Narain Karthikeyan showed blistering pace on his first outing in an A1 Grand Prix as he made his debut for Team India at Taupo Motorsport Park in New Zealand.

The WilliamsF1 test driver finished the opening day of the sixth round in second spot overall, just 0.055secs behind fastest man Tomas Enge, after only 54 laps of running at the revamped circuit. After struggling to make an impact on the series with less experienced drivers, the performance marked a sharp upturn in Indian fortunes, and Karthikeyan insisted that there could be more to come.

"The A1GP car requires a completely different driving style to an F1 car - the gearbox, the braking, the tyres, it's all very different to F1, so it's like going into a completely different category," he said of his first day in the Lola chassis, "I suppose today was a good start, but I've only had two sessions in the car, and there is still a lot to do. We'll have to see what changes we can make. I think the team is doing a good job, there's no doubt about that, the car was not that far off really. It would be great to get into the points and give India a head start."

However, despite finishing in the top three throughout the day - twice in the 'rookie-only' sessions and then in free practice with A1GP regulars - the former British F3 champion remains cautious about predicting too much for the weekend.

"I think a podium is asking too much really," he admitted, "Most people here have done a season, or a season-and-a-half, and it's quite a lot to ask to come into your first race and finish on the podium. The important thing is not to get carried away. We still have a lot to do, [but] if I can help send the team in the right direction, it will be a good start."

As if to emphasise the amount of catching up he has to do, Karthikeyan had a couple of off-track excursions after setting the time which put him at the top of the order early in the final session.

"When you have such a limited amount of time to get used to the track and the car, you have to learn as much as possible, very quickly, which means pushing the car to the limit and possibly going over it," he explained, "I went off a couple of times, but it was only minor and there was no damage to the car."

 

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