Though he may insist he is not thinking about the championship, Adrian Zaugg's stunning triumph in the feature race at Eastern Creek last weekend has nevertheless re-affirmed South Africa's belief that it is right in the mix for this year's A1GP crown.

Zaugg finished seventh in the earlier sprint outing Down Under after starting third on the grid, rising up to second past Switzerland's Neel Jani and then spinning on slick tyres when the rain began to fall, falling back down as far as twelfth. He rapidly made amends in the longer feature event, faultlessly dominating proceedings to such an extent that he held a lead of almost 20 seconds over Jani at the chequered flag as the downpour continued.

From sixth on the grid, the former GP2 ace made an excellent start aboard the distinctly-liveried Vulindlela to immediately seize third place, and nicked second from Great Britain's Robbie Kerr as the drivers struggled to find grip in the treacherous conditions. He assumed the lead on lap eight and would never again relinquish it.

"We were quite strong even in the sprint race in the damp conditions," the 21-year-old remarked afterwards, "but I threw that away. I thought we would be strong in the feature, though.

"I just tried to get the maximum out of the car. I didn't want to take a big unnecessary risk to get past Neel, but the team made a great call on pit strategy to leave me out on-track when he went in. I knew I was faster than Neel and we got ahead. It was one of my best races."

Zaugg's second victory of the 2007/08 campaign - to add to that which he had registered in the season curtain-raiser at Zandvoort - allied to fastest lap has helped to hoist South Africa up past Germany into fourth spot in the nations' standings, just 17 points adrift of joint pace-setters New Zealand and France. And all this for a country that finished a lowly 17th and 14th respectively over the first two campaigns of the nation vs nation series.

Despite his mature performance, however, Swiss-domiciled Zaugg was keen to play down expectations ahead of the team's home round in Durban in just over a fortnight's time.

"I'm really not thinking about the championship," he stressed. "I'm taking this season race-by-race and not thinking about the title yet. Our goal is just to try and win as many races as possible, and I will look at the championship at the end of the season.

"It's a great motivation for the team, though, and I hope all the South Africans come and cheer for us at Durban. We are definitely not out of it."

Zaugg's impressive showing also drew praise from A1GP commentator and former grand prix winner John Watson, with the Irishman describing his feature race effort as "a drive of absolute class under the most difficult of conditions".

 

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