Lo?c Duval became his nation's hero in the Eastern Creek sprint outing in Australia today, by finally ending France's 37-race losing streak in A1GP - stretching all the way back to the start of 2006 - with a magnificent win in the wet to propel les bleus to the top of the series' standings.

The 25-year-old thoroughly dominated the 14-lap race from pole position, mastering the difficult conditions as the predicted rainfall arrived right on cue and ultimately taking the chequered flag a mammoth nine seconds clear of the chasing pack, led by former championship leader New Zealand's Jonny Reid and Canada's Robert Wickens.

What's more, the triumph marked the former F3 Euroseries ace's maiden success in the World Cup of Motorsport, on his 21st - and, he hinted, penultimate - start in the category, and afterwards he was clearly overwhelmed by the result.

"It feels great," Duval enthused. "We've been running behind for a long time so it's really good for us to win this race, and the team did a great job - it was perfect and we needed it. It was important for us to win a race and this may be my last weekend in A1GP, so I'm really happy to leave the series with a victory.

"It was really hard in the rain, but because of our pace in the dry conditions I had a really good gap so we were not really worried about the other guys. We were just trying to stay on the track and not take any risks."

Behind the wheel of Black Beauty, Jonny Reid - whose Taupo performance two weeks ago had seen New Zealand enter the meeting atop the nations' standings - snatched second place off erstwhile championship leader Switzerland's Neel Jani with a superb move on lap nine to seal the runner-up spot from fourth on the grid, and with it keep the Kiwi entry well in the title chase. Jani would spin off later in the race, throwing away valuable championship points into the bargain.

"We had to fight for it a little bit," admitted Reid, who will begin the longer, 70-minute feature event from the top spot on the grid. "It was a good battle with Neel and once I got in front I gradually pulled away and started concentrating on Lo?c, but he was doing a good job in tricky conditions and I didn't want to take any risks and compromise the championship.

"Pole for the feature race is a good position to start from, but as we've seen before a million times it's tricky. We've got a lot of competition out there and everyone's in the hunt. We can really do a good job, but it's going to be interesting to see what the weather does."

Following Jani's indiscretion, Wickens moved up into third place from all the way down in 15th on the grid, and it was a position the impressive rookie would hold to the line to cement the second successive podium finish in his fledgling A1GP career, having taken the runner-up spot in the Taupo feature race last time out.

"It was a great drive," the 18-year-old Toronto native acknowledged after picking up ten more points for his country courtesy of an incredible performance. "We were struggling a little bit with the pace in the dry and we were just running in 13th or 14th. I think I had more trust in the car early on in the race, and I actually made the majority of my passes when it was at the intermediate stage.

"A lot of drivers were staying on the dry line and I was one of the first ones to go on the wet line. If it rains in the feature race we can just hope for the best and try to score some more points."

Germany's Michael Ammerm?ller crossed the line fourth from seventh on the grid to maintain the defending champions' late title charge, closely followed by USA's Jonathan Summerton in fifth, the team's best finish so far during the 2007/08 campaign.

John Martin for host nation A1 Team Australia, meanwhile, gave the home fans something to cheer about by pushing hard throughout the race and improving three places from his starting position to start to take the chequered flag in sixth, ahead of South Africa's Adrian Zaugg and Brazilian Sergio Jimenez.

The Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen finished the incident-packed race ninth, while Jani took the final point on offer in tenth after running wide with just two laps to go.

There was similar misfortune for Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, whose race engineer James Goodfield had struggled from his hospital bed to stand on the pit wall with his broken leg in a plaster cast following the pit-stop practice incident on Friday. The High Wycombe ace got a great start from eighth on the grid but lost time when the team decided to stop for wet tyres on lap eight, eventually taking the flag a disappointing 16th.

To see the sprint race results in full, click here



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