Jonathan Summerton made history in Shanghai as he scored both his and the USA's maiden A1GP triumph in the World Cup of Motorsport feature race, but Switzerland's Neel Jani's failure to beat New Zealand's Jonny Reid means the battle for the crown will go all the way down to the wire on British soil at Brands Hatch in three weeks' time.

Summerton's Chinese success was made all-the-more remarkable as he began the race in a good deal of pain, following his coming-together off the start-line with Reid in the earlier sprint. The steering wheel in his 'We The People' car had kicked back in the impact, and the Floridian had to be given an anti-inflammatory dressing by A1GP medical delegate, Dr Paul Trafford, to reduce bruising and swelling in his right hand.

If it hurt, though, Summerton failed to let it show, as he seized the advantage in the feature race right from the second the lights went out, as pole-sitter Jani struggled to get away from the grid. The leader continued to eke out a gap as the race progressed, with his Swiss rival gamely holding onto second place and with the championship in sight, despite grappling with the lack of second gear - the reason behind his tardy getaway.

Whilst Summerton carried on unimpeded to the chequered flag almost ten seconds to the good - making the USA the 16th nation to win in A1GP and incredibly the tenth this season in only 18 races - Jani's woes only got worse, as fifth gear decided to go the same way as second and he fell back increasingly into the clutches of Filipe Albuquerque and Adam Carroll.

Albuquerque - already buoyed by his rostrum finish in the sprint - had dropped back a position at the start from his third grid slot as Narain Karthikeyan snuck past. The 22-year-old Portuguese rookie regained the place on lap five, however, with a perfectly-judged manoeuvre, and he would go on to leapfrog the struggling Jani in the second round of pit-stops en route to the runner-up laurels.

Carroll, meanwhile, had also lost out to the flying Karthikeyan at the start, but he rocketed by along the start-finish straight on lap seven, and he too would demote Jani before the close, adding another podium finish - Ireland's third this season and fourth overall - to his Mexico City victory last time out.

Critical for Jani, however, was the moment he was also jumped by New Zealand in the second round of stops, and he would cross the line almost seven seconds behind Reid following a heroic drive that had not quite been enough to clinch the championship one round early, though the 24-year-old and his team nevertheless travel to Brands Hatch at the beginning of May needing to score just three points out of a possible 32 to seal the deal.

Formula 1 refugees Alex Yoong and Karthikeyan occupied sixth and seventh places in the final reckoning for Malaysia and India respectively, though the latter ran as high as third in the early stages of proceedings. France's Franck Montagny - on his series debut - and Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, who are also fighting for position in the championship, enjoyed several on-track battles during the 38-lap race, but eighth and ninth places as they crossed the finish line fell a long way beneath expectations for both.

Germany's Michael Ammerm?ller took the final points-paying position in tenth while home hero CongFu Cheng, who had started all the way down in 20th following a nightmare qualifying, made up five places to finish a commendable 15th in front of his partisan supporters as all 22 cars unusually took the chequered flag.

"This win is definitely going to build up team morale," enthused Summerton, who will turn 20 next week, as he paid tribute to a true 'team effort', "and we are going to carry that on to Brands Hatch. My hand only hurt when people started wanting to shake it after the race!

"We did our best to just go out there and go for the win. I knew basically Switzerland was going to be our biggest competition, so I had to go out there and go for the win and I just kept pushing once I got by.

"We had a bad start to the weekend, but we had to figure out the problem and work from there. The team did a great job working all last night and also hard today. In the pit-stops they did a great job, and I am glad I am here this weekend and racing to win for us."

Second place for Albuquerque - making it three podiums in as many meetings for the star rookie - saw to it that Portugal enjoyed their most successful A1GP weekend to-date, but the World Series by Renault ace was insistent he intended on going one step higher still in the series finale.

"This is definitely very good," he acknowledged, "as three podiums just from six races is a very good average. The starts were really bad, though; this was not my best weekend for them as normally I make good starts, but I will work on that for Brands Hatch and that will make the difference.

"To win in this championship - which is so competitive - just a small mistake can cost a lot. That's racing; it is experience and I hope to do better at Brands Hatch.

"When I got close to Neel I noticed he had a problem with second gear at the hairpin on the second-last corner. He was pretty fast but I knew I would pass him with an early pit-stop, and then I pushed very hard on my 'out' lap and after that was just getting away from Ireland."

"It wasn't too bad," reflected Carroll, just over five seconds shy of second place at the close, "but I got bumped into turn one and had nowhere really to go. I lost out to India and Malaysia, though I was able to fight off Malaysia and hold onto fifth place.

"Then Portugal and India were having a good battle and I was able to pass Narain as well; he kind of had a bad lap as he had just been overtaken, so I knew it was my time to jump on him and make a move. After that I pushed as hard as I could but I really couldn't go any faster as the guys in front were just a bit quicker. It was hard today and the times were just extremely close."

The result - which has kept the championship fight alive by the skin of its teeth - means Switzerland head to Brands 29 points ahead of New Zealand, the two teams the only ones that can now claim the crown. France can still snatch the runner-up spot from the Kiwis should it enjoy a particularly good weekend there, though Great Britain twelve points behind also has its eye on third place - the same spot in which it finished in both of the previous two campaigns - as Kerr bids to put on a special show for the home fans.

To see the feature race results in full, click here

 

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