Ralph Firman will compete in this year's inaugural A1 Grand Prix series, despite having seen his chances of racing for Team Great Britain dashed by the selection of rising stars Alex Lloyd and Robbie Kerr.

Firman, who conducted the early tests in Lola's A1GP car, was announced overnight at Ireland's driver, following confirmation that the Emerald Isle had become the latest country to join the series, taking the list of entries to 20 countries ahead of next month's Brands Hatch opener.

Firman has been racing in the Japanese Super GT series this year, having failed to find the budget necessary to continue his Formula One career with Jordan, but boasts Formula Nippon and British F3 titles from his single-seater career. His Irish background helped him land the second Jordan seat in 2004, and has worked again in allowing him a second crack at A1GP.

"I have always been very proud of my Irish heritage and am delighted to have been selected by A1 Team Ireland," the son of Van Dieman founder Ralph Sr commented, "Having been closely involved with the development of the first prototype, I know how good it is to drive and it really does provide a complementary alternative to Formula One. Since driving for Jordan in Formula One, I have been determined to get back into the top of international motor racing and this is my opportunity."

The Irish franchise has been secured by sports management expert Mark Gallagher, the former Jordan and Jaguar F1 commercial director also taking on the role of team principal.

"This is a momentous day for Irish motorsport, and the combination of many months of planning and negotiations," he said, "The A1 Grand Prix series promises to be innovative and exciting, and I have no doubt that motorsport and sporting fans in Ireland and around the world will be fascinated by it.

"Having worked in Formula One for many years, I have been very impressed with the detailed planning and professionalism that has gone into the creation of A1, and have no doubt that this will be a prestigious world-wide event."

With just over a month to go before the series kicks off at Brands Hatch, Ireland will be at something of a disadvantage as it has yet to test its car, but A1GP founder Sheikh Maktoum is confident that, with Firman's experience, the team will soon be mixing it with those that have already had a shakedown.

"I am delighted that yet another A1 Grand Prix team has been secured by a renowned motorsport figure, who will bring with him another world class driver," he said, "With the next team test session just around the corner at Paul Ricard, Irish fans have little over a week to wait until A1 Team Ireland demonstrates its mettle alongside 17 other teams. I welcome the four leaf clover to the A1GP family.

"The first shakedown held at Silverstone at the beginning of August saw the top ten teams all record fastest lap times within one second of each other. I have no doubt that the teams from Ireland and India - who are joining the next session for the first time - will do their countries proud in their first official run."



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