The New Zealand A1 Grand Prix team was left to wonder what might have been after a controversial ruling went against them in the penultimate of the World Cup of Motorsport at Laguna Seca.

Matt Halliday had made a scorching start in the sprint race to lead the field in atrocious wet conditions, but when the Italian car spun - bringing out the yellow flags - Halliday slowed and was passed by Salvador Duran.

The New Zealanders' immediate appeal that the Mexican car had passed under a yellow flag was not upheld and Mexico went on to win both the sprint race and the feature race - while Halliday was swamped from behind and suffered spins towards the end of both races to cost the team places and valuable points.

Team manager Mike Ewan was disappointed at the yellow flag decision and was left adamant that Halliday should have been back at the head of the field when the sprint race re-started.

"The local officials were the only ones in pit lane who didn't see what happened and said, in their opinion, there wasn't enough evidence to uphold our appeal," he said. "We're still shaking our heads at the decision and obviously very unhappy. There's no telling what might have happened if Matt had taken his rightful place back at the front, but the clear track and lack of spray in the rain would have been of huge benefit and the fact Mexico went on to win both races has left us feeling deflated and frustrated."

Halliday said he saw three yellow flags and took his foot off the pedal, slowing before Mexico whipped past him.

"I can't believe what has happened, but that's life," he said. "We were really quick in practice and the morning's warm-up and I was ecstatic with the starts to both races. There's just that feeling of emptiness that we were wrongly deprived of a significant advantage."

Eighth in the sprint race and twelfth place in the feature race saw the Kiwis score just three points from the meeting, to maintain sixth place in the championship - keeping them in the fight for fourth in the standings but allowing both Portugal and Ireland to close the gap behind.

"Third isn't realistic any more, but we'd like to maintain our place in the top six and see if we can reel in Brazil and the Netherlands," team chief executive Bob McMurray said. "We've already surpassed our own pre-series expectations, but now that we're in this position it would be nice to finish the season on a high.

"As always, the goal is to win races and we'll be striving for a podium finish to bookend the series after being on the podium in the first ever A1GP race."

 

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