Monday, December 17, 2007

Narain presents India maiden A1 victory

- F1 still an unfinished business for me and I’ll be back, says ace driver

Zhuhai (China): Narain Karthikeyan scorched the Zhuhai International Circuit as Team India zipped to their first A1 GP victory by winning the feature race here on Sunday.

Karthikeyan took the circuit by storm and raced to the chequered flag, surviving a late charge from New Zealand and South Africa.

The Indian clocked 1:08'30.759 to finish 0.502 seconds ahead of Jonny Reid of New Zealand.

India thus became the 14th nation to record a win in A1 GP.

Karthikeyan said the victory was a morale booster both for him and the team and felt winning the race was always a possibility since he had qualified third.

“Being among the top three on the starting grid, we always had a reasonable chance to win. In the last three races we struggled because we could not qualify better. Pace was never the problem with me,” the former Formula One driver said.

Starting third on the grid, Karthikeyan stepped on the gas on lap 16 when Portugal slipped back, allowing India to trail Switzerland. And by lap 22, the gap between the Swiss and Indian cars had been whittled down to 4.6 seconds.

In lap 26, Neel Jani of Switzerland developed a problem with the right rear tyre and had to bring the car into the pits, which allowed Karthikeyan to grab the lead.

However, there was hardly any moment to relax with New Zealand’s Reid breathing down his neck and less than half a second separating them.

Hard pressed to maintain his lead, Karthikeyan put all his experience in the Formula One into play and survived the late assault to drive his team to glory.

Though Williams replaced him with German Nico Hulkenberg as their new test driver, Karthikeyan insisted his F1 dream was far from over. “F1, well that is still an unfinished business for me and I’ll be back,” he said, refusing to elaborate.

Asked how it felt to be the first Indian with an A1 GP win under his belt, Karthikeyan said, “I think I have been a trendsetter in motorsports in India and this is yet another first to my credit.”

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