With lead driver Ralph Firman Jr otherwise engaged with his Japanese sportscar commitments, A1 Team Ireland has confirmed that Formula Three pilot Michael Devaney will contest the opening round of the World Cup of Motorsport at Brands Hatch.

The announcement was made as a byplay to the team's official unveiling at the Royal Dublin Society's Concert Hall, but confirmed both Firman's absence and Devaney's status as first choice reserve for the team established only last month. Chief executive Mark Kershaw explained that the team had had no second thoughts about hiring the 20-year old, who currently races in the German F3 Cup series.

"We are fortunate in Ireland to possess a small, but highly talented, group of drivers on which to draw for A1 Team Ireland," he said, "In Ralph Firman, our main driver, we have someone who has not only won at every level of the sport, but also raced in Formula One and is currently one of Team Honda Racing's leading drivers in the Japanese SuperGT series.

"When we signed him, however, we knew he had conflicting commitments with the first and fourth rounds of the A1 Grand Prix series, so we are fortunate to have a rising star such as Michael Devaney to drive for the team in Brands Hatch."

The Brands Hatch opportunity will give Devaney a rare chance to race in front of a British audience, following his decision to pursue his career in mainland Europe for financial reasons.

"Naturally, I am delighted to drive at Brands Hatch, and I'd like to thank A1 Team Ireland for giving me the opportunity to demonstrate my ability against top international competitors," he said, noting that he could be up against the like of former F1 pilots Jos Verstappen and Pedro Lamy and a host of current GP2 incumbents, "Every driver wants to be given a break like this, and A1 Grand Prix enables countries such as Ireland to develop their drivers at international level. I am really looking forward to racing."

A1 Team Ireland's entry was revealed today amid the now traditional smoke-and-light display in a high-profile ceremony attended by the Irish government's chief whip and minister of state Tom Kitt. The car will go on to make its public debut at the Irish Motor Show tomorrow.

"Although we face stiff opposition from some of the world's largest nations, as well as countries with highly developed motorsport industries, the fact that A1GP provides teams with a level playing field in terms of the car and technology means that the difference between winning and losing will be decided by driver ability, quality of engineering, team-work and race strategy," team principal, Mark Gallagher claimed.

"We are strong in each of these areas, and to emerge fastest on the final day of the major pre-season test in Paul Ricard demonstrated our potential. I am confident that we have built a team capable of challenging for victories in the inaugural A1 Grand Prix series."



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