Round five of the 2008-09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport got underway in Gauteng with A1 Team Lebanon enjoying a rare moment in the limelight, as Daniel Morad posted the best time of the day.

A1 Team France set the early pace, with Nicolas Prost making the most of being able to run in the rookie session, before Morad posted a 1min 30.816secs lap to end the day quickest overall in the hot Kyalami sunshine.

Some 16 years after his father won at the same venue, Prost was the first to turn a wheel. The 27-year old was the first to go faster than the lap record set by Mauro Baldi in a Ferrari 333SP in 1998, and over three seconds quicker than the time - a 1min 36.390secs - set by Nigel Mansell in an 'old' F1 car in 1993.

The second car out on track was A1 Team Germany, getting its first running of the season with Michael Ammerm?ller behind the wheel, but it was Prost who ended the rookie session quickest with a time of 1min 33.149secs.

"The track is very nice," the Frenchman said, "It's pretty hilly and it's a bit old-style, which is nice, with quick corners. It's going to be tough with a lot of competition here but, in the rookie session, the car was very good. We made a few bad changes let's say, and I was not that good, but I'm sure it will be okay tomorrow."

Reigning champion Switzerland was first out on track in the final practice of the day, but it was Lebanon's Morad who emerged quickest, recording a lap 0.496secs faster than anyone else in the final minutes of the session.

"We seemed to get on the pace pretty quickly and it was fine," Morad commented, "We kind of put a lot of thought into this one, just to see how quick we can get off the start and it was good. The thing I could really feel in the car was that the tyres are a lot better. I think, when we were running in Malaysia, the track felt really greasy and the tyres weren't giving that much grip in the hot conditions, but, in the cooler conditions, it seems to be quite good."

Commenting on what preparation he had done before arriving in South Africa, the Canadian-based driver admitted that, other than learning the way the corners went, he had not been able to do much.

"I have been playing on my own simulator," he revealed, "I built a simulator up at home, but it's not that accurate because I went ten seconds slower here. I knew the direction of the track though, and I knew it was going to be challenging because of the elevation. I have to say that I really like this circuit. It reminds me of one back home in Canada. That is also an old F1 circuit like this, so a lot of the features are the same and I really like it."

Local driver Adrian Zaugg ended the day sixth fastest with a time of 1min 31.881secs.

"I went out at first, and just felt how the car was, and checked some things as I do usually," he noted, "Once I got a good feel for the car, I just improved some things. At the end, I was just kind of building up once things moved in the direction I wanted, so I started to push a bit more to see what lap times I could do.

"It's a great circuit for me. It's one of the best circuits I have ever raced on so far. We have blind corners here - fast sweeping corners and then slow corners. In fact, they change with each and every lap because everyone was short cutting and throwing gravel, so each lap was quite different. It was great fun driving on this circuit."

Zaugg said that he was in favour of A1GP moving from Durban to Gauteng for season four, even if he had enjoyed the city experience.

"I actually enjoyed Durban a lot - there were obviously some unpleasant memories with the last race I had there, but I have always liked street circuits," he commented, "But this circuit, I would say, is even more challenging than Durban was. Even though there are no walls here, I think it's difficult and is an old-school circuit with plenty of run-off. It's a real proper circuit."

Five cars did not make it onto the track for the two sessions due to a technical issue beyond the teams' control. With Kyalami sitting 2000-feet above sea level, A1GP has had to introduce new parts to the cars' fuel systems to combat the high altitude. Unfortunately, the additional parts were not available to be fitted in time to the Brazilian, Chinese, British, American and Mexican cars, although equivalent running time will be allocated to those teams on Saturday morning.

A1 Team Pakistan will still not be competing in Kyalami. The team's entry to season four has been delayed so the first time its seat holder, Adam Khan, was able to drive the new Ferrari-built car was at a test earlier this week at South Africa's Phakisa Freeway circuit. The team was happy with the test, but Khan will now concentrate on preparing for the remainder of season four, season five and his role with the ING Renault F1 team.

Also missing from Kyalami is A1 Team Korea, whose operation is being restructured. The team has, however, announced a new driver in 2008 Macau Grand Prix support race winner Kyoung-Woo Lee, who is in Kyalami to see the series at close quarters.

Some teams loved it and some teams hated it, but the PowerBoost 'joker' has been reinstated for Saturday qualifying. The functionality of the new A1GP car allows for the 60bhp of 'boost' to be available for an entire lap of qualifying, and teams will be allowed to use it for one of their four flying laps.

As in Taupo, the Sprint race in South Africa will have a standing and not a rolling start after a great deal of consideration was given to the change implemented in New Zealand. Both these changes will remain a feature for the rest of season four.



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