Sean McIntosh added Canada to the list of A1 Grand Prix series winners with feature race success at Sentul, but did it the hard way after starting plum last on the 23-car grid.

The Formula Renault graduate endured a short sprint race, restricting him to the back row of the feature grid, but, despite also making two pit-stops, found himself back in the running thanks to a series of accidents and safety cars that shuffled the order in his favour.

Britain's Robbie Kerr and South Africa's Stephen Simpson led the field for most of the race, but neither had made their compulsory pit-stop, hoping that the black clouds that loomed over the nearby mountains would arrive in time to deposit their load on the track and force the entire field to switch to wets.

In the end, the rain failed to arrive, leaving Kerr and Simpson to pit in the final five laps, dropping them out of the points positions and promoting McIntosh to the front of the field. The Canadian still had to withstand pressure from a fired-up Alex Yoong, but eventually came home just over a second to the good.

Yoong was comfortably clear of third place, which eventually fell to Australian debutant Marcus Marshall, who fended off fellow newcomer Christian Fittipaldi to the line.

The final podium spot could have gone any number of ways, however, with the Netherlands, Portugal and Mexico all in the running. Salvador Duran appeared to have put himself in prime position for victory when he eased ahead of McIntosh as the race headed into its final stages, but a contretemps with Portugal's Alvaro Parente - who had yet to make his compulsory stop - ended his hopes. Jos Verstappen also looked to have the pace to win, but a brush with Yoong saw the orange car spin into the gravel, before eventually recovering to seventh.

It was turmoil right from the moment the lights went green, with polesitter France's bad start allowing second placed Great Britain to take the lead off the line. Mexico also suffered a bad start and, with cars taking avoiding action as they went into the first corner, Japan and Indonesia collided, with Hayanari Shimoda ending up in the barrier.

The incidents brought out the safety car at the end of lap one, and both Switzerland and Italy wrongly taking the opportunity to pit. However, while the Swiss team realising that the move was against the regulations unless Neel Jani's car was damaged, and sent its driver back out on track, Max Busnelli completed his stop.

A lap later, the Mexican car had quite obviously suffered damage by the time it returned to the pits, the right rear tyre coming off the rim and leaving race one sensation Salvador Duran to limp back to the pits. This time, several drivers took the opportunity to make their mandatory pit-stop, but Great Britain did not and so maintained the lead.

The safety car came in again at the end of lap three and, as racing recommenced, there was a collision between France and Malaysia, with sprint race winner Nicolas Lapierre having to pit for a new front wing, seemingly ruling himself out of contention. The race was also not looking the smoothest for Canada at this point as, on lap five, McIntosh was given a drive-through penalty for crossing the line at pit exit.

When the order shook itself out, Britain led the Netherlands, Malaysia, Ireland, South Africa and Austria, while Team USA managed to keep going despite a visit to the gravel trap and Lapierre found himself down in 20th spot, a lap down on the leaders after pitting for a new nose.

The safety car was soon back on track, this time to retrieve Lebanon's car from the gravel, but Basil Shaaban was not the only ones to go off at this point, as both France and Austria visited the same gravel trap before rejoining under their own steam.

Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ireland all took this opportunity to make their pit-stops from the front of the field but, once again, leader Britain stayed out, team reporting that Kerr was already past the point where he could safely pit when he knew the safety car was going to come out.

The pace car period ended ahead of lap twelve, with Great Britain, South Africa and Portugal leading the field - and Italy apparently holding prime position at the head of those who had pitted. Canada and the USA were battling for twelfth place, with the former getting by soon after the restart, followed closely by the Netherlands.

The Indonesian fans, however, had to suffer more disappointment on lap 13, when hero Ananda Mikola collided with Malaysia and spun, although he was again able to continue. This was also the point when China joined the race, having fixed gearbox problems suffered in the earlier sprint race.

The list of cars visiting the gravel traps continued to grow as India - which also suffered a clutch of pit penalties - and Ireland both falling foul of the dusty track at turn three, Ralph Firman retiring at the end of lap 15. However, there was some compensation for the Irish team as Firman was credited with the bonus point for recording the weekend's fastest race lap at 1min 19.029secs - a new lap record for Sentul.

Behind frontrunners Britain and South Africa, Portugal and Mexico were battling for the final podium position but, as Duran had made his pit-stop, the Mexicans were in a strong position for possible victory as those ahead of him had yet to change tyres. The team never got to realise its potential, however, as the two cars collided in turn one at the start of lap 19, with only Portugal able to resume.

The safety car was deployed yet again but, once more, neither Britain or South Africa pitted, both teams keeping one eye on the black clouds looming large over the horizon and hoping for the return of the rain that had blighted days one and two.

When the safety car came in at the end of lap 22, however, South Africa's Stephen Simpson made his move, getting the best of a side-by-side battle with Kerr and coming out in front.

By the end of lap 24, it was obvious that Canada could win its first race, as only rain would give Britain or South Africa enough of a chance to pit and get back out ahead of the pack. Malaysia and Holland were catching McIntosh quickly, but triggered a hairy moment on lap 30, when contact saw Verstappen spinning and coming back across the racing line with Portugal bearing down on him. Thankfully, quick reactions avoided an accident.

Britain's hopes of victory officially ended on lap 30, when Kerr pitted and lost 44.5secs with a sticking left rear tyre, rejoining down in 15th, with the organisers deciding not to deploy the safety car on the following lap, after Busnelli spun and parked up off the racing line.

Canada was all but assured of the win as South Africa made its pit-stop from the lead on lap 33, although there was less than one second between McIntosh and Yoong at the time. Sensing victory, the Canadian put his foot down and, by the time the cars crossed the line at the end of lap 36, the gap was nearly two seconds.

"It's just an unbelievable result after the sprint race," McIntosh admitted, "I shot myself in the foot in the sprint, but still came through to win from the back, and with a drive-through penalty.

"It wasn't an easy decision to pit early and then, having to do the drive-through, I lost all the ground I made up. I overtook about six cars after that and, by the end, there were quite severe vibrations in the tyres."

Ironically, it will be new signing Patrick Carpentier at the wheel for Canada at the next two races in Mexico and the USA, but the youngster leaves happy.

"I've set a high standard for Patrick, and the pressure is on him now," McIntosh smiled, "The team has more points now and I will be back in China - and back strong."

It was a great weekend for newcomers Marshall and Fittipaldi, who finished third and fourth respectively, with Fittipaldi's spectacular drive from the back of the field putting the Brazilians back above Britain in the points.

"It feels really good to be on the podium, especially after I didn't even know whether I was coming or not," Marshall said, "We really struggled in the dry and a bit in qualifying too, but we kept pushing all weekend. We never gave up and, although there was too much wing on the car, which meant I was losing time on the straights, I was setting good times in the other sectors. I'm really stoked for the team, Fosters and everyone at home."

The top ten was completed by Switzerland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, France, USA and Britain.

Comments

Loading Comments...