NICO HULKENBERG of A1GP Team Germany won the first feature A1GP race of the 2006-2007 season Sunday at Zandvoort in front of an estimated 75,000 crowd. It was the first victory for Team Germany in the year-old A1GP Series. The Margin of Victory was seven seconds ahead of runner-up PHIL GIEBLER of Team USA, the first podium for the team.

Third place was RYAN BRISCOE/Team Australia. Fourth and fifth were JEROEN BLEEKEMOLEN Team Netherlands and SALVADOR DURAN/Team Mexico.

The starting grid was set by the finish of the half-hour sprint race, which had a rolling start - a first for some of the drivers.

Bleekemolen was done in by tyre strategy. He was leading while running rain tyres but faded as the track dried after the mid-race shower. Giebler did an opposite gamble, running the entire race on slicks, braving the rain in the middle of the race, working his way up from fourteenth to take the lead. As he stayed out on used up tyres, Hulkenberg utilized his fresher tyres and took the lead. Giebler finished second.

Bleekemolen joined Team Netherlands this week after a public and stormy break-up within the team involving Team Owner JAN LAMMERS, last year's driver, JOS VERSTAPPEN, and Verstappen's HUUB ROTHENGATTER. Three days before the race Lammers went public with his resignation from the team over payments, reportedly not yet received for the new season, and only received the previous week for the first season. In turn, Lammers lambasted Verstappen and Rothengatter in the press, saying they only cared about money. Lammers told Autosport that: "There are people who are willing to do this for free and are even willing to sweep the dunes for this opportunity. A lot of people are very surprised about why he does not want to be here."

It was a war of words. Rothengatter shot back with: "Basically, when people don't pay the bill, there's not much you can do, is there."

Despite the home team acrimony, the fans turned out in droves and almost saw a Dutch driver on the podium. Lammers said: "What you still can't avoid is the whole situation surrounding Jos. I have seen a lot of reactions that hurt me. Jos has driven with us for a year and we have some points for discussion, but we must not forget that he is the most successful racing driver ever in the Netherlands and he has given us great moments. We must not forget this in the heat of the moment. The fact that we were not able to come to a conclusion and are now verbally fighting like a pair of alley cats - that is business. We did not come together on this one. That's very bad, but we are looking at the future. I am glad that Jeroen is doing well."

Bleekemolen, 19, led much of the race, but was done in by a gamble on tyre change and fell back. On the last lap he was passed by Briscoe and finished fourth.

Pole sitter ADRIAN ZAUGG/Team South Africa turned the fastest race lap of the weekend, earning a bonus point 1:29.125/186.9 kph/116.134 mph turned on Lap seven of the sprint race, which he won from the pole. Small consolation after he crashed out on the first lap of the feature race. Zaugg collided with DARREN MANNING/Team Great Britain in Turn Two, lost his front wing and beached in the gravel trap.

Zaugg started the Sprint Race first after fastest qualifier, SEBASTIEN BUEMI/Team Switzerland had his time disallowed after his car was found to have run without only one rear anti-rear roll bar canister instead of the required two.

Team South Africa made some changes over the off season. The driver line-up again includes last year's A1GP Most Improved Driver, STEPHEN SIMPSON, joined by a Red Bull Junior Team driver, Zaugg.

It now has DAMS of France preparing the car. Last season DAMS prepared Team France, which won the Championship.

One of the two 2006 A1GP Championship-winning drivers, NICOLAS LAPIERRE of France, retired from the feature, after starting third. He led much of the race

Team Lebanon has a three-driver line-up this season, including teenage American phenomena GRAHAM RAHAL. Team Lebanon brought three drivers for the weekend, KHALIL BESCHIR, ALEX KHATEEB, and BASIL SHAABAN, who practiced and raced in the sprint and feature races, finishing twenty-first in the feature.

Rahal, who has contracted to run eight races with Team Lebanon, was in Carmel CA at the wedding of his father, BOBBY RAHAL. Young Rahal will be at the next race in Brno. Rahal is expected to race in Champ Car for 2007, among other options open to him. Khateeb was brought on this season as a Rookie, eligible for the new Rookie practice session, only for drivers under 25 years old.

Team India has returned to the series after missing the last three races of the first season due to financial and management difficulties. It has a new seat-holder, YOHANN SETNA, and brought on Arena Motorsports of England to run the car. The team kept 17-year old ARMAAN EBRAHIM, and after resolving his visa issues in London earlier in the week, he raced and finished eighteenth in the feature.

Briscoe will miss the next round. After the race, Briscoe left for Sydney. He's racing with JIM RICHARDS in the factory Holden Commodore at Mount Panorama in the annual Bathurst 1000 endurance race this coming weekend. It will be Briscoe's Bathurst debut, the most famous of Aussie races. He is a Rookie in the V8 Super Cars and had the provisional pole at the recent Sandown race.

TONY TEXEIRA, A1GP Deputy Chairman, estimated the weekend's crowd at 114,000 people. Lammers said: "Many have heard me say for a long time that A1 is the best thing that ever happened to racing. It's a completely new angle. When you witness how this enthusiasm is sealed and how the Dutch public is honouring A1 with their presence, with 35,000 people on a Friday, there are no words to describe this. Everyone knows this is an all time record for both Zandvoort and A1, but this is almost a record for any racing class and any circuit. It does not matter if you are talking about Champcars, IRL or Formula 1, 35,000 on a Friday is complete madness."

SHEIKH MAKTOUM HASHER MAKTOUM AL MAKTOUM, Chairman and Founder of A1GP, has agreed to release his stake in the series he conceived. He had already stepped back after last season. The Sheikh said: "I am happy that I have built the series with fans in mind. I feel like I have fulfilled my promise to them by bringing A1GP from concept to reality and am confident that the World Cup of Motorsport will go from strength to strength."

Texeira, the first investor and partner in the series said: "Without the benefit of Sheikh Maktoum's vision and financial support, A1GP would not be as strong as it is today." Texeira expects that the "all cash transaction will complete within thirty days" at which time the Sheikh will step down as Chairman and Director of A1GP. The plan is broaden the institutional shareholder base, leading to a planned initial public offering.

There are 13 races in the 2006-2007 schedule, with one in North America - Mexico City. There is no United States race this season.



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