Inaugural A1GP champions Team France have launched their bid to reclaim their crown in fine fashion, with Loic Duval featuring well up the order in qualifying ahead of the opening round of the 2007/08 season at Zandvoort.

The 25-year-old will begin the sprint race from the front row of the grid alongside pole-sitter Adrian Zaugg, and backed that strong performance up with a solid fifth for the longer feature outing. With les bleus having failed to win so much as a single race throughout a disappointing sophomore campaign, the objective right from the off this time around is clear - victory.

"The qualifying result isn't too bad," Duval mused afterwards, "but overall we were hoping for more. We were always on the pace during free practice and we felt confident going into qualifying.

"In the first session I set the fastest time, as the car was perfectly adapted to the damp conditions. In the second, on the other hand, I made a mistake in a quick corner; I clipped the white line and went off. Even so, South Africa's time would have been difficult to beat.

"In the third part we set an average time. We went out with the right tyre pressures for wet conditions but they were too high when the track began to dry, so we wore our tyres too much. We then re-adjusted the car's set-up to overcome understeer. Its handling got better but there was still room for improvement.

"Our chances in the races look good. For the first one I'm starting from second place in a rolling start in a race without refuelling. I'm a bit too far back in the second but again it's a rolling start, and there are two refuelling stops so anything can happen.

"It's a championship and the essential thing is to score points in every race, but I'll be in there fighting for victory if the opportunity presents itself. We're going out there to win."

Team manager Eric Boullier was equally assertive and echoed his driver's positive sentiments, adamant that France was back on the leading pace once again following a lacklustre 2006/07.

"The first day has been pretty positive for A1 Team France," he underlined. "We had a good free practice session and then our car was competitive in qualifying one and two in the rain. We're up there with the best as proved by Loic's second place.

"When the track began to dry out for sessions three and four the car wasn't quick enough - our technical choice didn't pay off. Nonetheless, we're optimistic for Sunday and we reckon we'll be able to fight for victory in both races."



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