A blistering start made all the difference for Germany's Nico Hulkenberg in the final race of the 2006/2007 A1 Grand Prix season, the new champions rounding off their season in style after a mesmerising battle with Great Britain.

Embarking on a race-long duel that stretched over 50 laps, Hulkenberg and Robbie Kerr delighted the impressive Brands Hatch crowd with a masterful display of driving that saw them rarely separated by more than a second throughout the duration.

Sadly for the home nation though, second place was not enough to snatch the runners-up spot from New Zealand, Matt Halliday battling his way up to eighth to deny the fast finishing Great Britain an even better position in the standings.

Nonetheless, Hulkenberg and Kerr were the class of the field around the Kent circuit, although it was the start that really decided the final outcome when the German got a flyer off the line from the standing start, diving down the outside of Kerr at Paddock Hill Bend and getting alongside him.

Kerr fought back into Druids, but Hulkenberg held the outside line and with the two pummelling the power boost button in order to gain an advantage, the inside line for Germany into Graham Hill Bend was enough to get the teenager out in front.

Kerr hopes of making an immediate response though were dented when the safety car was deployed following a nasty looking smash for Ian Dyk. The Australian was attempting to thread his way between Jan Charouz and Adrian Zaugg but was instead clipped and sent piling into the Paddock Hill barriers at over 100mph. Although visibly shaken, Dyk was otherwise unharmed in the incident that also brought an end to South Africa's day.

Behind the leaders, Italy held their third place starting position by the end of the first lap, ahead of the fast starting Malaysia, Netherlands, Ireland, India, Canada, France - losing out in a big way having started fourth - and the USA.

With the race underway again after six laps, Kerr immediately put Hulkenberg under pressure, the pair pulling a lead out on Toccacelo, who was having to watch his back after a ragged couple of laps trying to maintain the pace.

As has often been the case this season though, Hulkenberg wasted no time in getting his mandatory pit stop out of the way, diving into the pit lane with Malaysia and Canada on lap eight.

This was the chance for Kerr to get the hammer down and make the most of the clear air in front of him, but he would only have a single lap to make the difference when Bruno Junqueira crashed out at turn four, prompting the threat of a safety car and forcing all other drivers to make their pit stop.

As such, Kerr was unable to do enough on that single lap to beat Hulkenberg out of the pit lane, instead slipping back behind his rival before the safety car was indeed deployed. The losers in this situation though were Ireland, Portugal and Switzerland, who were forced to bottle up behind the safety car as their rivals behind that had already made their pit stop followed closely. There was contention though when Toccacelo dived into the pit lane just as the safety car came out the other side, prompting an investigation from officials that keeps the Italian's result as provisional.

Once the safety car had returned on lap 15, Kerr set about trying to make the most of the traffic ahead of Hulkenberg to try and resume the effective lead of the race. This came to a head just a lap later when Kerr got back alongside Hulkenberg after he was bottled up behind the Swiss entry of Sebastien Buemi, the Brit briefly claiming the lead of the race.

However, when he ran wide coming out of Westfield, Hulkenberg pounced again to snatch back the position and effectively pinch away Kerr's best chance of victory.

With Ireland, Portugal and Switzerland all swallowing their pride and pitting to tumble down the order, Germany moved back into the lead, ahead of the close following Britain, who in turn was pulling out a good lead on Italy.

Fourth was now being held by India, Narain Karthikeyan benefiting from a swift pit stop to move up to fifth before passing Netherlands on the road. USA were holding Canada at bay in sixth, although not before the two enjoyed a t?te-?-t?te coming out of the pit lane, Jonathan Summerton backing down to Sean McIntosh before being allowed back through anyway.

Canada would not stay seventh for long though when Loic Duval got the run on him on lap 27 to get past, a move that Halliday attempted to repeat, prompting some rather aggressive methods of defence from McIntosh. Eventually, the Canadian gave up the position and would then fall behind Malaysia before diving into the pit lane with some kind of problem.

All eyes were on Germany and Britain though, with the Brands Hatch crowd willing Kerr on to pass Hulkenberg. Indeed, despite Kerr being unable to make any more attempts at passing his rival, the gap between the two never grew to more than a second and a half. As a sign of commitment, Kerr's driving was becoming visibly more aggressive - and ragged - as he explored every inch of the Brands Hatch Grand Prix circuit in a bid to shave those hundredths off.

However, with following in the Zytek-powered Lolas proving difficult, Kerr's attempts to get close enough to Hulkenberg proved futile, despite applying some intense pressure over the final few laps.

Nonetheless, victory number nine went the way of Hulkenberg to complete a magnificent season for the German team, a result that leaves them 35 points up on their nearest rivals. Kerr was a content second, despite missing out on finishing off his season with the team's fourth victory in three meetings.

Toccacelo held off a determined final effort by Karthikeyan to claim his second podium of the weekend, a result that moves Italy up ahead of Switzerland in the points standings for seventh, while India's fourth marks their best result in the series yet.

Netherlands and USA finished in a relatively uneventful fifth and sixth, Jeroen Bleekmolen doing enough to move Netherlands up to fifth in the standings at the expense of Malaysia, who finished down in ninth following a tardy pit stop. France and New Zealand finished just ahead in seventh and eighth, while Congfu Cheng delivered the tenth and final point to China to officially bring the curtain down on the second A1 GP season before it gets underway again at Zandvoort in September.



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