Oliver Jarvis cemented Great Britain's billing as a pre-season title favourite by triumphing in the 45-lap A1GP feature race at Zandvoort, a flawlessly gritty performance enabling the Japanese F3 ace to see off sprint race winner South Africa for a convincing victory.

Indeed, for a nation that took so long to register its maiden A1GP success - 40 races - Britain has now won four of the last seven it has started, making it very much the team of the moment. Displaying the Scottish flag on the rear wing of the newly-liveried GB challenger in tribute to the late World Rally Championship legend Colin McRae, Jarvis' was a popular success - and one that could just see the squad make it third time lucky in 2007/08.

As the lights went out for the rolling start, though, it was pole-sitter Zaugg who got the drop on Team Germany's Christian Vietoris, with Jarvis only just succeeding in holding off Neel Jani for third. Home favourite Jeroen Bleekemolen, meanwhile, was experiencing none of the good fortune he had enjoyed in race one as he got forced wide on the opening lap and fell back a handful of positions from his already lowly grid slot.

As the battle for second place hotted up, Zaugg once again began to pull clear as he had done in the earlier sprint outing. It looked like being a repeat performance, but Jarvis had other ideas and at the beginning of lap four darted bravely past Vietoris into the first corner. Shortly afterwards, Portugese newcomer Joao Urbano collided heavily with the barriers at the final turn after taking a bit too much kerb. Although his car momentarily blocked the pit-lane entrance, this did little to distract Jarvis who was on a charge, setting fastest lap on lap five to close to within just two tenths of a second of the leader.

His efforts would be rewarded when the pair swapped positions following the opening round of pit-stops a third of the way through the race, while a little further back Salvador Duran snatched fifth place for Mexico away from Vietoris, with Jani and Jonny Reid's New Zealand entry separating the pair from the duelling leaders. And duelling they certainly were, as Zaugg set about reeling Jarvis back in again and posted the quickest lap of the race as a sign of just how hard he was pushing.

With 20 laps completed, the order was Jarvis, Zaugg, Jani, Duran, Reid, Vietoris, earlier podium finisher Loic Duval (France), Bleekemolen and Ralph Firman (Ireland), but the crowd was well aware there was a lot of racing still to be enjoyed.

Duval was by this point also a man on the move, taking Vietoris around the outside of turn one to steal sixth, with Bleekemolen following suit a couple of laps later to run seventh, as Jarvis once more began to stretch his legs out front and got the gap between himself and Zaugg up to almost five seconds by lap 26.

With Firman also getting past Vietoris along the main straight it was clear the German was in some kind of difficulties. Slightly further up the road, Duval's next target was Reid's 'Black Beauty' machine, with the place changing hands just two laps later as the Kiwi found himself all out of Power Boosts and falling increasingly into the clutches of the fired-up Bleekemolen.

If the result had ever been in any doubt, the second round of pit-stops seemed to clarify matters as a problem on the rear for the South African machine saw Zaugg lose valuable time, and despite Jarvis subsequently being badly-baulked by a lapped Adam Khan a few laps later he was now safely clear out front and the battle was all-but over.

The Briton would ultimately take the chequered flag almost six seconds to the good, with Zaugg making it an excellent day for early pace-setters South Africa in second, Jani sealing third and Duran, Duval and an inspired Firman completing the top six. Reid finished seventh with Bleekemolen eighth, Vietoris ninth and Czech A1GP debutant Erik Janis - officially the 100th driver to start a race in the series - claiming the final point despite receiving some unwanted late attentions from Canada's James Hinchcliffe that resulted in the Canadian's retirement. Mexico took the additional point for fastest lap.

"The whole team has done a fantastic job all weekend and I'm really pleased with today's result," enthused the emotional winner after the race. "It's a great way to kick off the season for the team.

"I was actually starting to slow down about five or six laps from the end. My pit crew were a little bit worried about fuel consumption so I started to back off - there was no rush because I had a big gap. I just wanted to enjoy the moment. You're representing your country, but not just that, my family are here so it was quite a proud moment for me after a difficult start to the weekend."

The result has left Britain sitting second in the nations' standings after the opening encounter, nine points adrift of leaders South Africa and one in front of France. Despite the early advantage, Zaugg was eager to remain cautious when looking further ahead.

"I tried to push as hard as I could," he stressed. "With the second set of tyres I was able to close up on him (Jarvis) during the first couple of laps. It was a tough race but the conditions were changing all the time so it was quite difficult to get the maximum from the car.

"(A nine-point gap) sounds good, but it's early days and just the first race weekend. We have to keep delivering good results and we should be up there."

"The start was really good," added Jani, pleased with his weekend's efforts. "I was nearly in the wall because of Germany so Olly got past me at turn one, and after that I was just trying to keep up with the guys in front of me.

"I was catching Adrian at some stages and then kept falling back again, it was just a bit like a cat-and-mouse game in the end. It was an exciting race but unfortunately I couldn't do better than third - I'm happy with that though and it's a great start to the season for A1 Team Switzerland."

 

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