Great Britain and Ireland have been trading insults ahead of the 2007/08 A1GP season finale on British soil at Brands Hatch this weekend, with the latter accusing the former of no longer being a top team in the nation vs nation series.

A1 Team Ireland supremo Mark Gallagher has launched a stinging attack on rivals GBR, stating his belief that the emerald green machine will likely face opposition for victory around the Kent circuit from Switzerland, New Zealand, France, Germany and Portugal - but not Great Britain.

Ireland - which triumphed in Mexico City's feature outing last month courtesy of star driver Adam Carroll - currently sits four places and 16 points adrift of GBR in the championship standings, but could overhaul its fierce rival with a particularly strong showing on 'home' turf.

"A1 Team Great Britain has a lot of pressure on it this week and a lot to prove after a difficult season for them," Gallagher stressed. "Many of the smaller nations have learned the tricks of the trade that GBR seemed to have figured out from the first season, so they are facing tougher competition than ever before.

"Although they are ahead of us in the series, we now look past them to the benchmark set by the likes of Switzerland and New Zealand. There's a natural rivalry between our teams anyway, but Ireland's no longer simply interested in beating Great Britain - we want to beat the top teams, and they are not one of them."

Those words have prompted a response from Team GBR's Katie Clements, decrying Gallagher's comments as mere gamesmanship and pointing to Robbie Kerr's stellar performances at Brands Hatch in the past, with an extremely popular victory and runner-up spot there last year and leading the feature race before battery failure put him out during A1GP's inaugural event held at the track back in 2005. Britain still has a hope of clinching second spot in the title chase this weekend, even if - for a third successive campaign - the crown is now out of reach.

"Some mind games are possibly at play here," suggested the series' only female team principal. "We prefer to target the teams ahead of us in the championship, and we do not focus on the ones behind.

"All I will say is that the statistics speak for themselves. In three years of A1GP, we have four wins and 24 podiums compared to Ireland's single win and four podiums, so Ireland is not in a position to be critical.

"Obviously there are some slick teams in operation in the A1GP paddock now and I firmly believe we are one of them, so I trust that our experienced and dedicated team will be able to adjust quickly to the challenge of the new A1GP car, powered by Ferrari, next season.

"For now, though, we are just concentrating all of our efforts on this coming weekend at Brands Hatch. Our wonderful fans will be out in force as usual, and we want to show them exactly what A1 Team GBR is capable of."



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