A1 Team Switzerland - A1GP premiere at Kyalami

A1 Team Switzerland - A1GP premiere at Kyalami

20.02.2009: Swiss team after points leader Ireland in South-Africa For the first time, the World Cup of Motorsport will be racing at Kyalami. Like all the other drivers, Swiss drivers Neel Jani and Alexandre Imperatori only know the track

Swiss team after points leader Ireland in South-Africa

For the first time, the World Cup of Motorsport will be racing at Kyalami. Like all the other drivers, Swiss drivers Neel Jani and Alexandre Imperatori only know the track north of Johannesburg with its long heritage from stories. So far, the A1GP series had three events on South-African soil in Durban.

Neel Jani has fully recovered from his severe virus infection and is confident: "Normally, racing at a new venue is never a problem for me", he said. "I got acquainted with the Kyalami circuit on the simulator and I came to the conclusion that the track should suit me. I feel always well at a fast track. Last week, I met Mark Surer at the kart track in Roggwil by chance. He was able to give me a few qualified tips." Ex-Formula 1 driver Marc Surer, who is currently working as a TV commentator, had broken his feet and legs in accidents at Kyalami in 1980 and 1982 with ATS and Arrows respectively. His ATS team-mate at the time was Jan Lammers, who is now the seat-holder of the Dutch A1GP team.

In a certain way, Neel Jani and Max Welti, principal of the Swiss team, regret the change of venue in South Africa. "We have very fond memories of Durban", says Welti. "There, Neel ranked among the top five in all six races. He had four podium finishes and even scored a victory in last year's feature race. But I see no reason why we shouldn't be successful in Kyalami, too."

After a rather difficult start of the season, the Swiss team has found its way. With a victory and a second place at Taupo, it moved up from sixth into second in the points' standings of the World Cup of Motorsport. After two races each in The Netherlands, China, Malaysia and New Zealand, Ireland is leading with 65 points from Switzerland (52), Portugal (49), France (41), The Netherlands (38) and New Zealand (35). "In Kyalami, we want to close up to Ireland even further", said Welti. "In order to reach that goal, we can't afford a retirement by any means, so we have to bear in mind the old adagium, saying that 'to finish first, first you have to finish'."

Conditions at Durban are different from those in Kyalami in many respects: Durban has a temporary street circuit near the Indian Ocean with an accordingly high temperature and humidity, Kyalami has a permanent race circuit at an altitude of 1800 metres.

Kyalami is located some 20 kilometres north of the city centre of Johannesburg. The 4.261 kilometres long circuit that was opened in 1961 and changed in 1991 has similarities to the circuits at Zandvoort (Netherlands) or Eastern Creek (Australia). It includes up- and downhill parts, numerous fast corners and some "blind" corners, narrow chicanes and is somewhat bumpy at a few points.

As usual for international events in South Africa, local authorities are strongly committed. This time, the province of Gauteng and its capital Joburg are providing a suitable backdrop for the venue with its long motor racing heritage. From 1967 till 1993, Kyalami hosted Formula 1 Grands Prix. The last of the 20 races marked the successful debut for the Sauber team in Formula 1 with Finnish driver JJ Lehto finishing fifth right away.

The name Kyalami comes from the IsiZuli, one of South Africa's eleven official languages, and means "my home". To make sure that the Swiss team will feel at home in Kyalami as well, there was a reception in the honour of the team hosted by the embassy and the chamber of commerce on Wednesday.

PROGRAMME
. Friday. 14.30 - 15.30 (13.30 - 14.30 CET): Rookie-training. 17.00 - 18.00 (16.00 - 17.00): training. -- Saturday. 11.00 - 12.00 (10.00 - 11.00): training. 14.15 - 15.10 (13.15 - 14.10): qualifying. -- Sunday. 11.00 - 11.30 (10.00 - 10.30): sprint. 15.00 - 16.10 (14.00 - 15.10): feature race.

A1GP WORLD CUP OF MOTORSPORT. Standings after 8 of 18 rounds:
1. Ireland 65. 2. Switzerland 52. 3. Portugal 49. 4. France 41. 5. Netherlands 38. 6. New Zealand 35. 7. Malaysia 31. 8. Australia 30. 9. South Africa 17. 10. Great Britain 16. 11. USA 16. 12. Monaco 9. 13. Italy 9. 14. India 5. 15. Brazil 4. 16. Korea 4. 17. China 4. 18. Lebanon 3. 19. Indonesia 0. 20. Mexico 0.
 
 
- Michael Schneider -  photo A1GP

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20.02.2009 / MaP

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