France may have yet to decide who will take over from Lo?c Duval for the remainder of the 2007/08 A1GP campaign, but following the 25-year-old's stunning recent run of success, whoever does get the nod will undeniably have a hard act to follow.

In his final two meetings for the national squad - at Taupo and Eastern Creek - Duval registered a brace of pole positions, victory in the sprint race Down Under and two further rostrum finishes to propel les bleus to the top of the title standings, level on points with New Zealand. With prior commitments to racing in Japan, however, the Chartres-born ace knew Eastern Creek was likely to be his last hurrah in the World Cup of Motorsport - for the time being at least.

"I signed my contract in Japan before A1GP started," he confirmed. "At the moment it looks unlikely I'll be able to do South Africa, but we'll see. The last three races I definitely cannot do.

"For sure I will be at my computer, though, checking A1GP.com and watching the races on TV. It is really important for the team and for France to win this championship."

The inaugural A1GP champions took a significant step towards regaining their crown by ending a losing streak stretching back some 37 races in Australia last weekend. The team made a major effort to get Duval to Eastern Creek in time for the latest meeting, with him only arriving at the circuit an hour before free practice began on Friday.

His sprint triumph repaid their faith in style, but team manager Eric Boullier is now resigned to looking for another driver to replace France's talisman and take up the battle for honours over the last four rounds. Former drivers Nicolas Lapierre, Alex Pr?mat, Nicolas Prost and Jonathan Cochet are all believed to be in the running for the seat.

"For Durban we have a schedule problem for Lo?c," Boullier underlined, "and we would have to fly him back from Japan overnight on Friday for him to be at the track on Saturday. That is why this is maybe too difficult.

"We will first have a look at drivers who have already driven for us in the past, but we will have to make a decision very quickly. They all have quite good experience, and we know they are all very quick. It's just a discussion we need to have inside the team, but whoever we pick will be helping us fight for this title."

Pr?mat and Lapierre triumphed 13 times between them as France crushed the opposition to lift the laurels during A1GP's maiden season from 2005-06, whilst the latter has since gone on to become his country's most capped driver in the series, with six victories, eleven podium finishes, two pole positions and four fastest laps from 23 outings.

Pr?mat, meanwhile, with seven victories from just ten starts, is France's most successful driver in the category, with his average finish the lowest in A1GP history. Prost - son of four-time Formula 1 World Champion Alain Prost - may not have begun any races in the nation vs nation series, but he acquitted himself well in the pre-season Silverstone test and rookie session at Brno, whilst Cochet is the dark horse amongst the quartet, bringing with him a wealth of experience from junior formula, including having won the French F3 title in 2000.

 

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