A1 Team France is all set to mount the defence of its title as the A1GP series arrives at Zandvoort this coming weekend for the first race of the season.

With Nicolas Lapierre and Alexandre Premat sharing driving duties, the French won the inaugural World Cup of Motorsport in a stunning manner, taking 13 wins from 22 races and claiming three pole positions, five fastest race laps and 20 finishes in the points.

With a strong line-up again this season, team principal Jean-Paul Driot said he couldn't wait for the racing to get under way.

"The team is ready for the season to start!" he said. "We're taking nothing for granted and are aware we have a tough act to follow after such a successful debut season last year.

"It's clear that the competition will be more intense this year and we'll have to work as hard and consistently as ever. There are some new regulations which will shake things up a little. We should have a very exciting season ahead of us."

Driot hailed a promising shakedown at the Silverstone group test at the end of last month as a precursor to further glory.

"We worked systematically to try and get our drivers and engineers back into the swing of things for the new season," the Frenchman told Crash.net at the test.

"We had a very strong and complementary driver line-up last year, and there's no reason why six months on they shouldn't still be at the same level."

"The marketing concept of nation versus nation is very interesting and offers the kind of battle people are not used to seeing on the track," he added, explaining the chief draw of A1GP. "Usually it's one driver against another. Even if it's Ferrari versus Renault, what they talk about is Schumacher versus Alonso.

"This series involves a lot of countries new to motor racing at such a high, international level. It's good to see countries joining at this level and new crowds getting interested in motor racing."

Driot, who also runs the front-running DAMS outfit in GP2, said last season's triumph had only made Team France all-the-more determined to pull off the double in 2006-07.

"Last year we were quite a way ahead in terms of points-scoring, and when you are in front like that with no big risk of being overtaken there is often a decline in performance and effort," he explained.

"It's never easy though. Even when it looks easy you've always got to be concentrated and working hard. Just because we won the title last year, it doesn't mean we think it's going to happen again just by clicking our fingers.

"We are starting the new season as if nothing had happened before, just a challenger like everyone else and we will do our best to be at the top like we always do.

"Anything can happen in motor racing and every weekend is different, but we are confident in our capacity as a team. When we go racing it's always to win."

Lapierre, who will be the team's driver for the first race at Zandvoort, added he was relishing the prospect of driving the A1GP car again over what promises to be a close season of racing.

"I can't wait to get back behind the wheel of our car again," he said. "It'll be a very exciting season with new rules and tougher competition. I'm really looking forward to going racing again and defending our crown."



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