen of the eighteen finishers were on the lead lap. SALVADOR DURAN (Team Mexico) joined the race four laps late, as it was still repairing crash damage from the Sprint race. Alas for the home town crowd, Duran could only complete six laps before receiving the mechanical black flag and retiring with mechanical problems.

Sunday's victory marked the thirteenth A1GP win for France, which runs two drivers - Premat and NICOLAS LAPIERRE, who is the nominated driver for the next round. Premat said he didn't mind turning over the wheel to his teammate for the next race in the United States, and he was complimentary of Lapierre.

"I was the first to pit during the race and my teammate Nicolas Lapierre even helped change my tyres," Premat said. "He replaced one of our mechanics, who hurt his hand yesterday.

He was also confident about handing over the car to Lapierre as the team goes for championship glory at Laguna Seca. "I don't mind really. I think he will do a good job, and I think we could win both races."

No team has scored points in all 18 races so far this season, but France has proven that consistency counts, scoring in 17 of the 18 races.

Remarking about his A1 career, Jani said "In the beginning it is no different, it is like racing for yourself. But after a while you get more into it, and realize you are driving for Switzerland. You start to have a really national feeling, with all the support and ambassadors visiting.

"It gives you a special feeling to be driving for your country. I've had a really nice time driving in A1 Grand Prix and I've managed to get lots of podiums. As they say in German, one eye is crying and the other is laughing. I'm sad to leave but looking forward to my next challenge."

ADRIAN FERNANDEZ of Mexico started the A1GP feature race Sunday - literally. He told the drivers to make their nations proud and gave the command to start their engines.

The penultimate round of A1GP will be held at the other Monterey, in California, at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Many of the A1GP team members, drives and media are looking forward to the famed road course.

One said for him it was a pilgrimage, just so he could stand at The Corkscrew. And just to reassure everyone, there are no changes being made to the Corkscrew during the current track remodeling, which will include track resurfacing after the A1 race.

 

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