by Russell Atkins


Jonny Reid has insisted that New Zealand will be back and fighting fit to make it third time lucky in A1GP in 2008/09, after finishing as runner-up in the nation vs nation series for the second successive campaign in 2007/08.

Whilst at one point the Kiwi entry looked to be in pole position to wrap up the laurels, an off-colour late-season run and a sublime performance from Neel Jani in the Swiss machine saw New Zealand enter the final meeting at Brands Hatch earlier this month fighting a rearguard action rather than bidding to steal the crown, with France and Great Britain pressing hard behind in the championship battle.

A disastrous qualifying session left Reid down in tenth and 17th positions respectively for the two races, and after finishing eighth in the first of them - guaranteeing Switzerland the laurels - the focus switched to preserving the runner-up spot in the title chase, what was looking like possibly a tall order given Robbie Kerr's front row grid slot.

"As I've won races and taken pole positions before, I went to Brands with the intention of taking pole position and winning both races," the 24-year-old said, speaking exclusively to Radio. "We didn't achieve that - I don't think we had the car to achieve that - and being my first time at Brands Hatch as well it was very challenging.

"I learned a lot and was driving very hard in the end. I know the circuit very well now - I think it's fantastic! I really love it.

"There are a lot of mid-speed corners and blind crests - you've got to have balls as well, so I like that. We just had a little bit too much oversteer, but other than that I really enjoyed my experience around Brands, and I'll be a much better driver around there the next time I come."

Despite a worrying first half to the feature race, with 'Black Beauty' sitting some way outside the points-scoring positions and Kerr looking odds-on for victory, a slow pit-stop by the British crew and a late charge saw Reid take eighth place once more - and with Britain finishing second, it would prove enough to see off their threat by just a sole point for the second consecutive season.

"We were sitting in about 15th spot for a long time," he acknowledged, "but once I got into some clear air I was able to belt some good lap times in, the boys gave me some very good stops and my in-laps and out-laps were really on the button; they were mega. As a team we did a great job both on and off the track.

"At least we went forward in both races with two eighth positions, but it was far from the result we went to Brands for. Given the circumstances after qualifying, second [in the championship] was a realistic goal, and we achieved that. Even with Great Britain putting us under all sorts of pressure up front, we managed to keep our composure inside the team and that showed our strength.

"We're a good enough team to win this championship - we just had a few things not go our way, and the Brands weekend was a classic example of that. We were blocked in the final qualifying segment; you get one lap to do your time, and if you get blocked by another car then that's going to destroy everything.

"We were much quicker than 17th - as you could see in the race - but second is what it is, and I appreciate everyone's work. The whole team has put a lot of effort into this, including myself, and I'm still happy with second."

Turning his focus forwards now, the Auckland native and World Cup of Motorsport mainstay says he is confident New Zealand can prevail once the action gets into gear again at Mugello in Italy in September - provided, he underlines, that the team proves itself capable of whittling out all the tiny little mistakes that crept in to deny it glory in 2007/08.

"There's a little disappointment," he admitted, "because there were a few areas where I made small errors, a few areas also where in the pits we made a few errors, and we had a bit of bad luck as well on the track, like being turned around in Shanghai by the USA.

"It was just frustrating things like that, and that's why I say we were good enough to have won this championship. We just made some small errors, but as long as we all learn from them and become a stronger team because of it we can put it down to experience.

"Third time lucky sounds about right! That's what they say, and I'm a firm believer in it, so I'd definitely love to be back in A1GP next season, with the Ferrari as well. A big thanks to the Lola-Zytek guys who will all be missed, but the championship goes on and I think the Ferrari change is fantastic.

"I'd love to be involved again. Nothing is set in concrete yet and there are no signatures on bits of paper, but I'm sure with the strong results we've had it will all come together nicely for next season."




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