Jeroen Bleekemolen and Arie Luyendyk Jr will defend Dutch honour in the forthcoming A1 Grand Prix campaign, having been unveiled as the team's driving strength for 2007-08.

Bleekemolen will be the senior partner, entering his third A1GP season and his second as confirmed race driver. The 25-year old driver is considered as one of the Netherlands' most complete pilots having turned his hand to a range of categories, including the DTM, FIA GT and Le Mans Series in addition to A1GP in recent years, and showed his single-seater potential in last year's World Cup of Motorsport, where he replaced Jos Verstappen on the eve of the opening round at Zandvoort.

"It is an honour to be able to compete for your country and I am very pleased that Jan [Lammers] really wants to continue with me after one season," Bleekemolen admitted, "This way, the team shows its confidence in me and that is a good feeling.

"Last year, I learned very much and now we have to use this to our advantage. Last season, we won, but we also dropped points. I was not able to do the tests and it had been a long time since I last drove in a formula car. Now we can prepare ourselves in a good way and create a stronger starting position."

With erstwhile reserve Renger van der Zande and others now too experienced for the second 'seat', the Dutch team has called on another famous name to act as back-up to Bleekemolen in 2007-08, with Arie Luyendyk Jr donning the orange overalls to contest each weekend's rookie practice sessions.

The 25-year old has made his name in the USA following father Arie Sr's decision to pursue a career in Champ Car and Indycars, but has found himself without a regular ride in the Indy Pro Series this year.

"I am very excited," Luyendyk confessed, "I feel a sense of pride knowing I can represent Holland as one of their drivers. Jan and my father have been friends since they raced together in Holland, so it will be great to work with Jan, who I respect greatly as a driver. After following the series the last few years, I can't wait to jump in the car. The schedule this year is great and I'm looking forward to driving on new tracks and seeing new places."

Luyendyk has already had a brief outing in the A1GP car, having completed a demonstration run at Vudel Vol Gas last month.

"I jumped at the opportunity and had a blast at the event," he revealed, "Fitting my 6'2" body into the car was a little difficult, but I loved the paddle shifting and I think it will be a great car to drive on a circuit. The car seems to have the same amount of power and the same downforce level of the series I raced in the United States."

A1 Team Netherlands finished fifth in the 2006-07 World Cup of Motorsport, showing race-winning potential with victory on the streets of Beijing and a number of top five finishes. Seat holder Lammers is confident that he and his team have made the right choice in terms of the line-up this season, but admitted that it had been a tough decision.

"There are a lot of good Dutch drivers, but you have to disappoint most of them," he admitted, "The lead driver was easier, because Jeroen represented the Netherlands very well last season and deserves to get a shot at the title this season, but the rookie seat was more difficult.

"Renger van der Zande, Yelmer Buurman and a number of others were serious candidates, but they are already too far into their careers to make do with the Friday - seat but not yet far enough to get the most out of the lead seat. However, Arie Jr can capitalise on the rookie position and give his career a new boost, just like Jeroen was able to do. Apart from this, of course, is the dream scenario of indirectly dealing with Arie Sr and Michael Bleekemolen. Young talent surrounded by a world of know-how and experience is a recipe for top results."

The new line-up will make its race debut at the opening round of the season, again at Zandvoort, on the weekend of 30 September, but the official team presentation will take place on 9 August, where the new car livery - the result of a world-wide competition which attracted more than 1000 entries - will also be revealed. The new-look car will then take to the track at the 12 August Rizla Racing Days at Assen and the Bavaria City Racing festival in Rotterdam a week later, before the serious business of pre-season testing gets underway at Silverstone on 28-29 August and 18-19 September.

 

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