Lo?c Duval may have been left well down the starting grid for the two A1GP races in Durban this weekend, but the Frenchman has insisted only a fool would count him out of the battle for podium places as France continues its title push.

The 25-year-old had only arrived at the challenging South African street circuit shortly before Saturday morning's final practice session after flying in specially from Japan, but if he was suffering from any jet lag it failed to show as he was immediately on the pace, lapping third-quickest.

His subsequent qualifying efforts, however, would be badly hampered by flags, as a red flag ended his run in the first segment and a yellow one cost him three seconds in the next, leaving him down in a distant and entirely unrepresentative 17th place on the grid for the shorter sprint race, when passing will be very much at a premium. To make matters worse, he had just set the fastest time of anyone in the first sector when the yellow came out.

An early run in Q3 and Q4 followed in a bid to avoid traffic, but Duval still only succeeded in setting the eighth-best time, from where he will begin the longer feature outing. Though he acknowledges the sprint will necessarily be very much a case of damage limitation from where he is starting the race, in the feature, the man from Chartres makes clear, he will be gunning for glory.

"I have to say I'm very disappointed," admitted Duval, who has notched up six rostrum finishes including one victory from France's third World Cup of Motorsport campaign so far, as the nation aims to repeat its season one triumph. "My performance in the morning showed that we could expect to be at the front in qualifying.

"I lifted off as soon as I saw the yellow flags in the second segment, but some of my rivals did not and they were not penalised, so I'm starting from 17th place in the sprint race. Then I got to grips with the car's handling on new tyres and went out early. I finished up eighth which is not ideal, but the car is so quick that I reckon a podium finish is on the cards in the feature race."

"The day got off to a great start," reflected sporting director and former Monaco Grand Prix winner Olivier Panis, "and even though Lo?c only arrived in the morning, he was on the pace right away.

"Unfortunately, he was unable to capitalise on his speed in qualifying for the sprint race as two flags in succession effectively scuppered his runs. It's very annoying as he set the quickest times in the first and third sectors. Tomorrow, we've got no choice but to adopt a very aggressive strategy for both races to score the maximum number of points and limit the damage."

 

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