A1 Team Ireland was on sensational form in Mexico City, winning a thrilling A1 Grand Prix feature race from Great Britain and USA to become the 15th nation to win a race in the series.

It was timely result for Adam Carroll who, still in his debut season with the team, managed to top the podium just a day before Ireland celebrates St Patrick's Day. Meanwhile, the top three championship contenders - Switzerland, New Zealand and France - all endured difficult afternoons and failed to score any points between them.

A green flag signalled the start of an action-packed 47 laps, run in hot and sunny conditions, after the first start was aborted due to technical problems with the starting lights.

Carroll, who topped the timesheets in free practice on Friday, started the race from fifth, but leapt up to second behind Switzerland's Neel Jani after amazing work from the Irish team during the first compulsory pit-stop on lap nine. He held position until lap 34, when he pitted the emerald green car for the second time and rejoined the action as race leader after another sensational stop. The crowds roared as the 25-year old, who was making his 14th race appearance in A1GP, crossed the line to take his and the team's first ever series victory.

"It's been three long years for the team," he reflected, "but I think everybody saw our true potential this weekend - especially with the guys in the pit-stops. We knew they were capable of doing those times and, today, they pulled it off and it won us the race. I'd just like to say thanks to everybody, we've put in so much effort and this is for everybody who has believed in A1 Team Ireland. Hopefully, this is just the start and we will finish the year extremely strongly and try to come back and win the championship next year."

Ireland's victory comes on the back of a couple of disappointing rounds where, after Carroll's arrival appeared to have turned around the team's fortunes, the green machine struggled to score points and eventually had to change chassis. The driver admits that it had been tough, but suggested that the team had gone into the Mexican rounds with a new attitude.

"We tried to relax and just go racing and have a bit of fun," he revealed, "We still put in the hard work, but I think everyone was just a bit more relaxed and we were able to show our true potential. We knew the guys could do it and they did. Hopefully, this is the first of many as it's just fantastic. I had champagne in my trophy and I don't think the celebrating will stop tonight. It will probably finish sometime tomorrow afternoon, so I just hope everybody makes the flight!"

Team GBR's Oliver Jarvis put in a brilliant performance to race from fourth on the grid to finish second, notching up a double podium on his final outing for the British team this season. As well as picking up more valuable championship points, 2007 Mexico race winner Jarvis also scored a bonus point for setting the fastest lap of the race and his haul moves GBR up to fourth in the title table, behind France.

"Mexico has been a fantastic place for me - I've had four great results here," he confirmed, "We really wanted the win today but, unfortunately, Ireland just did a fantastic job, a whole team effort. But we are happy to go away with two seconds. It's some strong points and we will look forward to going into the last two races."

The USA's Jonathan Summerton scored his country's best ever result in Mexico City last year, when he finished second in the feature race, and was once again on superb form at a circuit he clearly enjoys, charging through the field from seventh on the grid to finish third and take the final podium position ahead of the Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen.

"It was very similar to last year, as we had a very quick car at the end and I was really happy with it the whole race," he revealed, "At first, we had a little bit of a problem, but we managed to change a bit of the set-up through the tyres and then we just kept chasing people down as quickly as possible. I'm happy with third. I was trying my best [for better], but it didn't happen."

Pole-sitter Robert Wickens got a good start for Team Canada, but lost the lead to Switzerland on lap six and fell down to third during the first round of pit-stops. By lap 31, Wickens was running in fifth place as both GBR and USA managed to overtake the 19-year old, who had been battling with an over-heating car and clutch problems from lap one. The Canadian, who said this was the hardest race he has ever driven, went on to cross the line in fifth position.

Having snuck through and taken the lead from Wickens on lap six, Neel Jani dominated the action until lap 34, when he came in for his second compulsory pit-stop at the same time as Ireland. After another stunning pit-stop from the Irish crew, Carroll took the lead, while Jani was then hit with a drive-through penalty for an unsafe release from his stop, demoting the Swiss star to 19th at the chequered flag.

New Zealand's Jonny Reid, who was running in seventh for the first half of the race, ran wide at the chicane on lap 25 and brought out the safety car, allowing the pack to bunch up behind then leader Switzerland. Reid, who had won the earlier sprint race, rejoined the action in 18th ahead of Mexico and finally crossed the line twelfth.

Home nation Mexico saw David Garza lead the race for two laps during the second round of pit-stops, and the Atlantic Series racer went on to score his country's best ever result at home, making up eight places from the back of the grid to cross the line 14th.

Switzerland leaves Mexico on 128 points, 15 ahead of New Zealand on 113, while France, who failed to pick up any points at all this weekend, remains on 108. Eight nations, including feature race winner Ireland, are still mathematically in with a chance of winning the championship as the series returns to China for the penultimate round in Shanghai on 11-13 April.

 

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