by Russell Atkins


Looking back over Ireland's fortunes in the 2007/08 A1GP campaign, Adam Carroll admits that it was something of a season of two halves, but when it finally did get going, the emerald green car fairly flew.

Carroll joined the team for round two at Brno in the Czech Republic, replacing former grand prix ace Ralph Firman. The Ulsterman made an immediate impression by finishing up on the podium in the sprint outing, but whilst he went on to score points in six of the following seven races, it would be Mexico City some five months later when he next mounted the rostrum - albeit on the top step, having secured his nation's maiden triumph in the World Cup of Motorsport at its 60th attempt, and from fifth spot on the starting grid.

"The season has been great really," Carroll summarised, speaking exclusively to Radio. "It took a little bit longer than we had first hoped to get going. It was a completely new team this year - there are just two people who were here before - and they're a great bunch of guys. It took me a little bit of time to get used to the car, but once we did and figured it all out it was 'there we go, let's get on with it'. It all just came together and started to gel.

"We turned up in Mexico and won the race, went to China and got a third and then got another third at Brands Hatch, with what was the best car I'd had all year. To finish the season strongly is what you have to do, and we got sixth place in the championship - two points off fifth, which was a little unfortunate - but that was very good."

Indeed it was and, moreover, a considerable improvement on Ireland's showings in A1GP's first two seasons, when the squad had wound up respectively eighth and 19th in the final standings. It could, though, have been even better still, had the 25-year-old from Portadown finished higher than 13th in the feature event at Brands, following a coming-together with Narain Karthikeyan in the Indian entry as the pair disputed second place early on that removed Carroll's front wing and sent him gravel-bound - at the time looking like it was game over.

Though with supreme skill he was able to rejoin and charge back through the pack again to finish almost within touching distance of the final points-paying position at the chequered flag - courtesy of a stunning sequence of fastest laps one after the other - it was very much a case of what might have been, as arguably the form man of the weekend was left to walk away from the meeting with just a sole third place from the shorter sprint race for all his efforts.

"Third place in the sprint was great starting from fourth," Carroll insisted, not too downcast. "I got off the line into third and the pace was right there.

"[What happened in the feature race] was very unfortunate. We had a little bit of a problem with the left rear, which stopped us getting out in front of India in the first round of pit-stops, and then he was just defending very, very aggressively.

"Narain made a mistake, locked up and went wide, and I just was on the racing line on the inside. I think it was a bit unfair to turn in as hard as that. When I'm in that situation, the first thing I do is look to see where the other guy is. You have to give each other room, but there you go - that's racing.

"If he had just stayed where he was I couldn't have overtaken him anyway, but he came hard back on me and left me zero room to move. It broke my front wing, which actually hung on there for a while, and I was still as quick as him if not quicker, but then about three laps later going down into Hawthorn's - which is the quickest part of the circuit - the wing just exploded and actually ripped the (steering) wheel right out of my hand.

"That smashed my hand up against the top - so that was a bit of a moment as well - and the tyre exploded as well while it was at it. I think if it had been ten or 20 metres later I would have just gone straight, so that was quite fortunate.

"I'm actually quite good at getting out of gravel traps! Over the years I've had a little bit of practice at it - once you're in there you just have to keep your foot in it and you always get back out, and I did. I could see that no one was coming, so I was just able to go back across and straight into the pits. I got the car back in, we put a new wing on and another set of tyres and just went out there.

"All I had to go for then was fastest lap. I was in clear air and was able to show the true pace we had at the weekend, which was race-winning pace, by quite a long way. We took over twelve-and-a-half seconds out of the leaders..."

Looking forwards rather than backwards, though, whilst Carroll does not know how much of the GP2 Series he will be participating in with former team FMSI - having rejoined the Italian squad for the second round of the main championship in Istanbul last weekend - one thing he does know; he wants to carry on racing.

"I think next season in A1GP - with a new car and with how good the team is - we're going to be very strong," he stressed. "It's a fantastic team, the guys have worked so hard and are very good, the pit-stops are great and we all get on really, really well.

"Hopefully they'll have me back. We'll sit down and we'll figure something out, and I think if we come back next year we can come back to win it.

"As to GP2, we'll look at coming back properly next year with a top team and going for the championship. Let's see what happens. We're going to work hard as ever, we'll try and get the money and in the meantime we'll enjoy A1GP. Why not just race? That's what I enjoy. I've raced all winter and it's been great."




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