Currently the only African nation represented in the 'World Cup of Motorsport', Team South Africa has endured a difficult start to the inaugural A1 Grand Prix series, something technical director Mike Carroll attributes to a lack of track time.

Although the 'rainbow nation' has a better motorsport pedigree than many of its rivals currently competing in A1GP, Carroll admits that the lack of testing allowed by the series has made it tough for all teams, but particularly those with little experience.

"It is difficult for people and countries who do not have drivers who have experience of cars similar to the A1 cars," he explained to Crash.net, "They have had to do their learning in the public eye.

"At the halfway point of the championship, the whole grid has tightened up massively compared to the start of the season. At Brands Hatch, we were two per cent off pole position but, at Sepang, we were 0.8 per cent off, albeit in a similar position on the grid. But the performance was better."

Carroll was also generous enough to single out several rivals who had made even bigger gains, especially countries where motorsport is still in its infancy.

"China is a fantastic example," he noted, "At the first test, they were five seconds off the pace and now they are within two seconds. They will keep improving and even France are saying 'China is catching us'."

Despite being confident of a strong performance with Stephen Simpson at the last round in Dubai, Carroll admitted that the desert circuit made it difficult to assess any real gains owing to its tricky nature, even though his young charge took a maiden SA podium in race two.

"It's a very interesting circuit," he said, "The unique thing here is that there is a lot of sand off line, so the drivers need to be careful about following the correct line. Any small mistake, or at any corner where they drift wide, they get some sand, and it takes a few corners to clean the tyres. Any mistake gets punished because it takes half a lap to clean the tyres.

"From a set-up perspective, it has made things interesting because the times got quicker and quicker as more rubber went down but, just before qualifying, the wind picked up and there was more sand on the line, so we lost a lot grip. It caught us out a little bit, but I am sure it was the same for everyone."

 

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