Oliver Jarvis finally broke Great Britain's A1 Grand Prix hoodoo with a dominant drive in the Mexico City feature race, the reigning British F3 runner-up holding off a determined Jonathan Summerton in a dash to the chequered flag for the breakthrough win.

Repaying the faith shown by the Team GB selectors for placing him in the race seat for only the second time this season, Jarvis powered off the line at the standing start and was never headed, even if Team USA pilot Summerton kept him honest throughout the 45 laps, utilising his fresher tyres towards the end of the race to haul his rival in. In the end, though, Summerton did not have enough laps and had to be content with what was still USA's best result since the first round at Zandvoort.

Jarvis swept into the lead from the off, after polesitter and race one winner Alex Yoong bogged down terribly, dropping dramatically down the order to seventh by the end of the first lap. That left Jarvis in the lead, ahead of Summerton, who made the most of Yoong holding up those behind to jump into second place, with China up to third, followed closely by Enrico Toccacelo, making an excellent start from seventh in the Team Italy entry.

Zaugg slotted into fifth, while Jeroen Bleekemolen moved up to sixth, the Dutchman taking over from Renger van der Zande as the team exercised its driver rotation policy. However, the bad luck France suffered in the sprint continued into the feature, as an impact in the first corner melee damaged Jean-Karl Vernay's car and forced the team to pit for a new nose and front wing at the end of the first lap.

As the race wore on, battles began to emerge down the order, Jarvis eking out a small lead over Summerton who, in turn, was getting a small advantage over Toccacelo, the Italian moving ahead of China on the second lap.

Portugal, having only rejoined the series in Durban, fought strongly from the start, Alvaro Parente overtaking home nation Mexico for eighth on lap four before making an impressive move on the outside of the Netherlands one lap later for seventh.

Further down the field, Brazil's Bruno Junqueira, starting from 20th on the grid after his sprint race incident, saw his first aggressive manoeuvre of the race, challenging India's Narain Karthikeyan, fail to pay off and, as Junqueira struggled to control the car, Germany and Ireland made their way through to 16th and 18th respectively.

As the first round of pit-stops started on lap eight, Jarvis dived in immediately, but Summerton adopted a lengthier strategy, staying out until lap 14 before he finally made his mandatory stop. The risk did not quite work though, with the American emerging from the pit-lane a larger gap away from Jarvis, while the Netherlands also suffered in the pits, with Bleekemolen stalling and dropping the orange car to the back of the pack.

The pit-stop cycle saw the race lead change from the USA to Portugal to Canada, before the last two pitted on lap 17 putting Team GB back in front, ahead of the USA and Ireland, Richard Lyons the only man on track still to pit. When the Irish car finally peeled off by the end of the 19th lap, the order began to settle down, with Great Britain again leading the USA, with South Africa up to third - ahead of Italy, Malaysia, Portugal, New Zealand and Australia - courtesy of some sterling pit work by its crew.

For host nation Mexico, however, the weekend was about to end in further disappointment. After its sprint race collision, Salvador Duran was forced to head back to the pits for a second time in the feature race on lap 14. Unfortunately for the home crowd, a fuel pump problem was diagnosed, forcing the Mexican team into retirement. The locals did manage to salvage something from the weekend, however, with Duran scoring the bonus point for the fastest lap, having set the pace in the morning sprint.

New Zealand's Jonny Reid fought to climb the points ladder throughout the afternoon, aiming to close the gap on the Nico Hulkenberg-less Germany and leave the championship title open for another race. The Kiwi's most impressive manoeuvre came as Malaysia, Portugal and the Black Beauty stormed up to lap Pakistan's Nur Ali on lap 26, Reid overtaking Portugal and putting pressure on Malaysia in one move.

While the top two pulled away from the rest of the field, however, Summerton began breaking down the gap to Jarvis in the final laps, the American's fresher tyres beginning to become more apparent as the chequered flag neared. Nonetheless, Jarvis controlled the race to the line to claim Britain's first win in 40 starts and, in the process, volley Team GB up into third overall, ahead of France.

The denouement was not without its excitement, however, as Jarvis radioed to his team to report a vibration and possible puncture. With a lead of less than four seconds on the USA, Team GB prepared for an emergency pit-stop which, with only seven laps to go, would have cost it the lead. Summerton continued to push the 'We the People' car to the max, closing the gap lap by lap, but Jarvis' vibration did not get any worse, allowing the youngster to take the line 0.690secs in front.

"I want to say a big thank you to the team - they worked so hard and I am delighted to be up here," a relieved Jarvis said after the podium, "I got a cracking start and managed to control the pace early on. We scheduled an early pit-stop to get the benefit of the new tyres and then I pushed to create a gap. At the end of the race Jonathan was pushing hard, but I just maintained a comfortable gap and brought the car home. It's just unfortunately that our seat holder, Tony Clements, could not be here and had to watch this from home."

Summerton had to be content with a still impressive second place, the F3 Euroseries driver - like Jarvis - also making only his second race appearance in A1 GP and bouncing back after injuring his hand in the last round in Durban.

"From fifth on the grid, we had a really good start and I was able to get up to second and just kept pushing," the 18-year old said, "At the beginning, I was on old tyres but I think we had a really great run. With about ten laps to go, I felt I could perhaps catch Oliver and started to push. In the end we came up a little short of him, but I am happy as second is good."

Adrian Zaugg took the third spot on the podium, the South African making his early pit-stop pay by initially pressuring Summerton before falling back into what would be only the team's third ever podium.

"The start was very difficult as I lost a place and was very happy not to drop more," the GP2 debutant commented, "I did some strong laps before the pit-stop and was also able to push hard after it and get up to third. I think our strategy worked out very well even though, on my second lap on new tyres, I was held up, which cost me some time. We have had a very difficult season since Zandvoort, but I think we are catching up now and making good progress."

Toccacelo hit another crest in Italy's rollercoaster season of form, taking fourth well ahead of Yoong who recovered from his problems to eventually cross the line in fifth place. However, the Malaysian never displayed the same kind of pace that saw him walk to sprint race victory.

Reid ended a desperately mediocre weekend for New Zealand in sixth place, the championship contender frustrated not to have taken advantage of the situation on a weekend that saw Germany record its lowest points haul of the season.

Nonetheless, that was not to take credit away from rookie Christian Vietoris, who was another to battle his way back into the points having started last. The young German claimed ninth behind Parente, whose misguided late pit-stop saw him fall away from the leading group, and Ian Dyk, the Australian nursing a twisted ankle after managing to injure it in the interval between the two races.

The final point was taken by Ho-Pin Tung for China ahead of his highly anticipated debut in front of fans in Shanghai at the next round of the championship.

Germany's meagre weekend means the title decider will have to wait for another round although, with Hulkenberg expected to be back in the driving seat and needing only seven points to cement the title regardless of what New Zealand - who are the only nation that can stop them now - can produce, the crown still seems to be heading the way of Willi Weber's team...

 

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