France may have notched-up their tenth victory in the A1 Grand Prix, taking victory in the Sprint race on the South African street circuit of Durban, but Dutch driver Jos Verstappen very nearly took his debut victory in the race series.

France, with Alex Premat starting from his first pole position of the season, was under pressure early on from the orange Team Netherlands car, with Verstappen making a fantastic start, to challenge from fourth for second, but ultimately losing out to Team Great Britain's Robbie Kerr.

Kerr was on a charge on the first lap and went for a move on Premat, but this only gifted Verstappen and the Czech Republic's Tomas Enge through.

The leaders charge was soon behind the Audi safety car however, as behind the tight turn one had gained its victims. Team Italy's Max Busnelli ran out of space as he looked to the outside of Team Indonesia's Ananda Mikola as the Indonesian car braked ahead, and also moved to the outside of the track, exactly the space that Busnelli was aiming to fill.

As the yellows came out for the obstruction at Turn One, Alex Yoong in the Team Malaysia car was circulating with his front wing at a rather jaunty angle, the former F1 driver having run into the back of the Team Brazil car of Nelson Piquet ahead. Team Lebanon, with Basil Shaaban in action this weekend, also suffered damage on the first lap.

The safety car remained out for a handful of laps as the cars and debris was cleared, and soon it was rolling start Mk2, but this time it was a far more measured affair with the entire field making it through without incident.

The race then settled to what appeared to shape into a rather measured affair, with overtaking not being something the tight street course lends itself to, however, those watching at home and beginning to put their feet up for a nap would soon be rudely awakened as the action kicked in once more.

The interest at the front had seen Tomas Enge closing in on Verstappen after the restart, only to then have to pay attention to his mirrors and Robbie Kerr behind, but further back as the race neared its conclusion, Nelson Piquet Jr in the Team Brazil car was pushing hard to put Matt Halliday in the Team New Zealand Lola under pressure.

Piquet locked brakes, got sideways under power, but then eliminated himself by the far from dramatic clip of his inside front wheel on the inside of the tight turn one. The Brazilian car span around, and Piquet's charge was over.

The home team's hopes of a good result in the first race were over too, with Stephen Simpson having called into the pits for an electrical problem thought to be related to the gearbox. To be fair, Simpson was looking very far from taking a podium as he had done in Dubai, but the crowds were visibly upset to see their car out of the running.

It had almost been a race with the Team China car not having an incident, but Tengyi Jiang remembered late on to drive into the wall and put himself out of the offing. Basil Shabaan then collected the Chinese car, no doubt distracted by a marshal waving a green flag right above the stricken car.

With yellows out for Piquet's car and the Chinese and Lebanon cars, the lap was rather interesting for those still in the running, and true racer to the end, Jos Verstappen saw an opportunity his instincts wouldn't let him miss.

After Premat passed the Chinese car on the final lap, he wasn't as rapid as he might otherwise have been and Jos went for a dramatic move down the outside into turn nine. The ballsy approach so very nearly came off, Verstappen passing Premat, but just losing traction on the exit to spin, and clip Premat's car and put Verstappen out of the running.

Team Netherlands seat holder Jan Lammers says it's never a dull moment with Jos in the team, and although Lammers is this weekend racing in the Rolex 24 in the States, he no doubt will experience an interesting mix of emotions, with Verstappen having thrown away a certain second place start in the Feature race, the one where results equate to money rather than just glory.

Premat could keep his car on the straight and narrow to the chequered flag, whilst Robbie Kerr benefited not only from Verstappen's demise, but also from Tomas Enge suffering a puncture from the debris from the Team China and Team Lebanon cars.

Switzerland with Neel Jani drove a clever race keeping out of the incidents to take third, whilst Ralph Firman took fourth for Team Ireland, the former Formula One driver having set the race's fastest lap at during the race.

Top ten
1. France
2. Great Britain
3. Switzerland
4. Ireland
5. Czech Republic
6. New Zealand
7. Germany
8. Portugal
9. Australia
10. Mexico

 

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