Neel Jani for Team Switzerland ended the French domination of the A1 Grand Prix by taking victory in the Sprint race of the sixth round of the self-proclaimed 'World Cup of Motorsport' in Dubai.

Jani, who qualified on pole, was unchallenged in the rolling start first race of the day whilst sharing the front row on the grid, Nicolas Lapierre for the hitherto all-conquering French squad, found himself under attack by Team Ireland's Ralph Firman and Team Great Britain's Robbie Kerr. Lapierre would end the first lap in fifth place, after Brazil's Piquet also gained position.

Whilst Jani would disappear off into the distance - to the tune of some 1.7seconds by the end of the second lap - behind the Swiss car a collection of individual battles would wage.

Firman, fast in all the practice and qualifying sessions, could not demonstrate the race pace of the Swiss and had the nose of Kerr's car and then Lapierre's to keep him honest in the early stages. Kerr would lose his third place to Lapierre on the fourth lap, and seemingly had no retort to the multiple race winner's move.

A couple of laps later Kerr's race would get worse, as a mistake at turn seven would drop the Team GBR car to ninth place just ahead of a dicing Team Malaysia and Team Netherlands.

Alex Yoong in the yellow and white Team Malaysia car was having to drive a very wide machine to keep the ever feisty Jos Verstappen in the Team Netherlands car behind, whilst all the while this duo kept Kerr in sight. Yoong, spared a brief break from the Dutch onslaught in the latter stages, was able to make an unsuccessful move on Kerr, but one that only delivered Yoong the presence of the orange car left, right and centre, behind and beside him.

Further ahead it was a late drama for Firman in the Team Ireland car losing position to first Team Italy's Enrico Toccacelo and then Team Czech Republic's Tomas Enge with an opportune move to follow Toccacelo through and take the Czech driver's second podium in the series.

For France it was the first race that the DAMS-run squad has not won since the season's opening round at Brands Hatch where Team Brazil's Nelson Piquet Jr won both races. Lapierre fought back, and did look to threaten Firman for second in the early stages, but a late mistake from Lapierre put him in the clutches of Team Portugal's Alvaro Parente, and running home to take the chequered flag in seventh place.

For the Brands Hatch winning team it was a bad day. After his purposeful start in the Team Brazil car Nelson Piquet Jr was into third, before Robbie Kerr in the Team GBR car took that position. Piquet crossed the finish line at the end of the first lap in fourth, but he would not finish the next lap, with the 2004 British F3 champ pulling off track with what looked like a mechanical problem, but provided 'Mr Helicopter Rescue' his first mid-race car recovery.

Team Brazil's was not the only car to fail to finish. Team Lebanon didn't even make the race with Basil Shaaban pushing too hard on his out lap and damaging his number one car, whilst the team's second car was not in a sufficiently race ready state to be called straight to action.

Team Germany damaged a front wing in the first corner after driver Adrian Sutil had contact with Yoong, he returned to the pits for a wing replacement, but would retire from the race with a mere two laps completed. Australia's woes continued, with driver Will Davison having to call into the pits, before re-taking to the track to finish a lowly 21st and a lap down on the rest of the field.

"It was a great result, but the big race is to come, it's not over yet. I managed to get a really good start," said Jani after taking his first A1 Grand Prix win.

Asked if he thought he could continue the tradition of winning the feature as well as the sprint race, Jani commented: "Of course I hope we can win, I'll try my best and see what the outcome is."

Crossing the line behind Jani, with his team's best result, Enrico Toccacelo was happy and looking to go well in the later feature race. "I'm confident for the second race, we had a problem in qualifying but the team worked on the car and did a good job," he explained. "I had a good start, despite the first corner which was really close, but I was lucky and got through ok."

Top ten
1. Switzerland
2. Italy
3. Czech Republic
4. Ireland
5. Canada
6. Indonesia
7. France
8. Portugal
9. Great Britain
10. Malaysia

 

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