The A1GP sprint race at Parque Fundidora in Monterrey Mexico was won by promoted pole sitter, ALEXANDRE PREMAT (Team France), who led every lap. It was the twelfth A1GP victory for Team France, current points' leader.

"I'm really pleased with the win, but the car was really difficult to drive," he said. "There was a lot of understeer and I will have to speak to the engineers to see what we can do for the feature race. It will be important to get a good start here as it is difficult to overtake. We'll see what happens."

Closest points contender, Team Switzerland, started, ran and finished second. This will be the last A1GP race weekend for NEEL JANI as he is now the Friday driver for the new Formula One team, Scuderia Toro Rosso. ENRICO TOCCACELO (Team Italy) moved up from fourth to third by lap two where he remained and finished.

But the sprint race was anything but a Sunday drive in the park. And it was not without its drama.

Shortly after the rolling start, the action began. RALPH FIRMAN (Team Ireland) was hit from behind and spun into SALVADOR DURAN (Team Mexico). Debris was scattered and immediately the Safety Car was dispatched, but no one pitted except ALVARO PARENTE (Team Portugal), who was having mechanical problems.

That ended that race for both teams, whose cars had to wait until the end of the race to be towed in. That meant very little time for repairs before the feature race.

During that same initial caution, HAYANARI SHIMODA (Team Japan) accelerated to close a gap and rear-ended MATT HALLIDAY (Team New Zealand), who had front-braked. This launched Shimoda into a 2+ gainer, executing a fine barrel roll down the track, followed by a spin into the wall. Had there been score cards, he might have gotten several eights and nines.

The in car camera footage was amazing. The driver was OK. The car was not, and Shimoda, stunt driver that he seems to be, took an early retirement for the rest of race day. As the teams have only one chassis each, it will be a thrash for the team, skilled as they are becoming with crash repair, to get the car repaired in time for the next race in less than a fortnight.

"After this and the crash I had in Australia it really shows how strong the A1 cars are," Shimoda said.

Another crash on Lap 12, this time between fierce points contenders, Team Brazil and Team Great Britain, during an overtaking attempt by ROBBIE KERR (Team Great Britain). Kerr put a wheel to CHRISTIAN FITTIPALDI (Team Brazil) and they did a pas de deux, narrowly avoiding traffic.

Fittipaldi suffered front wing damage and dropped back, later suffering gearbox and brake problems to finished fourteenth. Kerr fell back for a while with body work and oil radiator damage but moved up to finish eleventh. Great Britain's Team Principal, JOHN SURTEES, characterised the incident as "minor."

There were other incidents involving wheels and contacts, but seemingly of lesser consequence.

JOS VERSTAPPEN (Team Netherlands) started seventh and finished fourth, turning the fastest time of 1:21.583 on the last lap. It was one of six fast laps Verstappen set.

BRYAN HERTA (Team USA) started fifth and got up to fourth at one point and finished sixth after a fierce race. He turned three fastest race laps during the fast-moving race.

Young GRAHAM RAHAL (Team Lebanon), new kid on the block, started sixteenth, ran higher and finished thirteenth.

All cars finishing the race - 16 of the 22 starters - were on the lead lap. On lap Six, he set a fastest race lap.

In the morning warm-up, it was a popular finish to the 15-minute session when Duran pulled off a fast lap in the final tension-filled moments. Prior to Duran taking the chequered flag, several other teams occupied the top spot, in rapid succession.

PETER RICHES, A1GP Technical Director said the technical infringement which penalised pole sitting Team South Africa was that it closed up a gap in its body work. The team had previously been asked to remove the covering tape.

Fastest qualifier, STEPHEN SIMPSON had to start third for the sprint race. The other penalised team, Brazil took the rear anti-roll bar was removed. It can be disconnected, but not removed. Fittipaldi had to move back from ninth to eleventh position on the starting grid.

This weekend marked the fiftieth different driver in the series. You decide if it's PATRICK CARPENTIER (Team Canada) or GRAHAM RAHAL (Team Lebanon), both new to the series this weekend, who impressed the most.

I vote for the latter, as he signed on after Carpentier, who was announced more than a month ago he would compete in the two North American rounds. Rahal will do all the remaining races and hopes to compete next season also.

 

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