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Victory for France in Feature Race

NEWS STORY
05/10/2008

A1 Team France has claimed the first Feature race victory of the season in extremely wet conditions at Circuit Park Zandvoort in The Netherlands. From third on the grid Loc Duval put in a mature drive to take France's 15th win. Sprint race winner Fairuz Fauzy finished second for Malaysia, losing time in the first pit stop due to a problem with the left-rear wheel. Earl Bamber put in an outstanding performance this weekend on his race debut for A1 Team New Zealand claiming third, his second podium finish of the day.

With the rain continuing to fall the decision was made to start the Feature behind the safety car instead of the usual grid start due to the standing water around the circuit. The race ran this way for two laps before the Safety Car pulled off an and it was Sprint race winner Fairuz Fauzy who had the best view as the pack headed into Turn 1, with those behind having almost no visibility due to the spray. Charlie Kimball got caught out in the terrible wet condition spinning the USA entry at Turn 6 but continuing on track.

After a couple of attempts, France made a move on New Zealand passing Bamber cleanly down the pit straight and tuckin in front of Black Beauty as the pair headed into the first corner on lap four.

China also had a spin at Turn 2 under pressure from Ireland, who started in 15th after failing to finish the Sprint race. A lap later, Adam Carroll lost the back end of the Ireland car and aquaplaned into the gravel ending a disappointing weekend for the team after looking promising in qualifying.

Meanwhile, local hero Jeroen Bleekemolen passed Bamber for third, much to the delight of the cheering Dutch crowds. Current A1GP champion Switzerland looked to be in trouble when Neel Jani dived into the pit lane for an unscheduled stop due to a suspected gear selection problem. Up at the front, Malaysia was building a comfortable margin in the lead, now 1.760s ahead of France, making the order Malaysia, France, Netherlands, New Zealand after lap five.

With wet weather continuing to test the drivers, lap seven brought about another incident as Italy and South Africa came together. Italy's Fabio Onidi made a mistake spinning across the kerb and Adrian Zaugg's South African car taking them both out of the race. China dropped further back down the field after being given a drive through penalty for overtaking under a yellow flag while Malaysia extended its lead over France to 2.4-seconds.

On lap eight the first pit window opened with race leader Malaysia making the first scheduled stop of the day but lost time due to a problem with the left-rear wheel. Bleekemolen also had a problem changing a wheel but eventually got back on track. Australia had a quick stop with France now leading from New Zealand and Portugal.

A1 Team Korea, making its A1GP debut this weekend, moved into the top ten, by passing Satrio Hermanto in the Indonesian car making the order now France, New Zealand, Portugal, Malaysia, USA, Lebanon, Netherlands, Australia, Monaco, Korea.

With the rain still pouring Netherlands moved up ahead of Lebanon for sixth with the pair both managing to stay on track despite getting extremely close through Turn 13.

On lap 15 France finally came in for its first pit stop and after a quick one retained the lead, as Jeroen Bleekemolen headed back into the pits for the second time, with the team looking to replace the steering wheel. He continued but had to pit later to make the change.

Korea had a minor spin on lap 17, just before Portugal crashed out after just taking the lead. Filipe Albuquerque had a big crash at the quick final turn resulting in the Safety Car being deployed for the first time in the race. As the field closed up, the order was France, Malaysia, New Zealand, Lebanon, Australia, USA, Netherlands, Monaco and China.

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