Michael Ammerm?ller finally got 2006/07 A1GP champions Germany's challenge back on-track in the new campaign at Zhuhai, by registering his country's tenth success in the nation vs nation series - and his first at only the third time of asking.

The GP2 refugee had begun the sprint race from pole position, and held onto his nerve throughout 13 pressure-filled laps to take the chequered flag six tenths of a second clear of current championship leaders Switzerland. In so doing, he more than made up for a trying debut weekend in the series in Malaysia three weeks ago, when he was penalised in one race and excluded from the other for what was deemed to have been 'avoidable contact' with fellow competitors.

The 21-year-old very nearly made it up onto the podium again in the longer feature outing later in the afternoon, but having started from the third row of the grid this time, a coming-together with Loic Duval in the French car into turn one forced the German entry off into the gravel and left its driver battling against bent steering from thereon in.

Down in ninth place at the end of the opening lap, a subsequent squeeze from CongFu Cheng put Ammerm?ller briefly off the track again, but thanks to a perfectly-developed strategy from the David Sears Motorsport-run outfit and two quick and efficient pit-stops, he was able to climb back up to fourth place at the close, less than a second shy of reaching the rostrum again despite encountering gearbox issues late on.

"My first win in A1GP feels really sweet," he commented afterwards. "Now a difficult year has come to a good end - after all, it's my first win in 2007. The sprint race was good and the car was simply excellent. Neel Jani had about the same speed but he couldn't pass me.

"In the feature race my start was ok, but I got pushed off the track twice in the course of the race. Already after the lap one incident, my steering was slightly bent. I had to cope with it whilst the David Sears Motorsport crew did an excellent job, both in terms of strategy and the actual pit-stops which were great.

"I was in fourth place and I tried to attack Adrian Zaugg from South Africa, but in the last few laps the gearbox wouldn't change from second to third gear properly so I had to activate the paddles twice to engage the correct gear. Nonetheless, my second A1GP weekend was good when compared to the disappointment at Sepang last time. I hope we can fight for the top positions again next time."

The 23 points garnered by Ammerm?ller over the course of the meeting were enough to hoist Germany up from eleventh position into eighth in the nations' title chase, and team principal Willi Weber was confident the strong form displayed in China could now be maintained season-long.

"I'm very happy," he enthused. "Michael has broken his duck and won his first A1GP race with us. His career is back on-track and he scored his first personal win of the season. I rate him as a highly talented guy who has deserved his chance in international motorsport - that's why he will continue to race for A1 Team Germany.

"It would have been great to score another podium finish in the feature race after his win in the sprint, but he was prevented from doing so. The incidents cost him several positions, and the gearbox gremlins didn't help his cause either.

"He kept calm and judged his chances realistically; he didn't provoke any unnecessary risks. His time will come, and if he can have an incident-free race next time he will be right up there with the top contenders again."

 

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