A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

All 20 nation representatives burned some rubber for Saturday’s Official Practice, as teams and drivers do their best to find the best set up for their Ferrari powered single seaters, in preparation for Qualifying. David Garza of Team Mexico took the top honours by recording a blistering 1’48.431 with freash set of tires; a full 5 tenths quicker than Switzerland’s Neel Jani as Frenchman Loic Duval, who stopped on track with a techinical problem was two tenths down on Jani’s best lap, setting 1’49.224 in third.

A1 Team Malaysia on the other hand rested their case outside the top ten, in eleventh. Fairuz Fauzy only managed to set a rather modest 1’50.164. Team Korea was again last for the Official Practice, but this time managed to put down 15 crucial laps as Jin Woo Hwang set 1’52.881, about 1.3 seconds adrift from Brazilian Felipe Guimares in 19th spot.

Also bear in mind that all drivers were allowed to utilise their Powerboost option for an entire lap of the Official Practice. The Powerboost option allows drivers to have an extra 60 bhp at their disposal, which can easily translate into about a second in terms of individual lap times at Sepang if used for an entire lap.

A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

For today’s Qualifying session, drivers were allowed to make use of the Powerboost for one of four ten-minute sessions for the first time. Best single lap from either first two sessions will determine grid positions for tomorrow’s Sprint race and the grid arrangements for the Feature race will be determined by the fastest single lap posted in one of the last two sessions.

The Qualifying session was green flagged at 2.15pm local time and wheather conditions were dry and sunny, with 66% humidity. First up was the Sprint race qualifyiing session where it was separated into two ten-minute sessions. Five minutes into the first session, red flags were waved as Team Korea’s car stalled on track in a compromising position, which disrupted Fairuz Fauzy’s hot lap.

Team Indonesia was first to set a time, of 1’52.982. Track opened with only 2 minutes 50 seconds to go, and almost all teams exited the pits at one go to set their respective times. All drivers were rushing to cross the start/finish line in time to start their laps, but atleast four teams inlcuding A1 Team Malaysia failed to cross the line in time. Team Swiss was fastest, setting 1’49.173, ahead of Team Ireland and Team Great Briton.

A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

In the incident-free second Sprint qualifying run, Team Swiss’s Neel Jani snatched pole in the dying seconds of the session from Team New Zealand, setting 1’47.154. Team New Zealand which utilised the Powerboost option was further pushed down to third by Team France. Team Malaysia on the other hand will start tomorrow’s Sprint race amongst the midfielders in 13th place as Fauzy suffered with some traffic on his flying lap.

After completing both sessions for the Sprint event, the final two sessions for the Feature race got under way. In the first ten-minute session, Team Ireland took the top spot with Team France and Team Australia in second and third respectively. With 10 seconds left for the final session, members of the A1 Team Malaysia were on their toes as Fauzy was still the fastest man on track, after setting 1’47.648.

However at the very end of the session, Adam Carroll snatched pole for Team Ireland with 1’47.124, with Danny Watts of Great Briton in second, and Lebanon’s Daniel Morad finished a suprising third. Good news for the local front as Fauzy will launch his car for tomorrow’s Feature race from fourth. Neel Jani of Switzerland who holds an immaculate record at the Sepang track will start way down from 16th.

A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

The Sprint race tomorrow will see all drivers perform a rolling start, with one mandatory pit stop. Drivers will start from a stand still for the Feature race, and this time drivers must perform two mandatory stops. Will the sky throw the rain card tomorrow and will A1 Team Malaysia maintain their lead in the championship? All questions will be answered by 6.15pm tomorrow.

Look after the jump for a set of hi-res photos, including race queens!

Story by Harvinder Singh Sidhu

PHOTO GALLERY: 2008/09 A1 GP at Sepang Saturday November 22 2008
Photos by A1GP.com – click thumbnails to view high res photo

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