Tomas Enge became the eighth different winner in A1 Grand Prix history as the inaugural World Cup of Motorsport drew to a close with a race of drama and excitement at Shanghai's International Circuit.

The result was decided both in pit-lane and on the track, as Team Czech Republic took advantage of an early safety car period to turn Enge around in double-quick time and get him out between polesitter Alex Yoong and front row starter Darren Manning. The former IRL pilot then swept around the Malaysian at turn one to seize a lead he was not to lose.

The season finale got off to an exciting start as Manning challenged Yoong for the lead into turn one, before deciding that discretion might be the better part of valour and allowing the yellow Malaysian car ahead. Ireland's Michael Devaney did not have that option, having been swamped off the line - something that would ultimately lead to the critical safety car period.

Mexico's Salvador Duran slipped into third, with Enge and Indonesia's Ananda Mikola battling over fourth with France and New Zealand in close attendance. Further back, Christian Fittipaldi's efforts in securing the final point in race one were rendered useless as the Brazilian was looped into a spin on lap one, but the biggest drama was only just about to unfold.

Having got back in touch with Mikola and Enge, Devaney made full use of their battle to slip through into fourth. Mikola retaliated and the two cars ran side-by side for two corners before Ireland appeared to have snatched a vital edge. Mikola didn't think so, however, but, keeping his foot planted, drifted wide at the next corner, catching Devaney's left rear with his right front and pitching the Irishman into a series of rolls that only ended with his helmet resting against the tyre barrier. Devaney was obviously unimpressed at seeing a strong finish taken from him, giving an equally aggrieved Mikola the bird as he stalked off.

Although the safety car duly waited for the pack on the main straight, the wait was a long one as everyone opted to make their compulsory pit-stop. It was here that Enge took the first step towards victory, converting the fourth place he had been handed by the Mikola-Devaney incident to second as the Charouz team - which had earlier celebrated a 1-2 result in the F3000 Masters at Monza - executed the perfect pit-stop.

An equally good stop for Malaysia saw the bright yellow car pull out in front as smooth stops for Switzerland and Canada saw them move up from the back of the grid to ninth and tenth respectively.

While Yoong managed to get out ahead of the red, white and blue Czech Lola, however, Manning and Duran were not as lucky, as saw their races go downhill from that point on.

Enge tailed the Malaysian car for the next lap, but clearly was in no mood to hang around, pulling out of Yoong's slipstream and braving it out around the outside through turn one. From there, the Czech simply eased away, eventually crossing the line a handful seconds ahead of the sprint race winner.

"It's great to get this result today," Enge said, "We've had a lot of bad luck during the last half of the season, with lots of ups and downs in the last few races.

"In Laguna Seca, we didn't finish either race, so I hoped everything would go well here and, in the end, the pit-stop and the restarts were all really good.

"I must thank the team for all their work and a great car. I think it will take us about a week to realise what has happened today. I'm very proud that the Czech Republic won the last race in the first season of A1 Grand Prix."

Malaysia jumped from tenth in the series standings to fifth after Yoong's second podium performance in Shanghai.

"Before the weekend, we almost joked that we could get fourth in the series, if we won both races, and it nearly happened," the driver said, "The car was really good in the first race but, in the second, the balance wasn't quite as good, and Tomas was doing a good job. But we are pleased with this second place."

Manning's hopes of claiming a second podium in his first appearance for Team GB were effectively ended as the officials handed out the first of a rash of penalties, this time for an alleged jump start. The Yorkshireman's drive-thru punishment dropped him away from the front of the field and, as the strain of trying to fight back on a set of tyres fitted earlier than normal in a feature race took its toll, he faded to 15th at the flag.

With Duran also suffering, eventually coming home eighth - albeit with a late fastest lap - the field was open for others to enjoy a moment in the sun, especially after champions France suffered at its pit-stop. Nicolas Lapierre eventually recovered to sixth after a fascinating battle with Canada's Patrick Carpentier, but the podium went to Australia's 'new' hero, Ryan Briscoe.

The former IRL pilot also took advantage of a quick stop to be well placed to succeed those penalised, and came home comfortably ahead of Tasman rival New Zealand, which took advantage of France's problems to secure fourth place in the points battle by coming home ahead of the likes of the Netherlands and Brazil.

"It's a fantastic result to come away with third, especially as this is only my second outing in A1 Grand Prix," Briscoe commented, "It means a lot to be racing for your country, and I must say a big thank-you to all the boys in the team.

"I kept working hard, and tried to preserve the tyres as much as possible, but I didn't have the speed to catch Alex. During the first race, we had a slight problem with the set-up, but we made a few changes before the second race, and found the best set-up again."

Adam Khan took a fine sixth for Team Pakistan, ahead of France - which recovered from 18th after its pit-stop - and Canada, while Mexico, Italy and the USA rounded out the scorers, despite Enrico Toccacelo and Phil Giebler both having scrapes of their own. The American enjoyed a spirited battle with 'countryman' Graham Rahal, who narrowly missed out on Lebanon's first point, while Toccacelo struggled with a gripless car as he attempted to fend off the likes of Lapierre and Duran in the closing stages.

Mexico made a final leap up the leaderboard into eighth by overtaking Italy on lap 25 but, for Toccacelo, this was not the end of the affair, although his hopes of taking the place back again were dashed due to a spin on lap 26.

 

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