A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

It was a dry and sunny Sunday morning, with a healthy number of spectators awaiting the start of the Sprint Race. Neel Jani was on pole for Team Switzerland, with Team New Zealand and Team France in second and third. Unfortunately, the Sprint race was red flagged even before it started, with an incident involving Team Brazil, Team USA and Team India where all three cars retired as a result of a heavy chain accident during rolling start formation, right before crossing the start/finish line.

Drivers went around the track again behind the safety car and this time bad luck fell upon Team Briton as they suffered a gearbox problem, forcing Danny Watts to pit. As the race re-started, Neel Jani lead away without a problem and 2 laps later Fairuz Fauzy suffered a puncture at the Turn 2 as a result of a small accident with Team Republic of South Africa (RSA) as both were fighting for 8th position.

Most drivers performed their mandatory pit stops with 5 laps to go and up front Team New Zealand managed to take away second place from Team France in the pits. Unfortunately with 2 laps to go, Team New Zealand had to allow Team France to pass as the Kiwi team gained an unfair advantage during pit stop which enabled them to pass Team France in the first place. On lap 11, Swiss’s Neel Jani crossed the finish line in first, giving Team Switzerland their third consecutive Sprint race win at Sepang. Loic Duval of Team France finished in second, ahead of New Zealand’s Earl Bamber. Team Portugal, Ireland and Netherlands finished in fourth, fifth and sixth.

A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

A disappointed Fairuz Fauzy finished the race a lap down in 15th. With the end of the Sprint race, Team Malaysia lost it’s championship lead to Team France which has scored 35 points. Malaysia now ties with Team France with 28 points each.

With windy conditions, dark clouds were making their way towards the track as teams and drivers were getting ready for the Feature race. Team Ireland was on pole this time ahead of Team Great Briton and Team Lebanon. A1 Team Malaysia will launch from a strong fourth. Neel Jani, winner of the Sprint race will start from the very back end of the grid due to a not-so-impressive qualifying performance yesterday.

All 19 600-horse power Ferrari V8’s (with the exception of Team Korea) rumbled up as drivers started their formation lap, to get ready for the standing start of the 34 laps Feature race. The track was still dry and as soon the lights went out all cars blasted their way towards Turn 1, with India spinning into retirement. Neel Jani stalled his engine mid way through the lap, putting his race to a pre-mature end. All top four driver positions left unchanged and a lap later the scarlet Ferrari 599 safety car was deployed.

A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

The race restarted with 31 laps to go and Malaysia’s Fairuz Fauzy made an impressive start, stealing third place at Turn 1. Bad luck struck Team Great Briton again as Danny Watts lost his front wing on the same lap. Team France also dived into the pits to replace a punctured tire, which was good news for the local team in terms of championship standings. Adam Caroll of Team Ireland maintained the lead with Team Portugal and host Team Malaysia trailing closely behind with 27 laps to go.

As the first pit window opened, Fauzy was the first to make his mandatory stop, with quite a few cars behind doing the same. Team Malaysia had a clean and quick stop. Portugal came in a lap later and kept second place ahead of Team Malaysia and Team Netherlands. Leader Team Ireland had a good stop on lap 13. With 18 laps to go, Adam Caroll increased his lead by about five seconds from Filipe Albuquerque of Portugal.

A huge mix up for Team Malaysia occurred, possibly a communication break down, as Fairuz Fauzy “suddenly” dived into pits. No mechanical problems were apparent as he rejoined in 14th which allowed Team USA to snatch third. Apparently what happened was the radio communication systems had a malfunction and Fairuz heard a pit command that was meant for another team.

“Throughout the race my car was very strong, but I just suffered a few handling problems, nothing major though. The team called me in for the first pit stop, it was fine, and we went out in the same position again, with the same gap to second placed Portugal. After ten laps I was struggling with over steer on the car, I’m not sure why – maybe the rear tyres pressures were too high, or the rears had just gone. I tried to radio the team, got nothing, and then Box this lap, Box this lap, and then Copy that, then I boxed. When I came in I saw the team was not ready so I knew something was not right. I just had to carry on, but obviously I was very disappointed. Considering we had the extra pit stop it was a really good recovery, the car was very strong. I think if we hadn’t had the pit issue, we would have had a podium. After the last pit stop, I was running about a second quicker, it’s tough for us all,” said Fairuz Fauzy.

A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

The second pit spot window opened with 14 laps remaining and Marco Andretti was the first to pit. Team Malaysia performed their third pit stop of the day and second mandatory stop as well. John Martin of Australia took 7th place from Team RSA in the pits. Fauzy who was down in 13th was giving Team Lebanon a hard time as the duo were fighting for 12th place and he managed to pass Daniel Morad on the main straight with 8 laps to go. Team Ireland increased the gap from Team Portugal by 13 seconds with Malaysia up in 11th. Earl Bamber of New Zealand was pushing Adrian Zaugg of Team RSA whose Ferrari was dispossing a cloud of brake dust in fifth.

With only 2 laps to go, Fauzy overtook Edoardo Piscopo of Team Italy to snatch the final point giving position of 10th place. Adam Caroll who enjoyed a comfortable lead was the first to take the checkered flag, with Portugal in second and USA’s Marco Andretti took his first podium in third. Team Australia came in fourth ahead of Team RSA, after managing to keep New Zealand at bay in sixth.

Seventh spot was taken up by Felipe Guimaraes of Brazil as The Netherlands finished in eight. Ho Pin Tung was the ninth driver to cross the line for Team China. Team Malaysia made a good recovery finishing in 10th spot, scoring one crucial point. Team Monoco, India and Switzerland failed to cross the finish line and were classified as retirees.

A1 GP Malaysia
Picture by A1GP.com

Fauzy said of his home race, “At the end of the day, we win, we lose, we are the one team and the most important thing is the support. At the end of the day the crowd showed me such support, I was able to use this and was able to catch and finish in the top 10. The most important thing is we scored one point; every point is like gold and will make a lot of difference towards the end of the season.”

It was really a colorful event, with mixed and unexpected results. Championship standings wise, Team Ireland is on top with 43 points. Portugal is now in second with 35 points with France in third with 31. Team Malaysia settles for fifth with 29 points for now. The A1 World Cup of Motorsports circus will now head to New Zealand for the fourth round in Taupo on the 25th of January 2009! See you next year!
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 Sunday November 23 2008
Photos by A1GP.com – click thumbnails to view high res photo

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