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Champ Car & the IRL Finally Merge

  After 12 years of damaging rivalry Champ Car and the Indy Racing League have signed a deal to merge their series effective immediately Some details, such as which races will go into the unified series, are still to be finalized but after many abortive attempts, the deal is done. This will result in a much stronger US open wheel racing scene and hopefully return the series to the heights it enjoyed in the late 80’s and early 90’s.

  The owners of the two series issued a short statement on Friday night which read; “Owners of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League completed an agreement in principle Friday that will unify the sport for 2008. Gerald Forsythe, co-owner of Champ Car, signed an agreement in principle in Chicago, joining his partner Kevin Kalkhoven and Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George who had signed late Thursday in Indianapolis.”

 

Just how many Champ Car teams will join the IRL is still to be confirmed but most of the large teams, Newman Haas, Forsythe & Team Australia/Walker Motorsports will be sure to join.

 

  Team Australia chief, Derrick Walker, was at the announcement and had this to say; “It's been a long road, but it has finally come together. One open-wheel racing series in the United States has long been recognized as what fans and sponsors want to have, and I'm happy to say that Walker Racing embraces the decision. I also want to give a special thanks to all the past and present CART/Champ Car officials for all their hard work in giving us some great seasons."

 

  IRL team bosses, Bobby Rahal and Michael Andretti also expressed their delight at the merger. "This is a great day for open-wheel racing and one that I and my Rahal Letterman Racing team have looked forward to for a long time," Rahal said in a statement.  Michael Andretti said "This is a huge day for the IRL and for our sport as a whole. Over the years as a driver, team owner, and promoter, I've always wanted a unified sport.”

 

Sam Snape

23/02/2008 

A1GP South Africa Wins in Sydney Ahead of Home Event

Australia - A1 Team South Africa secured its second A1GP race win of the season in this afternoon's action-packed Feature race at Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway, closing the gap to third-placed Switzerland in the championship standings. The weekend brought the championship battle even closer together with leaders New Zealand and France both heading to the next race in Durban, South Africa on 96 points.

Adrian Zaugg drove a sensational race in treacherous conditions as the heavy rain continued to pour down, to cross the line almost 20 seconds ahead of Switzerland's Neel Jani in second. The result is a huge boost for the South African team as it gears up for its home event in three weeks time.

Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, who briefly fell back a place after making a good start from third on the grid alongside China in fourth, took the third and final podium position after a strong race in difficult conditions.

The on-track action began before the lights went out to signal the start of the 42-lap race with pole-sitter New Zealand's Jonny Reid grinding to a halt just after leaving the pits to form up on the grid. The marshals were not able to push start the stalled car uphill and as a result Black Beauty started from pit lane. Moments later Sprint race winner Loic Duval stalled the French car on the formation lap and was forced to start the race from the back of the grid, potentially putting both title rivals out of contention.

Brazil's Sergio Jimenez was on brilliant form this afternoon, racing from ninth on the grid to a solid fourth place, the nation's second best result of the season. The Brazilian team, who now lie ninth in the championship standings, was joined at Eastern Creek by 2002 FIFA World Cup winning Brazilian midfielder Juninho, who is currently playing for Sydney FC.

Having started from the back of the grid due to a clutch problem that caused him to stall, France's Loic Duval made steady progress and by lap 16 he had caught USA's Jonathan Summerton and Canada's Robert Wickens and the trio commenced a three-way fight for sixth place. In an ambitious move four laps later, Duval snuck down the inside of the American car, forcing Summerton to run off the track and ultimately ending his race.

The French team, still hampered by its clutch problem, received a drive through penalty for causing the avoidable collision and Duval's race was finally over when he failed to get the car going after his second compulsory pit stop on lap 31.

Home nation Australia's John Martin wowed the crowds as his impressive form continued, carving his way through the field from 14th to bring Jackaroo home in a superb fifth place, the nation's best ever result on home soil.

Germany's Michael Ammermüller just managed to fend off the Netherlands's Jeroen Bleekemolen across the line, the pair taking seventh and eighth place respectively. New Zealand's Jonny Reid, who started from pit lane and China's Congfu Cheng, who was hit with a drive through penalty for making a false start, took the final two point-scoring positions.

Just outside the points was India's Narain Karthikeyan who crossed the line in 11th position, closely followed by Pakistan's Adam Khan in 12th, who drove a solid race to secure the team's best result of the season.

Feature race winner South Africa's Adrian Zaugg praised his team's good tactical call in difficult conditions before the first round of pit stops:

'I have to thank Humphrey my engineer and the whole team for that call. I could see I was able to go at a better pace than at least Robbie and Neel, so I thought we had a good chance. We stayed out and put in some good laps and then pitted and got out ahead. It was very very hard in these conditions. Each time I was trying to get a move or to pass someone but when you come so close the visibility gets so bad you can't see anything. It was just safer to wait until we got a chance for some clear laps and that's all we did. The track conditions stayed pretty consistent but there was maybe a little less rain right at the end.'

Commenting on winning the Sydney Feature race ahead of his nation's home event in three weeks time, Zaugg said:

'The win gives you lots of confidence but each time it's a new race and a new day and I always give it my best, but definitely we have a great motivation coming to Durban.'

Second-placed Switzerland's Neel Jani, who benefited from his title rivals New Zealand and France starting from the back of the grid, said:

'I had a bad take off but the second part of my start was good. As the cars were rolling down I had to have my foot on the brake as I didn't want to have the same mistake I had at the last race when I was penalised for making a false start. It was still enough to be P1 into the first lap and I could just keep that position with more or less the same pace as the guys behind me. Then we came in on the first lap possible for the first pit stop. South Africa stayed out which was the better call but I think their pace certainly was pretty quick and it would have been hard to keep them behind us.'

GBR's Robbie Kerr, who endured a difficult weekend last time out in New Zealand, raced to a solid third place and was pleased to notch up some more championship points for the team:

'After the disappointment of Taupo where we didn't score any points, GBR had to get a good result and the podium is a nice way to do it. Unfortunately it wasn't two places higher, I'm sure I would have a bigger smile on my face if it was! The initial take off was good, but unfortunately as I ran over the start finish line where New Zealand would have been, the rear wheels just span up a little bit and we just lost traction from that point on. I just had to slow the car to regain traction and then try to accelerate again and by that point Brazil and South Africa had gone past. We had to get a good result here and it wasn't worth taking a big risk.'

New Zealand and France both leave Sydney with 96 championship points, but the Kiwis hold the title lead due to number of race wins. Switzerland lies just three points behind in third place ahead of South Africa in fourth on 76 points, as the series heads to Durban, South Africa for round seven on 22-24 February 2008.

Feature race results

POS

DRIVER

A1 TEAM

 LAPS

TIME

GAP FIRST

1

Adrian ZAUGG

SOUTH AFRICA

42

1:12:00.930

-

2

Neel JANI

SWITZERLAND

42

1:12:20.490

+19.560

3

Robbie KERR

GREAT BRITAIN

42

1:12:26.124

+25.194

4

Sergio JIMENEZ

BRAZIL

42

1:12:43.700

+42.770

5

John MARTIN

AUSTRALIA

42

1:13:09.577

+1:08.647

6

Robert WICKENS

CANADA

42

1:13:11.251

+1:10.321

7

Michael AMMERMÜLLER

GERMANY

42

1:13:17.229

+1:16.299

8

Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN

NETHERLANDS

42

1:13:18.085

+1:17.155

9

Jonny REID

NEW ZEALAND

42

1:13:23.377

+1:22.447

10

Congfu CHENG

CHINA

42

1:13:34.843

+1:33.913

11

Narain KARTHIKEYAN

INDIA

42

1:13:36.344

+1:35.414

12

Adam KHAN

PAKISTAN

42

1:13:40.426

+1:39.496

13

Adam CARROLL

IRELAND

41

1:12:15.720

1 Lap

14

Edoardo PISCOPO

ITALY

41

1:12:18.089

1 Lap

15

Tomas ENGE

CZECH REPUBLIC

41

1:12:48.379

1 Lap

16

Joao URBANO

PORTUGAL

41

1:12:48.520

1 Lap

17

Fairuz FAUZY

MALAYSIA

41

1:13:07.685

1 Lap

18

David GARZA

MEXICO

41

1:13:08.663

1 Lap

19

Chris ALAJAJIAN

LEBANON

40

1:12:41.811

2 Laps

20

Satrio HERMANTO

INDONESIA

39

1:12:32.846

3 Laps

21

Loic DUVAL

FRANCE

31

0:54:11.592

11 Laps

22

Jonathan SUMMERTON

USA

20

0:35:12.546

22 Laps

2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport points standings

POS

 NATION

 POINTS

1

New Zealand

96

2

France

96

3

Switzerland

93

4

South Africa

79

5

Germany

77

6

Great Britain

58

7

Netherlands

55

8

Ireland

50

9

Brazil

38

10

Canada

37

11

China

29

12

India

28

13

Mexico

19

14

Australia

15

15

USA

12

16

Czech Republic

10

17

Portugal

5

18

Italy

4

19

Malaysia

2

20

Pakistan

1

Fastest lap: A1 Team South Africa set the fastest lap in the Feature race, lapping the Eastern Creek circuit in 1m.39.034s with a speed of 142.9 kph on lap 33 of the 42 lap race.

Next race: A1GP Durban, South Africa, 22-24 February 2008

A1GP France Ends Victory Drought with Fantastic Win in the Wet

Australia - A1 Team France has taken the title lead in the thrilling 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season, having dominated this morning's wet Sprint race at Sydney's Eastern Creek from start to finish to take its first win in 37 races.

Loic Duval pulled out a comfortable lead at the start of the 14-lap race and was never threatened by the remaining 21-car pack, continuing to pull away from Switzerland and New Zealand as the rain got heavier. Duval finally crossed the line in first place, nine seconds ahead of Jonny Reid in Black Beauty, who masterfully snatched second position from Neel Jani on lap nine. The Swiss driver spun off later in the race and lost valuable championship points.

The win is 25-year-old Frenchman Duval's first victory in A1GP and ends season one champion France's race win drought. The team has not occupied the top step of the podium since Alexandre Premat won the Mexico Feature race in 2006.

France and New Zealand were joined on the podium by 18-year-old Canadian rookie Robert Wickens, who put in an incredible performance in the wet to race from 15th on the grid to a finish in a superb third place and pick up ten valuable championship points for his nation.

Germany's Michael Ammermüller crossed the line fourth having started from seventh on the grid, closely followed by USA's Jonathan Summerton in fifth, the team's best finish so far this season.

Host nation A1 Team Australia's John Martin gave his home fans something to cheer about, pushing hard throughout the race and improving three places from the start to cross the line in sixth position, ahead of South Africa's Adrian Zaugg and Brazil's Sergio Jimenez in seventh and eighth places respectively.

The Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen finished the incident-packed race ninth while Switzerland's Neel Jani, who was running in second for much of the race, fell back to tenth after he ran wide with two laps to go.

Great Britain's Robbie Kerr, whose race engineer had struggled from his hospital bed to stand on the pit wall with his broken leg in a plaster cast, got a great start from eighth on the grid but lost time when the team decided to pit for wet tyres on lap eight, ultimately crossing the line a disappointing 16th.

The 22 nations are now preparing for the main event of the weekend at Eastern Creek, a thrilling 70-minute Feature race with two compulsory pit stops, which starts at 15:00 this afternoon.

France's Loic Duval, who took his first ever A1GP win in what he says will be his last event for the team this year, reflected on what the result means to him and the team:

'It feels great. We've been running behind for a long time so it's really good for us to win this race and the team did a great job. It was perfect and we needed it. It was important for us to win a race and this may be my last race in A1GP so I'm really happy to leave the series with a victory. It was really hard in the rain but because of our pace in the dry conditions I had a really good gap so we were not really worried about the other guys. We were just trying to stay on the track and not take any risks.'

New Zealand's Jonny Reid, who raced to a solid second place from fourth on the grid, and is starting this afternoon's Feature race from pole, said:

'We had to fight for it a little bit. It was a good battle with Neel and once I got in front I gradually pulled away and started concentrating on Loic, but he was doing a good job in tricky conditions and I didn't want to take any risks and compromise the championship. Pole for the Feature race is a good position to start from but as we've seen before a million times it's tricky. We've got a lot of competition out there and everyone's in the hunt. We can really do a good job but it's going to be interesting to see what the weather does.'

Eighteen-year-old Canada's Robert Wickens, who put in an amazing performance to race from 15th to third, commented on the wet conditions:

'It was a great drive. We were struggling a little bit with the pace in the dry and we were just running in 13th or 14th. I think I had more trust in the car early on in the race and I actually made the majority of my passes when it was at the intermediate stage. A lot of drivers were staying on the dry line and I was one of the first ones to go on the wet line. If it rains in the Feature race we can just hope for the best and try to score some more points.'

Sprint race results

POS

DRIVER

A1 TEAM

 LAPS

 TIME

GAP FIRST

1

Loic DUVAL

FRANCE

14

20:18.536

-

2

Jonny REID

NEW ZEALAND

14

20:27.734

+9.198

3

Robert WICKENS

CANADA

14

20:29.552

+11.016

4

Michael AMMERMÜLLER

GERMANY

14

20:30.465

+11.929

5

Jonathan SUMMERTON

USA

14

20:31.140

+12.604

6

John MARTIN

AUSTRALIA

14

20:32.746

+14.210

7

Adrian ZAUGG

SOUTH AFRICA

14

20:33.059

+14.523

8

Sergio JIMENEZ

BRAZIL

14

20:48.796

+30.260

9

Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN

NETHERLANDS

14

20:52.007

+33.471

10

Neel JANI

SWITZERLAND

14

20:52.342

+33.806

11

Narain KARTHIKEYAN

INDIA

14

21:03.278

+44.742

12

Joao URBANO

PORTUGAL

14

21:04.667

+46.131

13

Edoardo PISCOPO

ITALY

14

21:04.732

+46.196

14

Congfu CHENG

CHINA

14

21:07.959

+49.423

15

Adam CARROLL

IRELAND

14

21:08.836

+50.300

16

Robbie KERR

GREAT BRITAIN

14

21:15.251

+56.715

17

David GARZA

MEXICO

14

21:21.382

+1:02.846

18

Tomas ENGE

CZECH REPUBLIC

14

21:21.569

+1:03.033

19

Chris ALAJAJIAN

LEBANON

14

21:23.565

+1:05.029

20

Fairuz FAUZY

MALAYSIA

14

21:39.416

+1:20.880

21

Satrio HERMANTO

INDONESIA

14

21:41.178

+1:22.642

22

Adam KHAN

PAKISTAN

1

01:33.270

13 Laps

Fastest lap: A1 Team France's Loic Duval set the fastest lap (1m19.350s) of the Sprint race on lap two.

A1GP Netherlands Tops Durban Friday Practice

South Africa - A1 Team Netherlands set the pace in the second of today's two free practice sessions in South Africa as round seven of the 2007/08 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport season got underway around the streets of Durban in hot and humid weather conditions.

Jeroen Bleekemolen recorded the best lap time of the day, a 1m18.738s, around the 3.28 km circuit, just over half a second off Brazil's lap record. Germany's Michael Ammermüller, who was an impressive 1.3 seconds quicker than the rest of the field at the end of the rookie practice session this morning, clocked the second fastest time of the day.

Great Britain's Oliver Jarvis, who hasn't driven an A1GP car since December 2007, and USA's Jonathan Summerton were on good form this afternoon, setting the third and fifth fastest lap times respectively. This was particularly impressive as both nations did not have the benefit of this morning's rookie session. Switzerland's Neel Jani was sandwiched between GBR and USA in fourth.

Home nation South Africa's Adrian Zaugg pleased his local fans by setting the sixth fastest time of the day despite limited track time, closely followed by Australia's John Martin in seventh. Title leaders A1 Team New Zealand and France had a tough time around the streets of Durban, finishing the session 11th and 15th respectively.

Canada's Robert Wickens only managed 10 minutes of track time and completed four laps in this afternoon's session, as the team had to repair damage sustained to the car during this morning's rookie session, when new boy Daniel Morad, the youngest driver to sign-on this season, was behind the wheel.

With concrete walls surrounding the perimeter of the tight and twisty street circuit, some of the teams and drivers ran into trouble with session-stopping incidents. A1 Team Mexico's David Garza had a big accident this morning, hitting the wall as he exited turn six. Garza was unhurt but the car was so badly damaged that the Mexican team had to sit out the second session and spend the afternoon setting up one of A1GP's spare cars for qualifying tomorrow.

The Netherlands' Jeroen Bleekemolen set the fastest time overall today and is feeling happier with the set up of the Dutch car:

'It was a lot of fun to drive. I love street circuits so it's been going really well. I won last year in Monaco with the Porsche Supercup and I won with A1GP in Beijing so I just like racing on these tracks. We have been struggling a lot with the car the last few races and it's going much better on street circuits, as it did in the past with Jos Verstaapen, so I think we have a much better set up for that and it looks like we have a good chance for this weekend. We just need to work on the normal circuit set up.'

South Africa's Adrian Zaugg, who set the sixth fastest lap this afternoon, is feeling quietly confident ahead of his home event in Durban this weekend:

'We had problems with rebalancing the tyres today so we just tried to do one lap at the end which wasn't too bad under the circumstances, so we're looking alright. It's very competitive and A1GP is getting more and more competitive with each season and I think the times will stay pretty close all weekend. I'm pretty confident - we'll see after qualifying on Saturday afternoon but I think we should be in good shape.'

Official Practice Session 1 - Rookie drivers and developing nations only

POS

A1 TEAM

DRIVER

TIME S1

LAP S1

TIME S2

LAP S2

TIME

GAP FIRST

1

GERMANY

Michael AMMERMÜLLER

01:21.162

12

01:19.390

16

01:19.390

 

2

SWITZERLAND

Marcel FASSLER

01:21.006

12

01:20.705

17

01:20.705

1.315

3

AUSTRALIA

John MARTIN

01:21.870

17

01:20.885

13

01:20.885

1.495

4

MALAYSIA

Fairuz FAUZY

01:21.502

15

01:21.144

12

01:21.144

1.754

5

SOUTH AFRICA

Wesleigh ORR

01:22.456

14

01:21.254

13

01:21.254

1.864

6

BRAZIL

Xandi NEGRAO

01:22.026

13

01:21.255

14

01:21.255

1.865

7

PAKISTAN

Adam KHAN

01:22.980

10

01:21.442

5

01:21.442

2.052

8

ITALY

Edoardo PISCOPO

01:22.548

15

01:21.642

15

01:21.642

2.252

9

FRANCE

Nicolas PROST

01:23.047

13

01:21.707

14

01:21.707

2.317

10

LEBANON

Khalil BESCHIR

01:24.009

10

01:21.863

8

01:21.863

2.473

11

NETHERLANDS

Arie LUYENDYK

01:23.376

12

01:22.347

12

01:22.347

2.957

12

MEXICO

David GARZA

01:22.384

13

01:23.239

4

01:22.384

2.994

13

PORTUGAL

Filipe ALBUQUERQUE

01:22.859

6

01:22.550

8

01:22.550

3.16

14

INDONESIA

Satrio HERMANTO

01:23.994

15

01:23.115

15

01:23.115

3.725

15

IRELAND

Niall QUINN

01:23.484

11

01:23.401

8

01:23.401

4.011

16

INDIA

Parthiva SURESHWAREN

01:24.334

6

01:24.101

12

01:24.101

4.711

17

CANADA

Daniel MORAD

01:24.226

5

01:25.039

5

01:24.226

4.836

18

CZECH REPUBLIC

Josef KRAL

01:26.088

9

 

0

01:26.088

6.698

Official Practice session 2 (14.00 - 15.00)

POS

 DRIVER

 A1 TEAM

 LAP

 TIME

 GAP_FIRST

 LAPS

1

Jeroen BLEEKEMOLEN

NETHERLANDS

19

01:18.738

-

23

2

Michael AMMERMÜLLER

GERMANY

11

01:19.051

0.313

17

3

Oliver JARVIS

GREAT BRITAIN

20

01:19.207

0.469

22

4

Neel JANI

SWITZERLAND

20

01:19.303

0.565

23

5

Jonathan SUMMERTON

USA

20

01:19.525

0.787

21

6

Adrian ZAUGG

SOUTH AFRICA

17

01:19.567

0.829

17

7

John MARTIN

AUSTRALIA

5

01:19.579

0.841

16

8

Narain KARTHIKEYAN

INDIA

21

01:19.580

0.842

26

9

Filipe ALBUQUERQUE

PORTUGAL

20

01:19.626

0.888

23

10

Fairuz FAUZY

MALAYSIA

21

01:19.658

0.92

23

11

Jonny REID

NEW ZEALAND

23

01:19.765

1.027

28

12

Bruno JUNQUEIRA

BRAZIL

5

01:20.023

1.285

6

13

Adam KHAN

PAKISTAN

11

01:20.058

1.32

22

14

Congfu CHENG

CHINA

21

01:20.058

1.32

26

15

Jonathan COCHET

FRANCE

21

01:20.271

1.533

23

16

Adam CARROLL

IRELAND

18

01:20.354

1.616

19

17

Robert WICKENS

CANADA

3

01:20.990

2.252

4

18

Edoardo PISCOPO

ITALY

8

01:21.430

2.692

27

19

Satrio HERMANTO

INDONESIA

13

01:22.230

3.492

22

20

Khalil BESCHIR

LEBANON

3

01:22.469

3.731

10

21

Josef KRAL

CZECH REPUBLIC

21

01:22.727

3.989

28

22

David GARZA

MEXICO

0

 

 

0

F1 TESTING AT JEREZ

 Upon completion of the first major test of the year at Jerez, the honours were shared between Ferrari (no surprise) with their new car, Renault (a bit of a surprise) with their old car and Toyota (a big surprise) with their new car. If you include the three days that McLaren ran before everyone else turned up then it was the new MP4/23 that will be the car to beat.

  Ferraris new F2008, which somehow reminds me of some creature out of one of the Star Wars films, began their test in fine form with Raikkonen and Massa posting the two fastest times on the first of the multi team days, Raikkonen being almost a second faster than any other team. On day two they were being just pipped by McLaren & Alonso but by day three were almost a second off Glock’s pace. These times mean absolutely nothing of course as one can never tell what fuel loads cars are carrying in testing but what it does show, is that Ferrari again are there or there-abouts with the new car and Raikkonen was all praise for the F2008. “We improved from last year in the areas that we wanted to improve and it seems to have worked.” If you’ve ever heard one of Kimi’s press conferences, you know that is high, and particularly verbose, praise indeed.  BMW-Sauber were absent while waiting for their new car launch in Germany while Renault had both race drivers on duty in last years car. Piquet had a difficult single day in the car completing just 41 laps and only setting the 9th quickest time out of the fourteen drivers on the track. Alonso, in his first outing since returning to his World Championship winning team, raised everyone’s spirits at Renault setting the fastest time on day two and third fastest time on the final day. It will be interesting to see what the combination of Alonso and the new R28 will be like next week at Valencia.  The consistent pace of the interim Williams FW29B was one of the pleasant surprises of the week with Rosberg regularly being amongst the quick runners. Seventh on day one, fourth on day two should give them some confidence about the upcoming season. Depending of course, on the FW30. Nakajima slowly played himself in over the three days to finish ninth fastest on the final day and 12th overall. Tester Nico Hulkenberg tarnished his image a little while bringing out the red flags on three occasions on his only day in the Williams. He set the second slowest time of day three and was almost 4½ seconds off the pace.  Both Red Bull drivers spent a day in last years car before they both got a run in the new RB4 on the final day. Neither set the world on fire in either and Red Bulls reliability came under question once again when the Renault engine went pop with just eight minutes to go on day three while Coulthard was running.How long can Webber remain upbeat while driving a pin-less hand-grenade? One prays for improvement.  Toyota had three drivers on hand for the debut of the TF108 although test driver Kobayashi only got to play with last years brick. Trulli did nothing special on day one in the new car but new boy Timo Glock raised a few eyebrows with a competent mid 20’s on day two and a stunning fastest time of 1’19.799 on the last day. A sign of things to come, or was it in an underweight car with bugger all fuel and brand new tyres? Time will tell.  The Ferrari engined Red Bull (sorry – Toro Rosso) continued it’s fine late season form with both Vettel and Champ Car refugee Bourdais both finishing in the overall top ten. Vettel just pipped Bourdais but both were usually just a couple of tenths apart as has been the case since Bourdais started testing with the team. This could end up being one of the most interesting inter team battles to watch this year.  Honda were happy to leave all their testing to Super Aguri once again however this time that plan backfired (quite literally) when Rossiter’s car went up in flames after just ten laps on day one. This all became rather farcical when the plane that was bringing out the spares had mechanical difficulties and the parts were put onto a flight to Malaga instead. This in itself may not have been a problem except the motorway from Malaga to Jerez was closed due to roadworks so the parts never arrived. Well not on time anyway.  Both Fisichella and Sutil had a day each in the Jordan (Sorry – Midland, whoops – Spyker, bugger – Force India) with the Italian coming out a second up on the German. However Giancarlo did run on the faster of the two days so that gap was also meaningless. Test driver Liuzzi also had a day in the car but did nothing great and was over three seconds off the pace. The only real ray of hope was that Fisichella got into the mid-field pack with a time in the 1’20s.  Finally, McLaren. (This was done in car number order) Well the new car is definitely on the pace. Overall three of the fastest four times were McLarens, only Alonso preventing a clean sweep. Two of those times were set while McLaren had the track to themselves a few days before everyone else turned up but even when all the teams were there. A McLaren (each of Hamilton, Kovalainen and de la Rosa managed this) was in the top three over the three days of the group test. Including their three days of solo running Hamilton set the pace by three tenths from Kovalainen.   So McLaren, Ferrari, Renault and Toyota all set fastest times. If that continues, we may be in for a very good year.  

BEST TIMES    
       
DRIVER CAR TIME
1 Lewis Hamilton McLaren MP4/23 1'19.132 (2,3)
2 Heikki Kovalainen McLaren MP4/23 1'19.462
3 Fernando Alonso Renault R27 1'19.503 (5)
4 Pedro de la Rosa McLaren MP4/23 1'19.650 (1)
5 Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari F2008 1'19.708 (4)
6 Nico Rosberg Williams FW29 1'19.756
7 Felipe Massa Ferrari F2008 1'19.772
8 Timo Glock Toyota TF108 1'19.799 (6)
9 Sebastian Vettel Toro Rosso STR02 1'20.305
10 Sebastien Bourdais Toro Rosso STR02 1'20.346
11 Mark Webber Red Bull RB3 1'20.392
12 Kazuki Nakajima Williams FW29 1'20.526
13 Kamui Kobayashi Toyota TF107 1'20.577
14 Giancarlo Fisichella Spyker F8-VII-B 1'20.764
15 Jarno Trulli Toyota TF108 1'21.314
16 Nelson Piquet Jr Renault R27 1'21.696
17 Adrian Sutil Spyker F8-VII-B 1'21.705
18 David Coulthard Red Bull RB3 1'21.746
19 Vitantonio Liuzzi Spyker F8-VII-B 1'23.035
20 Nico Hulkenberg Williams FW29 1'24.023
21 James Rossiter Honda RA107 1'34.862
(-) Fastest on day.