Passion and patriotism - they are what drive Tony Teixeira, as the A1GP deputy chairman looks ahead to the new season where he says entertainment will be very much top of the bill.

Entering its second year on the back of a well-received and generally successful debut campaign in 2005-06, the winter-based series got off the ground with a group test at Silverstone, allowing teams the opportunity to try out new drivers and prepare their cars before the championship kicks off with the first race in Holland on 1 October.

The brainchild of Dubai prince Sheikh Maktoum, A1GP's profile is already such it has managed to attract championship-winning outfits such as DAMS, Carlin Motorsport and Super Nova, former and upcoming Formula One stars and team figureheads of the calibre of Emerson Fittipaldi, Alan Jones and Sir John Surtees, no less.

Speaking to Crash.net at the Silverstone launch, Mr Teixeira said: "What inspired me was visualising what I had seen over the last season - the national passion; young kids who never normally get the opportunity to represent their country but obviously want to; the flags; the patriotism. That's what drives me."

With debut season stars such as Nelson Piquet Jr, Scott Speed and Neel Jani having all since made the jump into Formula One, Mr Teixeira said the importance of fostering young blood could never be underestimated.

"There are a lot of kids here we haven't seen before," he said. "All of the countries are bringing in young drivers. We didn't intend being a feeder series or a stepping stone but it turns out we've got some serious talent in the championship and producing two or three guys in our first season who have gone onto F1 is fantastic. We need to take that, nurture it and create heroes out of it."

Speaking about lessons learned from the championship's toe-in-the-water campaign in 2005-06, he added: "Last year we were newcomers in the industry and they saw us coming. We had shortcomings in the back office, which is what we've been working on all year since the season ended.

"We learned so much and a lot of our costs have dropped drastically for this year. We didn't have a clue before - we thought we knew something but we knew nothing."

With promotion of the series and increased terrestrial TV coverage among the leading priorities for the new season, Mr Teixeira said he was confident a better all-round product would be the end result.

"We believe we will deliver a slicker, more professional and entertaining series this coming season," he said. "Obviously we will still have problems and there's a lot of work still to be done, like creating a more permanent calendar for 2007-08. We are trying to keep the venues challenging and exciting too, and people must see us moving around.

"But we will keep improving, and overall the idea is to deliver an affordable series that's entertaining to the public. People must want to come back."

Underlining the popularity of a championship that has attracted interest from a number of new countries, including soon-to-join Turkey and possible future participants Nigeria and Singapore, Mr Teixeira said A1GP was definitely on the up.

"I could have had 28 teams in terms of who we were negotiating with but I have made a commitment to a maximum of 26," he explained. "We are not in competition with anyone. We are complementary to all motor racing series in the world no matter what they are."

Indeed, the winter calendar is one of the beauties of A1GP, as is the standard 520bhp Lola Zytek machine with "no traction control or fancy stuff", placing the emphasis very much on the driver. And that, he claimed, would continue to guarantee the series' popularity for years to come.

"It's not up to me to judge the success of last year," he said. "The fans and people around the world are the ones who should be asked their opinion, but coming in from a zero motor racing background I think it was successful.

"This year the teams and drivers have all turned up three or four notches. They got a fright when France did what they did last year and they are all saying they won't let that happen again. They know they have to bring home the results. It will be very competitive."

 

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