With France on the verge of clinching the A1 Grand Prix championship, attention has now turned to the tussle for third in the standings in Laguna Seca, with a number of teams still able to snatch that 'bronze' medal position away from Great Britain.

Typically, the fortunes of these teams in qualifying varied with Matt Halliday leading the way for New Zealand in third place having been able to take the chance to exploit his prior knowledge of the circuit.

Currently sixth in the standings and just nine points from third place, Halliday has produced a number of consistent performances for New Zealand this year and a good result in America may well see him vault over his rivals into a prime position going into the final round.

Still, he is not too far ahead of rivals Malaysia and Great Britain, who managed fourth and sixth respectively. Alex Yoong and Malaysia have proved one of the surprise packages of the year and despite a slow start, recent good results have vaulted them to seventh in the championship.

Indeed, fourth is their best qualifying result to date so Yoong is confident ahead of the race. "I'm very happy," the former Minardi F1 driver said. "We were nowhere after practice this morning - we were really struggling, but the team did a great job with the car; we made a number of changes and the car just kept getting better and better as qualifying progressed.

"We were very strong, it was a good team effort. For tomorrow, I'll be looking for a podium, but try and stay out of trouble. Although I'll be aiming for a top three finish, we also need to score championship points. We're seventh at the moment and want to improve on this. It's very important to us, so I won't be taking crazy risks and potentially sacrificing a position in the Series standing."

Kerr meanwhile will start his final race directly behind Yoong and is hoping to be able to challenge for the elusive victory that has deserted him throughout the year.

"The car was OK but we've got an inherent problem that we haven't managed to tune out of the car yet and we've not had the opportunity to try out a fix for it. It cost me a bit of time. We're in sixth but we're still looking for a good result tomorrow. The circuit's a real challenge and very enjoyable to drive."

Indeed, with New Zealand, Malaysia and Great Britain all in contention at the head of the grid, rivals Brazil and Netherlands endured a somewhat difficult qualifying session. Separated by one point in fourth and fifth in the standings, Dutchman Jos Verstappen got the better of Christian Fittipaldi for 12th place, while his rival was down in 19th place.

"Yesterday went very good," Verstappen mused, "but this morning we went out on track and already after 10 minutes you could see that it would be difficult for us today. We have tried everything to improve the car, but we were not able to do this during the free practice. In qualifying we just came up short. The car balance was not good.

"We are going to see if we can improve the car more tonight. It's not ideal starting from twelfth on the grid. Overtaking is difficult here, but it also was in Mexico. We will definitely try our best."

As a bit of added spice, Portugal and Ireland are in turn not far behind Malaysia and New Zealand, with Alvaro Parente's seventh place and Ralph Firman's eighth place in qualifying meaning that the championship standings could look very different by the end of the weekend.

 

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