Netherlands - Pole Position
Jeroen Bleekemolen has given A1 Team Netherlands the pole position for the A1GP Zandvoort Sprint race. On the seaside circuit the team lived up to the role of favorites, some that some had accredited them, by just fending off New Zealand and Ireland in a qualifying that went right to the wire.
The free practice sessions for A1 Team Netherlands home race were a first sign. Early in the session Bleekemolen set lap times that were out of reach for the rest. Only in the second segment of the first free practice it was Italy just in front, as the track dried after a short shower. It remained dry for the rest of the day.
The A1GP qualifying was altered for this event. Due to the late arrival of some teams, including China and Portugal A1GP had decided to change the session. Instead of four segments, the first two determining the Sprint race grid, the latter two the Feature race grid, there was now one session which ran for an hour, with no limit for the teams on the number of laps. During the session the teams had two sets of new tyres and the possibility to use the powerboost button four times in total, in order to set a faster time. The times also only determined the Sprint Race starting grid.
A1 Team Netherlands went out for three runs and immediately Bleekemolen set the tone by setting a fastest lap with quite a big margin. The second run of Jeroen had to be aborted due to a red flag, after Australia had crashed. By then Ireland had taken the provisional pole and was about six tenths clear. In his final run on new tyres Jeroen gave it all and as he passed the finish line the crowds on the packed main grandstand and in the dunes cheered. The dying minutes of the session were tense though, both for A1 Team Netherlands and the Netherlands fans lining the circuit, there were still ten minutes left. In the end the time of 1'24.213 proved to be three tenths faster than both New Zealand and Ireland and Jeroen was able to celebrate his second A1GP pole.
Jeroen Bleekemolen: "There is no better way to start the season. On pole at your home race. From this morning on we were constantly on top, but then you still have to capitalize on this. The car felt really good, both this morning in the wet as well as on a dry track. Straight after my last run I really felt that this might well be good enough for the provisional pole. After the final red flag because of Frankrijk going off it got tense for a bit, because everyone still had time for a run and some also had new tyres left. Then those dying minutes of qualifying really get exciting, despite the fact that I have been in similar situations before. Driving with the powerboost is a bit tricky, you have only got four of them and when you use one and make a mistake straight after you are done for."
Jan Lammers: "Off course pole position is great. When you announce your ambition before the season and you can immediately fill in a part of that ambition, it is a good omen, but it is also only half time. For now let's enjoy that we are on pole at half time. Tomorrow we will have to start from the beginning, but we will also start from the front. There are some good young racing talents up front, the drivers are happy with the cars. We are very proud to have Jeroen starting in front."
Ireland - Qualified 3rd
Team Ireland's Adam Carroll ended a highly competitive first day of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season by qualifying his bright green A1GP ‘Powered by Ferrari' car in third place for tomorrow's opening round of the series in Zandvoort Park, Holland.
The 25 year old from Portadown fought a close battle with the Dutch team throughout the day and for much of the one hour qualifying Team Ireland headed the time sheets before The Netherlands, New Zealand and Malaysia dropped him to fourth in the closing minutes. Blocked by traffic early on his final qualifying run, Carroll managed to complete three successive qualifying laps on his Michelin tyres to pip Malaysia for third, finishing 0.022s behind A1 Team New Zealand and 0.338s off the pole sitting Team Netherlands car of Jeroen Bleekemolen.
Team Ireland's strong start to the season came after a successful test at Snetterton on Thursday which saw Carroll complete 65 trouble free laps in the dramatic looking new A1GP car, but the Irish squad had to work long hours preparing the car for today's sessions. The car once again ran faultlessly today, underlining the reliability of the new car with its 600bhp Ferrari V8 engine.
"I am very happy with today's result as we can really look forward to a good race tomorrow and we know we are right on the pace," said Carroll. "On my final qualifying run I decided not to go for it straight away and build up to a quick lap on my second flying lap, which had worked already for us during the session, but this time I hit traffic and had to abort the lap. I decided to go for it again with a third lap and it was good, even if the rear tyres did start to feel like they were going off. The team has done a fantastic job with the new car and we'll see what tomorrow brings."
"Today's performance was good to see and of great credit not only to Adam Carroll but to the whole team who have worked extremely hard to build, test and prepare the new car in recent days," said Team Principal Mark Gallagher. "It is also significant that A1GP and its new technical partners have provided us with such a quick, exciting and yet reliable car. Our goal for tomorrow is obviously to build on today's qualifying performance with a top three finish in both the Sprint and Feature Race if that is possible. The Dutch crowd will be fantastic, as usual, so we are looking forward to it."