Adrian Zaugg delivered South Africa its second triumph of the 2007/08 A1GP season in the Eastern Creek feature outing, with it ensuring that his country is in the thick of a thrilling five-way championship battle heading towards his home meeting in Durban in three weeks' time.

The second of two action-packed races Down Under saw Zaugg conjure up a magnificent performance in treacherous conditions as the heavy rain continued to pour down, ultimately taking the chequered flag almost a full 20 seconds clear of erstwhile championship leader Switzerland, for whom Neel Jani atoned for his earlier sprint race indiscretion by racing to the runner-up spot.

"I have to thank Humphrey my engineer and the whole team for that call," former GP2 ace Zaugg acknowledged afterwards, in reference to a timely tactical decision in the lead-up to the first round of pit-stops. "I could see I was able to go at a better pace than at least Robbie [Kerr - Team GBR] and Neel, so I thought we had a good chance. We stayed out and put in some good laps and then pitted and got out ahead.

"It was very, very hard in these conditions. Each time I was trying to get a move or pass someone, when you come so close the visibility gets so bad you can't see anything. It was just safer to wait until we got a chance for some clear laps and that's all we did. The track conditions stayed pretty consistent, but there was maybe a little less rain right at the end.

"The win gives you lots of confidence, but each time it's a new race and a new day and I always give it my best. Definitely we have a great motivation coming to Durban."

Indeed, the on-track action began before the lights had even gone out to signal the start of the 42-lap race, with pole-sitter Jonny Reid in the New Zealand entry grinding to a halt just after leaving the pits to form up on the grid. The marshals were not able to push-start the stalled car uphill, and as a result Black Beauty started from pit lane.

Then, only moments after Reid's misfortune, sprint race winner Lo?c Duval encountered a clutch problem that led to him stalling the French car on the formation lap and forcing the 25-year-old to start the race from the back of the grid, potentially putting both title rivals immediately out of contention.

Whilst Reid would go on to take the chequered flag a lowly ninth to at least salvage a couple of - potentially crucial - points, Duval made steady progress and by lap 16 had caught the USA's Jonathan Summerton and Canada's Robert Wickens for sixth place. In an ambitious move four laps later, the Chartres-born ace snuck down the inside of the 'We The People' entry, forcing Summerton to run off the track and ultimately ending his race.

A drive-through penalty for causing an avoidable collision was the result, but in any case all would eventually come to nothing as the clutch issue reared its ugly head again during his second compulsory pit-stop on lap 31, bringing a premature end to France's charge and dashing any hopes of a dream double victory for the inaugural series champions on what may have been Duval's A1GP swansong.

That handed a lifeline to Jani, who needed to score heavily after throwing away eleven points in the sprint race when he had run wide with just two laps to go. His second place in the feature event kept Switzerland well in the title chase, just three points adrift of new joint leaders New Zealand and France.

"I had a bad take-off," the former Champ car front-runner admitted, "but the second part of my start was good. As the cars were rolling down I had to have my foot on the brake, as I didn't want to have the same mistake I had at the last race when I was penalised for making a false start. It was still enough to be P1 into the first lap and I could just keep that position with more-or-less the same pace as the guys behind me.

"We came in on the first lap possible for the first pit-stop. South Africa stayed out which was the better call, but I think their pace certainly was pretty quick and it would have been hard to keep them behind us."

Through all the chaos the patience and experience of Robbie Kerr would also reap dividends, as the British ace returned the Union Jack to the rostrum for the first time since Oliver Jarvis' success in the season curtain-raiser at Zandvoort, courtesy of a strong run to third place after briefly falling back during the early laps.

"After the disappointment of Taupo where we didn't score any points, GBR had to get a good result and the podium is a nice way to do it," the 28-year-old reflected. "Unfortunately it wasn't two places higher - I'm sure I would have a bigger smile on my face if it was!

"The initial take-off was good, but unfortunately as I ran over the start-finish line where New Zealand would have been, the rear wheels just spun up a little bit and we lost traction from that point on. I just had to slow the car to regain traction and then try to accelerate again, and by that point Brazil and South Africa had gone past. We had to get a good result here and it wasn't worth taking a big risk."

Brazil's Sergio Jimenez was on fine form too, racing from ninth on the grid to a solid fourth place, his nation's second-best result of the season. The Brazilian team, who now lie ninth in the championship standings, was joined at Eastern Creek by 2002 FIFA World Cup winning Brazilian midfielder Juninho, currently playing for Sydney FC.

Home nation Australia's John Martin wowed the crowds as his impressive form continued, carving his way through the field from 14th to bring Jackaroo home in a superb fifth place, his country's best-ever result on home soil.

Germany's Michael Ammerm?ller narrowly managed to fend off the Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen across the line for seventh position, ahead of Reid and rising Chinese star CongFu Cheng, whose race was hampered when he was hit with a drive-through penalty for making a false start, like Jani had done in Taupo.

Just outside the points Narain Karthikeyan crossed the line eleventh for India, closely followed by Pakistan's Adam Khan, who drove a solid race to secure his team's best result of the season in twelfth.

New Zealand and France now both leave Sydney with 96 championship points, with the former holding the title lead due to number of race wins. Switzerland lies just three points behind in third place, ahead of South Africa in fourth on 79 and Germany hanging on in fifth two points further back.

To see the feature race results in full, click here

 

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