After 37 races without success, inaugural A1GP champions France finally broke their victory hoodoo Down Under in Eastern Creek - round six of ten in the 2007/08 World Cup of Motorsport campaign - and with it took a share of the championship lead.

Lo?c Duval produced an imperious performance in the sprint outing, mastering the tricky conditions brought on by a sudden and violent mid-race downpour to lead from lights-to-flag. The 25-year-old converted pole position into his maiden nation vs nation series triumph, taking the chequered flag some nine seconds clear of his nearest rival, New Zealand's Jonny Reid.

Unfortunately, any hopes les bleus may have had of a double celebration went out of the window before the longer feature race had even got underway, as clutch failure left Duval to start from the rear of the grid in what was quite possibly his last A1GP meeting. Though he would fight his way back up into the points again, his progress was stopped dead with eleven laps left to run by an electrical glitch induced by the wet weather.

"I really wanted to leave Sydney with at least one victory," he reflected afterwards, "and I did! It's a good morale-booster for the whole team. We'd felt this result was coming for several races now, but we never managed to nail it until today.

"My retirement in the feature event was a bit disappointing, but we did our very best and there's nothing to be ashamed of. This weekend we were on the pace yet again and didn't make any mistakes. We're level-pegging with our direct rival; now we've got four meetings left to get in front - and stay there!"

Indeed, France now lies equal on points with New Zealand at the head of the title chase as it bids to regain the crown it claimed with relative ease two years ago, though the Kiwis hold the edge having won more races this season. With Durban next up for round seven in three weeks' time, sporting director Olivier Panis is confident the battle for honours is very much game-on.

"We almost accomplished our mission for the weekend," the former Monaco Grand Prix winner stated, "as we're now dead-heating in terms of points with New Zealand at the top of the classification.

"Our retirement in the feature race - our first since the start of the season - is very frustrating, though. We'd be the new leaders had we crossed the finishing line, but that's racing and we've got nothing to be ashamed of. The team did a great job over the weekend, reacting in the right fashion to the changing conditions. Bravo to everybody!"



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