Reflecting on an A1GP campaign that progressively went from strength-to-strength, Narain Karthikeyan has warned his rivals that India will be gunning for overall glory when the action gets underway again in Mugello in just under four months' time.

The former Formula 1 ace proved to be one of the undoubted stars of the show in the 2007/08 season finale at Brands Hatch, by converting pole position into a hard-fought victory in the feature outing, ensuring his nation's breakthrough success in Zhuhai late last year was not merely a flash in the pan, and securing India a top ten final placing in the title standings.

"Obviously it was home territory for me," Karthikeyan related, speaking exclusively to Radio. "I've won two other races at Brands in the past, one on the Indy circuit and one on the Grand Prix layout in British Formula 3 in 1999.

"It was a great way to end the year. Everybody did a great job and I'm always quick at Brands - everything came together nicely."

Quick he certainly was, though that pace was somewhat stifled in the sprint race when from fifth on the starting grid the 31-year-old spent most of proceedings stuck behind the championship-winning Swiss machine of Neel Jani, unable to find a way past around a circuit on which it is notoriously tricky to overtake.

Then in the feature, the man from Chennai refused to be fazed by an early clash with Ulsterman Adam Carroll and Great Britain's Robbie Kerr leapfrogging him during the opening round of pit visits, as his crew performed a fantastic job to get him back out in the lead again when the second stops came around. From thereon in he largely controlled the pace, even if he admitted to having been a touch concerned when he briefly left the track just seven laps from the chequered flag - "when you're pushing it all happens so quickly" - allowing home hero Kerr to close right back onto his rear bumper once more.

"In the sprint we also had good pace," the former Jordan Grand Prix ace and Williams F1 tester affirmed, "but you can never pass easily at Brands.

"[The start of the feature race] was very hectic to be honest! I think Adam was quicker than Robbie, but we hit each other. I didn't even see the guy; when I turned in there was just a big bang.

"After that the car was a little bit different, but I adapted to it, and after the second pit-stop the car felt very good again. My 'out' lap was very good, and I pulled away from Robbie by a second in the middle and last sectors. Then I just consistently controlled the pace by about 1.8 seconds after that and we got the job done."

They certainly did, and as he now looks ahead to the World Cup of Motorsport's fourth campaign, asked whether India can mount a sustained season-long challenge for the laurels, Karthikeyan is unequivocal: "We would like to think so."

by Russell Atkins




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