Team Great Britain left the Estoril circuit in Portugal without adding to their existing points tally after driver Robbie Kerr failed to finish the opening sprint race and then suffered with some mysterious gear selection problems in the main feature.

The sprint race wasn't quite a replay of the disastrous first corner incident that ended Kerr's race in Germany two weeks ago, but not far off.

From tenth on the grid, a very tight start saw the A1Team.GBR car pushed wide and left Kerr lying in 13th place. The race continued with no changes in place until a move from the Team Ireland car driven by Ralph Firman slices a hole in Kerr's right rear tyre, forcing him into retirement.

"At the start everyone slowed down one hell of a lot, packed right up, then foot down flat out before they stood on the brakes right in front of us," said Kerr who, like the majority of his rivals, were incensed at the sprint race rolling start. "Luckily no one collided. Going down to the first corner I got quite a few of them but then got stuck on the outside and just got pushed out, one of those things. Then closing up behind Germany and coming into a corner Ralph just hit me in the back wheel and that was it."

The DNF meant that, like at the Lausitzring, Kerr was starting from the rear of the 24-car grid for the 36-lap feature race.

After an excellent start and a safety car though, Kerr was in 15th place having made up five places from his grid slot and the team tried to repeat the early pit strategy that worked so well in Germany. The team changed tyres after two laps but this time Kerr didn't have the clear track that he needed. On top of which more people pitted and a wheel from the car in the next garage obstructed Kerr's exit.

At the quarter stage Indonesia made a big mistake and Kerr took advantage. By lap 13 of the 36-lap race all teams bar one had pitted and A1Team.GBR were lying 11th.

From there Kerr picked off the opposition until he was in 7th place when disaster struck with a gearbox problem on lap 23, which lost seven of the hard earned places before it seemingly resolved itself and enabled Robbie to make two places back to cross the line in 12th.

"I got a couple off the start," Kerr commented. "Things were going well and I was keeping my head down and it was going well. There was a safety car and a lot of people came in at the same time including me. I got blocked by a wheel from the Team China pit coming out so we couldn't get out and lost a bit of time there.

"We carried on with the race, the safety car came out again. We found ourselves in 'P10' and then 'P9'. Canada went down the inside of me at the restart, which is fair enough, gave them room. I cut back. They had a go at Australia and I was on the inside, which put me on the grass, and we unfortunately came together. I carried on and then all of a sudden the gearbox stopped working, couldn't go up or down through the gears. Cruising back in and all of a sudden it started working again having lost a lot of places so it was very frustrating."

"Not a brilliant weekend," added team principal John Surtees. "I think a series of errors has resulted in not a particularly good event for us. It has been exasperated by the fact that in the second race here we had a gearbox selector mechanism problem. Also by our strategy not working with the course car coming out so very early. Robbie got jammed into the pits too, which was unfortunate.

"Sometimes you get it right and sometimes you get it wrong but the fact remains that we actually didn't have the pace to compete, particularly with the French car, but we will of course try to rectify that."

 

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