South Africa has claimed their first A1 Grand Prix Championship victory in the season opening sprint race at Zandvoort thanks to a beautifully controlled drive by teenage sensation Adrian Zaugg.

The 19-year old Zaugg controlled the 12-lap race around Zandvoort's 2.6-mile damp but drying layout from the front, keeping experienced A1 hands Salvador Duran (Mexico) and Nicolas Lapierre (France) at bay.

Despite a brave move from Duran around the outside of turn one Zaugg was able to convert pole position into a lap one lead after a typically manic sprint race rolling start and never looked back, overcoming one brief yellow flag intervention to lead Duran's Team Mexico entry across the finishing line by a comfortable two seconds.

Although the huge Dutch crowd were treated to plenty of spectacular sideways action from the 23 slick tyre shod machines, incidents were few and the race was fairly processional. Even with an extended three and a half hour break between the sprint and main feature race, nearly everyone erred on the side of caution and chose to bring their cars home in one piece.

There were a few casualties however, with Team Italy's Pier Guidi Alessandro coming to grief at Tarzan on lap one and Team India's Armaan Ebrahim also failing to see the end of the first lap.

At the front though Zaugg was off and running, opening out a one second lead over fellow front row starters Mexico on the first lap and increasing that gap to nearly two seconds before the yellow flags were displayed on lap five when Team Indonesia's Ananda Mikola skittled into A1 debutant Christian Murchison in the Singapore entry at Tarzan while scrapping for 17th place.

Mikola served a drive through penalty for his part in proceedings but that was scant consolation to Murchison, who was forced to retire his stranded car.

When the yellow flags were removed on lap seven Zaugg hammered home his advantage, extending his lead to two and a half seconds over Duran on his first flying lap and never letting the gap dip below two seconds over the final five tours.

Duran's attentions became more focused on the advances of third placed Nicolas Lapierre in Team France entry as the race entered its closing stages but despite getting to within half a second of the Mexican car, Lapierre had to settle for the final place on the podium.

There was no denying the star of the show however, as Zaugg set the fastest lap of the race at 1:29.125secs just two laps from the finish to all but guarantee him pole position for the standing start feature race.

Duran and Lapierre also lapped in the 1:29 bracket, as did fourth place finisher Niko Hulkenberg in the Team Germany entry.

The German machine ran fourth from start to finish, not threatening the top three but also staying well clear of Darren Manning in the fifth placed Team Great Britain entry.

Manning took the chequered flag six seconds behind Hulkenberg and twelve behind Zaugg after a lonely drive with Matt Halliday in the fast starting Team New Zealand entry completing the top six.

The battle for seventh was the highlight of the race as Team USA's Phil Giebler and Team Canada's James Hinchcliffe battled to hold off a snarling pack of more than half a dozen cars for virtually the entire distance. Giebler held on for seventh with Hinchcliffe eighth, home crowd hero Jeroen Bleekemolen ninth and Team Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi rounding out the top ten.

A little further down the order 'Frankie' Chen gave Team China one of their best ever finishes with a hard fought eleventh place effort, passing Team Malaysia's Alex Yoong in the process. Ryan Briscoe finished a disappointing 13th for Team Australia while Team Ireland's Michael Devaney will be thankful that the garishly coloured Irish car saw the end of the race, albeit in 15th position.

While Team Singapore's first A1 race ended prematurely, Team Greece and driver Takis Kaitazis drove sensibly to finish 18th, ahead of both the delayed Team Indonesia entry and the Team Pakistan machine, which completed the 20 finishers.

 

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