Switzerland need to register just two points more than chief title rivals New Zealand in order to wrap up the 2007/08 A1GP laurels ahead of the season finale at Brands Hatch next month, after Neel Jani produced another imperious performance to lead from lights-to-flag in the Shanghai sprint race.

The 24-year-old never put a foot wrong as he converted his pole position into an unchallenged victory in the Chinese city - his fourth success of the current campaign. By dint of taking fastest lap too, and with Jonny Reid failing to score, he has also put his country within touching distance of the crown.

Having stormed to the top spot in qualifying by the best part of half a second, Jani went on to pull out a daunting two second lead within three laps of the race having got underway. He would take the chequered flag almost five seconds ahead of Canada's Robert Wickens, the Toronto native making his final appearance of the season this weekend.

Wickens narrowly held off front row starter Filipe Albuquerque to seal the runner-up spot, with his Portuguese rival again turning heads as he secured his second rostrum finish in just three meetings in the nation vs nation series. Indeed, the 23-year-old only missed out on second place after an error early on allowed Wickens past, and though he put pressure on the Maple Leaf car throughout the race, no similar mistakes were forthcoming.

Malaysia's Alex Yoong made a superb start to shoot up the order from seventh to fourth, and he would remain there for the duration, coming home just under a second ahead of fellow former grand prix ace Narain Karthikeyan in the Indian machine. Karthikeyan in turn successfully fended off German Michael Ammerm?ller, South Africa's Adrian Zaugg and Edoardo Piscopo for Italy in sixth, seventh and eighth places respectively.

Home hero CongFu Cheng was another to make a scintillating getaway when the lights went out, gaining a staggering five places from his lowly 15th grid slot. Though the 23-year-old looked like finding a way past Robbie Kerr in the race's closing laps too, he was ultimately forced to settle for tenth behind the Briton and with it the final championship point.

Reid, meanwhile, clashed with Jonathan Summerton at the rolling start, after the pair had lined up alongside each other on the third row of the grid. The contact sent Black Beauty into a spin and out of contention, whilst Summerton - who injured his hand when his steering wheel kicked back in the impact - was able to limp back to the pit-lane in the 'We The People' car, where he too was forced into an early bath. Amazingly the rest of the field managed to avoid the incident.

"It's a great start to the day," enthused Jani, who now intends to put the destiny of the crown beyond all doubt in the longer, 70-minute feature outing. "I hope I can do it again in the second race, and if we are lucky we can even get the championship.

"I tried to quickly get some distance between me and the other guys behind so I would have a calm race. I still had to push to try and get the quickest lap, though; Robert [Wickens] had it once off me so I had to push again, and I had to fight a little bit with the car. We can still improve it and hopefully be even quicker. I hope Jonathan [Summerton] is ok and can come back for the second race."

"I think being on the inside at the rolling start here is a big benefit, because it's such a long corner," added Wickens, who has almost single-handedly vaulted Canada up the pecking order in his 13 race starts this season. "I got a good reaction time to when Neel decided to go and I had a little bit of luck when Portugal got on the limiter a little bit, so it think I lucked out ok and I was just happy to make it to the first corner.

"From there I just settled in and attempted to keep up with the Switzerland car, but we still have a lot of work to do to the Canadian car. I think we have a tough race ahead of us for the feature, but I think it's possible to make it back on the podium."

"I made a mistake at the start that cost me a lot," rued Albuquerque, who nevertheless secured his second rostrum finish from just three events in the World Cup of Motorsport. "I fell back into fifth place and then had to fight with Karthikeyan.

"I was able to be third at least, and then I was trying to push Robert to get second but it's very hard to overtake here. He was getting the team instructions when I was using the 'push-to-pass', so I was not able to catch him on the straight. Third place is still good, though, and I'm pleased to be on the podium but just not as I wanted."

To see the sprint race results in full, click here



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