Having established itself as the team to beat in the opening 'half' of the fourth A1 Grand Prix campaign, Team Ireland underlined its superiority at Taupo by winning the first sprint race of 2009.

Adam Carroll converted one of his two New Zealand pole positions into victory to extend the Irish team's advantage at the head of the standings after seeing off reigning champion Switzerland, which saw Neel Jani claim a valuable second spot. Team Netherlands' Robert Doornbos finished third, ahead of France's Lo?c Duval and local favourite Chris van der Drift.

Carroll made the perfect getaway to lead into turn one and make an early break as Doornbos overcame his concerns about the start to slot into second. The top five held station in grid order, but Team New Zealand made a slow start, and Great Britain, Brazil, USA and Monaco all lost time on the first lap.

A slick stop from the Irish pit crew helped Carroll retain his advantage after the vivid green machine became the first to make its mandatory stop, while some fantastic work from the Swiss team saw Jani - who showed few ill-effects of his recent fever - emerge right on the tail of the Irish car.

"I am a hundred per cent fit now, but obviously I feel the fact that I didn't do anything for the last twelve days," the erstwhile Champ Car driver admitted.

Doornbos stayed out an extra lap before pitting, but a slow getaway cost vital time and dropped the IndyCar aspirant to third. After making a good start, Portugal also lost out in the pit-stops, dropping down to seventh after looking good for a possible podium finish.

With five laps to go, Jani increased the pressure on Team Ireland, but Carroll produced another faultless drive to withstand the attention and take a third victory of the season.

"It was a great race," Carroll admitted, "I am very, very happy as it is a hard little circuit and easy to make mistakes. If you push hard, miss your braking or go wide, it is really dirty off line. You have to work hard all the time."

While disappointed at not being able to unseat Carroll from top spot, Jani admitted that he was satisfied with second place after being able to vault ahead of Doornbos during the pit-stop window.

"I had to work to get to second, but I think the big job was done by my pit crew this time," he conceded, "That second place definitely is thanks to them. I couldn't really get into the pits very well because Adam was sitting there, so I was not well-placed, but they still managed to do a good stop and got me up to second. Once I was behind Adam, I could keep up with his pace but it was very hard to follow him as he was kicking up some dust."

Doornbos, naturally, was less happy, having seen second on the grid slip to third on race day, and blamed his pit-lane speed limiter for the loss of position to Jani and Switzerland.

"The team told me [Carroll] had the advantage to pit one lap earlier, so I had to really push, but I was going well," he reflected, "However, when I was on the in-lap, the pit limiter just dropped me down to 20 instead of 60. The pit stop went okay I think, but then as I went to pull away we had the same glitch with the software that went into anti-stall, and just would not get first gear. The seconds felt like minutes and I think I lost four or five crucial seconds."

Doornbos enjoyed a comfortable gap back to fourth-placed Duval who, in turn, was a couple of seconds clear of van der Drift, who had made amends for his slow start to climb up to fifth, just ahead of Portugal's Filipe Abuquerque, who dived past Italy's Edoardo Piscope in the late stages to claim sixth.

Fairuz Fauzy, Narain Karthikeyan and Adrian Zaugg rounded out the top ten for Malaysia, India and South Africa respectively, with Monaco, the USA and Great Britain all paying the price for their early losses.

Australia's John Martin had looked on course for a decent result, having made up a position at the start, but clipped a tyre barrier heavily after his pit-stop, damaging a wishbone and forcing an early retirement. He was joined on the sidelines by both Lebanon and China, neither of whom went the full 15 laps.



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