A1 Team Great Britain has called on former Champ Car and IRL regular Darren Manning to pilot its Lola in the final Grand Prix of Nations event at the Shanghai International Circuit on 1-2 April.

The team had been expected to call up a replacement driver following regular pilot Robbie Kerr's World Series by Renault deal, which means that he will be unavailable for the Chinese race owing to testing commitments in Europe. Kerr has driven in all A1 Grand Prix events to date, and will do so again in the tenth round at Laguna Seca this weekend. Speculation over possible replacements had largely failed to consider Manning, however.

The 30-year old, out of regular employment since losing his IRL drive in unfortunate fashion mid-season in 2005, will bring a wealth of single-seater experience to Team GB, with British and Japanese F3, F3000 and F1 roles under his belt. He is also well-known to the Arden team running the A1 Team GB entry as his two seasons in F3000 were with Christian Horner's team. Manning will be with the team at Laguna Seca this weekend.

"I've been watching the A1 Grand Prix Series growing," he revealed, "The number of cars on the grid and the racing have really good, so to be asked to drive for my country is not just an honour, but a brilliant racing opportunity as well. It will be great to meet up with the team again this weekend, renew relationships and get to grips with the A1 series which will give us a head start for China."

Team GB currently lies third in the series standings, but is coming under pressure from Brazil, the Netherlands and New Zealand, who are all theoretically within easy reach of the final step of the overall podium.

"With the fight on for third place in the championship, it is important for the team to have a driver with as much relevant experience as possible with only three practice sessions available," seat holder John Surtees explained, "Unfortunately, the rules didn't go the way we had hoped, so reserve driver Alex Lloyd hasn't had the running opportunities we would have liked, and Arden expressed their preference for a driver with extensive F3000 experience for this highly-pressurised occasion.

"Darren is one of the drivers originally put forward by the Arden Management team following their successful relationship in F3000. He brings extensive experience to the team, and his previous relationship with Arden will hopefully be of benefit. He's going to have a tough job, given that Robbie has driven so well for us throughout the season, but Darren's experience and speed in a wide range of cars, together with his motivation, augers well for China."

 

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