A1 Team Brasil will begin tomorrow's sprint race from the eighth row of the grid after Tuka Rocha competed in this afternoon's A1GP World Cup of Nations qualifying session at the Brno circuit in the Czech Republic. His position could have been higher, but he unfortunately hit traffic on his last hot lap with new tyres, and so was unable to improve on his grid slot.
The Team's day began when Tuka drove in the final one-hour official practice session this morning. The Brazilian squad had made some improvements to the car overnight, and made the most of the time available, with Tuka completing 23 laps of practice, the highest of any Team. The Team was pleased with improved times, despite running on old tyres, and Tuka finished the practice less a second adrift of the fastest man.
In the four-part qualifying session, Tuka was sitting tenth after the first segment, after setting a time of 1:46.968. He improved on this with his second set of new tyres in segment three, and was on for a blistering lap in the fourth segment, looking set for a top ten position, when he was blocked by the Team France car, which was on its inlap. Tuka's two fastest laps from Q1 and Q4 gave him a combined time of 3:33.732, placing him 15th in the standings.
Tuka Rocha: "We could have been in a better position that 15th but we lost between seven tenths and a whole second behind the French car on the last lap. I had let him past and then he blocked me for most of the final lap. I really like the track, the car is feeling quite good at the moment, and I know that our lap times are consistently good when we have old tyres on, so I'm quite confident for the race. Tomorrow I hope we can have a good day, we will see what happens."
Toronto's James Hinchcliffe powered A1 Team Canada to its highest ever Sprint race qualifying slot today, sixth place, ahead of Round 2 of the 2006-07 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport tomorrow, Sunday 8th October, hosted at the 5.41km Auto Motodrom, Brno in the Czech Republic.
Having debuted for A1 Team Canada in last weekend's opening round at Circuit Park Zandvoort in Holland, where 23 nations lined up to compete against each other in identical 550bhp, V8-powered open-wheel A1GP racing cars, Hinchcliffe (19) proved himself to be a quick learner as he immediately dialed himself in to A1GP's unique aggregate qualifying system, where each driver has four timed runs with the fastest two laps combined to set the grid order for Sunday's Sprint race.
Straight out on fresh rubber, the Canadian entry was firmly planted in the top-ten and James duly powered the car further up the order as he utilized three new sets of tires over his four hot laps, eventually placing sixth overall at the end of the session with an aggregate time of 3m31.673s. Pole winners A1 Team New Zealand (Jonny Reid) are joined on the front row tomorrow by Round 1 Feature race winners A1 Team Germany (Niko Hülkenberg).
James Hinchcliffe: "Well I hadn't done a new tire run all weekend prior to qualifying, having used old rubber for the rookie session yesterday, so we decided to go out on a fresh set for my first flying run to see where the car's balance was. It was pretty good but we still had a few things to work on and ended up getting quicker and quicker with each run. By my fourth and final run we had a really good car, it was so much better than I was expecting to be honest.
"Considering how yesterday went, where we struggled throughout the day, sixth on the grid for tomorrow's Sprint race is a great result. We're looking forward to productive Sprint and Feature races here in Brno to open our points account. Hopefully things bode well as we had a good first session this morning working on long runs on old tires."
Following another trouble-free Official Practice session on Saturday morning in preparation for Sunday's second round in Brno, French driver Nicolas Lapierre had a difficult qualifying session, finishing in 9th position for Sunday's 20-minute Sprint Race with an aggregate result of 3.32.227. The 22-year-old French driver set his personal best time in the first run with 1.46.063. Data collected today will now be analysed carefully by the Team in order to improve the car's balance for tomorrow's races.
Nicolas Lapierre commented: "We had a very disappointing qualifying this afternoon as we had been ahead in all the Official Practice sessions. For some reasons we need to understand, we did not make the most of our new tyres. However, ups and downs are part of racing. Nevertheless, tomorrow should be better as with old tyres, we have always had a good pace."
Eric Boullier, Team Manager, A1 Team France added: "Our car was performing well in all the Official Practice sessions but then when it came to the qualifying session in identical conditions, we encountered unexpected problems. We now need to analyse all the information we have gathered this weekend in order to find the right balance for tomorrow's races."