Champ Car star Bruno Junqueira is ready to make his A1GP bow next weekend, when he takes the reins of the Team Brazil entry around the streets of Durban as the squad bids to defend its lap record at the tortuous South African circuit.

Though the results sheets failed to show it, Nelson Piquet Jnr was the quickest man on the track last year, and with a new paint scheme this time around the Brazilian outfit is clearly looking to hit the ground with flying colours. Thirty-year-old Junqueira will be looking to put all his experience of street racing in the States to good use as he shoulders the hopes of his home nation for the first time, and he is confident of making a strong impression.

"I originally spoke to the team at the start of this season when I was just starting to drive again after my accident," he explained. "Now I'm very happy to be joining the team and the series; it's a great feeling to be representing Brazil.

"I think the series is really good and I have some friends that race there and really enjoy it, so I can't wait to get in the car. In the US, where I've raced for many years, I race on a lot of street tracks so I am used to the kind of challenge that we will face in Durban.

"Even back when I raced in Europe in F3000 I always enjoyed the street tracks; in fact I won the Monaco race in 2000, so I am sure I will be very comfortable this weekend. Durban is a track that some of the drivers have experience of from last year, but I know Team Brazil had a strong car back then, so I am looking forward to doing well."

Team principal, multiple Formula One and Indycar champion Emerson Fittipaldi, said he was delighted to have recruited the former F3000 title-winner to the squad, and convinced he would be just the tonic Brazil needs to help it vault up the championship table from the lowly 16th spot it currently occupies.

"I am very happy that we have signed Bruno to race in Durban," the 60-year-old enthused. "He's focussed, successful, determined to do well and very experienced on street circuits because of his Champ Car career. His track record is incredible so I think he is going to be a new strength for the Brazilian team and I am very optimistic about the weekend.

"We are still providing opportunities for the young guys though, and Luiz Razia will drive in the rookie testing on Friday morning. I am very happy with the way our new engineer is working out and I am happy with Tuka (Rocha) and Raphael (Matos), but I think now we need someone experienced on this kind of circuit to see how we can run."

Reigning SudAm F3 champion Razia first represented his home country during the series' last outing at Eastern Creek in the reserve driver role. Next weekend, however, will see him driving the car for the first time in Friday morning's rookie sessions, and the 18-year-old said he was awaiting the opportunity with eager anticipation.

"I was really happy to join A1 Team Brazil in Australia for the first time," he stated. "The series is very well organised and competitive and I immediately felt at home with the people in the team. I'm very happy that I can come back to the team and take part in the Durban weekend.

"I will be getting to know the car and the track, because everything is new for me, and trying to help Bruno as much as possible. I've driven on several street tracks in Brazil, so hopefully that will help me."



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