Following a two-day test last week at the 5.451km Chinese track that saw Kamui Kobayashi shine in his DAMS, the 26 GP2 Asia competitors are getting ready for three-days of action as the second season begins tomorrow as part of the Formula One weekend. Going to China is a first for the championship. Its successful opening season, which generated great action and a lot of interest in Asia and the Middle East, started in Dubai last January and ended at the same track in mid-April. Romain Grosjean was crowned Champion for ART after five rounds, including two Formula One events.
This time around, the GP2 Asia Series is back not only with a new circuit - Shanghai, but also with an additional event. Three of them coincide with Formula One race weekends: China, Malaysia and Bahrain.
A new champion will be crowned at the end of the 08/09 six race calendar. While Japanese star Kamui Kobayashi looks like a serious title contender, he will have to fight tooth and nail against some very competitive challengers including Russian Vitaly Petrov who finished third in the first season, Belgian Jerome d'Ambrosio, Italian Davide Valsecchi, Spaniard Roldan Rodriguez, Japan's Sakon Yamamoto and rookie Giedo Van der Garde who all performed well last week. The grid includes nine Asian/Middle East drivers, including former F1 driver Alex Yoong. No less than twelve rookies are tasking part in the second season opener.
Sporting the number 1 on his ART Grand Prix car, Sakon Yamamoto gives the low-down on what promises to be an exciting first outing: "I have raced at Shanghai twice in Formula 1, and it's a perfect addition to the GP2 Asia calendar. There is always a great atmosphere at the Chinese Grand Prix, and I think the racing will be very good. There are two long straights where the cars will get up to a very high speed. There are a couple of quick corners, including the banked one before the back straight - not many circuits have one of these! Turn one is also unique, because it is not a straightforward hairpin. The entry speed is very high, and you have to take the speed off as you corner, but it is important how much speed you carry through there for the next sequence of corners. I think there can be a lot of overtaking with the GP2 car, and it's a big circuit that I think will suit the car very well. It will be a great way to start the second season of GP2 Asia."