A1 Team Brasil suffered a disappointing opening weekend of the 2006/07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, when it was unable to score any points in the two rounds held at Zandvoort Park Circuit, the Netherlands. Driver Tuka Rocha finished the sprint race in 14th position and was then classified 12th in the feature race, although he was actually forced to retire just metres from the finish line when he was pushed into the Armco by the A1 Team New Zealand entry of Matt Halliday.
In the 20-minute sprint race, which began with a rolling start, Tuka began well for the team, moving from his 16th place grid slot to 14th after the first lap. Unfortunately, with so little time and in a series which is increasingly looking even more competitive than last year, he was unable to improve on his position before the chequered flag.
The feature race turned into a luck of the draw situation as unexpected rain began to fall on lap 15, by which time around half the field had made their compulsory pitstops, including Team Brasil. As it began to get heavier, everyone was into the pits to change to wet tyres and, as the track began to dry fifteen laps later, they were back in for slicks. It meant that although Tuka was driving well, up to 10th by lap five from 13th and looking in a very strong position after his first pitstop, he was disadvantaged by requiring four stops to some teams' two stops and as the clock ticked down he was only able to salvage what looked to be a 12th place finish. However, on the last corner the Team New Zealand driver tried to overtake Tuka, hitting the side of him and pushing him into the Armco barrier at the start of the pit straight.
Teams will now travel to the Czech Republic for the second weekend of A1GP, which will take place at the Brno circuit next weekend, 6-8 October.
Tuka Rocha: "Although the results do not look good, and I am very disappointed, I have to look at the positives and just work on getting prepared for Brno. This is the first time I've raced A1GP so for the first time today I did the rolling start, used the PowerBoost button and had experience of the pitstops, and everything in that respect went well. Our lap times were also not bad and we have managed to make some progress with the development of the car over the weekend. It was extremely difficult to overtake here, so I was just taking advantages when I could see them of another driver making a little mistake. We will be working very hard to improve for next weekend and I hope that we can get some good results and open our points account in the Czech Republic."
Toronto's James Hinchcliffe enjoyed a mixed debut driving for A1 Team Canada in the opening round of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport in Holland today. An encouraging eighth place finish, from a field of 23 competing nations, in the 20-minute Sprint race preceded a tumultuous Feature race for the 19-year-old, where the weather, and in particular an early race thunder storm, ultimately thwarted plans for back-to-back top-ten finishes for the Canadian rookie.
Hinchcliffe held off a spirited race-long charge from home-favorite Jeroen Bleekemolen in the A1 Team Holland entry to score an eighth place finish for A1 Team Canada on his A1GP debut. Gaining a position before the race, moving up to seventh following A1 Team Switzerland's post-qualifying penalty, James took the start and headed for the first of Zandvoort's 11-turns. He dropped back to eighth on the first lap but a feisty performance from the rookie saw him withstand the pressure from the Dutch car to hold station for the duration of the Sprint. A late-race sideways 'moment' failed to phase the Canadian and he took the checkered in eighth, just two places shy of the points.
Starting eighth on the grid for the Feature race, Hinchcliffe led the A1 Team Canada car to sixth by the end of the first lap. Up to fifth just before the mandatory pit window opened, a safety car period immediately followed forcing James to pit later than planned and unfortunately as mixed overhead conditions complicated proceedings. Opting for slick tires, the heavens subsequently opened forcing the Canadian entry back to the pits for a set of wets, James losing ground to those who made the call for wets on their first stop.
Gingerly racing his way towards the top-ten, Hinchcliffe survived a brief run through the gravel at Turn 1 half-way through the race to keep the charge going only to see track conditions improve again as the sun returned. Back in the pits for a third visit on lap 30, this time for a set of slicks, James resumed his charge and climbed as high as 11th before taking 13th at the flag when the race was called on time and not the scheduled 45-lap running.
James Hinchcliffe: "Well it was a very eventful afternoon! We got off to a great start and I was up to P6 by the end of the first lap and hounding New Zealand. Unfortunately after my pit stop we had to come back for wet tires which dropped us back. The car was great at the start so we know we have a good footing, we just got caught out by the weather today and effectively threw in an extra pit stop which hurt us."