Hayanari Shimoda insists that there was little he could do as fate intervened to cut short his A1 Grand Prix weekend at Parque Fundidora in Mexico on Sunday.

Having scored his best series finish in Indonesia two weeks ago, the Team Japan driver was hoping for another good result, particularly as the morning warm-up session had given him time to check handling improvements made overnight.

Although his start to the sprint race was excellent, gaining him five places on the first lap, the introduction of the safety car proved to be Shimoda's undoing, even though the field was running at a much reduced pace. With the drivers all determined to keep their tyres as warm as possible on a dull and overcast day, gaps frequently appeared between cars as they braked and accelerated and, it was attempting to close one such gap that saw both Shimoda and Team New Zealand's Matt Halliday sidelined, as the black machine braked just as the Japanese Lola picked up speed. The result saw Shimoda launched over the car ahead and roll three times before coming to rest against the retaining wall.

"It was bad timing," the Japanese admitted, "As I tried to close the gap in front, the car ahead braked and I couldn't stop. I hit the back of it and then rolled over. I'm sorry for the team who put in all the work."

Fortunately, Shimoda was able to climb from his badly damaged car unhurt, but the force of the incident meant that there was no way the Team Japan crew was going to be able to get it back on track for the ensuing feature event. It was Shimoda's second major incident in A1GP, following his monster roll at Eastern Creek.

New Zealand driver Matt Halliday was almost lost for words when asked to give his version of events, branding the incident 'bizarre' and 'ridiculous'.

"The talk in pit-lane is that it was one of the most ridiculous things anyone's ever seen on a race track," the Kiwi said, "I'm struggling to put the words together to describe what happened and how bizarre it all was.

"It looks as if Hayanari thought the race was being re-started and he simply put his foot down. The first thing I knew about it was an almighty shunt and bang, and then he was barrel-rolling over me. It was surreal."

The sprint event was the first race New Zealand had failed to finish, and the contact caused such damage to the rear of the car, that the WSR-based team was left battling to get it back on the grid for the feature race. Under the circumstances, Halliday and the crew did extremely well to finish eighth in the day's second race as the back end of the car became progressively more difficult to keep under control.

"When I got the car back to the shed, I thought there was no way we'd be getting back on the track," he admitted, "but the team did an incredible job to rebuild the back end and get us to the start line. We just didn't have time to do any set-up and that made it difficult to drive, particularly in the latter stages.

"The car was nervous under braking at the start of the feature race, but it got much worse as the race went on. I just didn't have the pace to keep others at bay and, while it was frustrating to drop a couple of places so close to the finish, I had no other options. At that stage, it was simply a case of nursing the car home."

 

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