by Russell Atkins


Reflecting on the 2007/08 A1GP campaign, Neel Jani has admitted it was an emotional feeling to wrap up the laurels for Switzerland in the Brands Hatch finale earlier this month - but better still to have proven the fastest team in the nation vs nation series over the balance of the season.

The 24-year-old sealed his country's success in the shorter sprint race around the Kent circuit courtesy of a fourth-placed finish, never truly in the mix for victory but equally putting Switzerland firmly out of reach of sole challenger New Zealand, with Jonny Reid uncharacteristically struggling to make much of an impression at Brands at the wheel of Black Beauty.

That freed Jani up to go all-out for glory in the longer feature outing from third spot on the grid, and though the former Champ Car and GP2 Series star did not achieve his ambition, he nevertheless overcame a scrappy 'in' lap, tardy pit-stop and the late-race attentions of the charging CongFu Cheng in the Chinese entry to cross the finish line third, thereby securing his eleventh podium from 20 races in the World Cup of Motorsport's third campaign, and the 23rd of his series career.

"My aim was to win the feature race," he acknowledged afterwards, speaking exclusively to Radio. "I was definitely more relaxed, as I knew I could try everything, and my aim was to win that.

"It was looking good, and we at least had a chance at it, but then unfortunately the first pit-stop definitely cost us being able to fight for the win, though I don't know if we would have won. I was just behind Robbie [Kerr], and then I made a little mistake on my in-lap and lost about a second, and then we lost another two seconds in the pit-stop. That was three seconds, and it put us back to sixth.

"Then I was stuck behind France, so I was a little bit worried we wouldn't even get a podium in the last race, but our second pit-stop was great and I could put in some amazing laps which were really good for us and allowed us to catch Germany. They then had a tyre puncture, so we got by them pretty easily, and there it was - my P3.

"[Cheng] was really quick, and I was a little bit worried at some stages, but I knew from being behind France that it was very hard to overtake, and I knew where he might try as I had spent half my race behind him. That meant I could defend well.

"I wanted at least a podium, so I was happy with that. Unfortunately we couldn't fight for the win, but it was still a good end for me."

Jani triumphed four times in 2007/08, and finished in the points on 13 further occasions, in so doing leading Switzerland to the crown it had coveted but missed out on during the nation vs nation series' inaugural season back in 2005/06. More than just that, he set six pole positions en route, and some spectacular donuts on his slowing-down lap afterwards were a final release after a hard-fought campaign, but one which ended with the rightful winner.

"Doing the donuts was great!" the man from Rorschach enthused. "I had told my mechanics before that I would try to break the driveshaft, and I achieved it! I think it was great for the crowd just to do the donuts and everything. Unfortunately I couldn't finish my [celebration] lap, but it was great to jump on Robbie's car and get back to the pits.

"Looking back, we had some ups, we had some downs, we had some discussions with race control and with some other competitors, but we qualified so well so many times and were always in the top three. Many times we were fighting for the win, and the nicest thing is we had the speed and were overall the quickest. That's nice to know.

"It was what we wanted and what we worked for all year-long, and we got it."




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