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Asians in A1 series

Asian drivers struggled to make an impact as the new A1 Grand Prix series got off to a chaotic start at Brands Hatch.

india Updated: Sep 26, 2005 20:42 IST
Agence France-Presse
Agence France-Presse

Asian drivers struggled to make an impact as the new A1 Grand Prix series got off to a chaotic start at Brands Hatch on Friday.

The new championship, which is billed as a World Cup of motorsport, pits nation against nation on the track, with a key feature being the arrival of countries so far unused to the sport.

But that grand design backfired as rookie drivers found the going tough.

In the first practice session, India's Karun Chandhok caused the most spectacular accident when he turned in on ex-Formula One driver Jos Verstappen. The two cars made contact, pitching Chandhok into the air and badly damaging his car.

Chandhok had already allowed another Formula One refugee, Alex Yoong of Malaysia, to pass him but failed to notice the bright orange Netherlands car of Verstappen, causing the pile-up.

China's drivers have struggled to match their more experienced rivals in testing and again were caught out in practice.

Their nominated driver Qinghua Ma spun at the fast Paddock Hill bend and brought out the red flags once again.

Collisions are rare in practice, with drivers concentrating on finding the perfect set-up for their cars, but the A1 GP debut bucked that trend.

The problems continued in the second session, with Japan's Ryo Fukuda and Czech driver Jan Charouz both spinning off in quick succession.

Russia's Nikolay Fomenko followed countryman Vasilev's lead by spinning first and then crashing into the barriers. Germany's Adrian Sutil almost collected the stricken Russian car, bringing out more red flags.

Even more red flags followed when Tengyi Jiang crashed the Chinese entry before Christian Jones finally stopped the session for good 18 minutes before the scheduled end when he slammed his car into the barriers.

Despite promises of an equal playing field with even drivers from countries with little motorsport pedigree being able to compete, the timing sheets at the end of first practice told a different story.

Scott Speed set the pace for the United States, setting a fastest lap of one minute 16.875seconds in the first session.

Speed's GP rival Nelson Piquet Jr was a quarter of a second behind for Brazil while Frenchman Nicolas Lapierre took third.

Britain's Robbie Kerr was fourth while Yoong was fifth.

Chandhok had little chance to set a decent time having only completed two laps but Chinese driver Ma clocked 13 and was still over nine seconds off the pace.

His countryman Jiang was over 10 seconds down in the second session.

First Published: Sep 24, 2005 19:33 IST