Jonny Reid has given himself a mountain to climb in today's A1GP sprint race in Mexico City, after struggling to a lowly 14th place on the starting grid, the first time 'Black Beauty' has been off the front two rows all season.

The frustration was all the more acute given the fact championship leader and key rival Germany will line up second in the hands of rookie Christian Vietoris, and the fact Reid had been right at the sharp end of proceedings all the way through practice. When it came to the all-important qualifying hour though, the 23-year-old was all at sea, only once making it into the top ten in the four 15-minute sessions.

The Super Nova-run outfit's engineering director David Sears described the result as "hugely disappointing", but remained adamant his young charge possessed the ability to make up ground come the races.

"We obviously went in the wrong direction in terms of setting up the car," he explained, "and the frenetic nature of qualifying meant we didn't have the time to rectify the situation. Given the talent in the team we can still retrieve something out of this round, but it's going to take a lot of hard work."

Team spokesman Bob McMurray added the squad had now been forced into a position of having to protect its runner-up spot in the championship from a resurgent French onslaught, rather than take the fight to Germany for outright honours. The Kiwis currently trail the series leader by 30 points with 54 still up for grabs. France is a further 12 in arrears.

"We would much rather have been attacking Germany and looking to cut into their lead," he stated, "but now it's a case of ensuring we don't let France wrest our second position away from us."



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