Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A taste of paradise

(from A1GP.com 12-15-08)

Next season’s A1GP debut at Surfers Paradise in Australia has sure got the drivers excited.
Could it be the sun-kissed beaches of the Gold Coast, the fantastic party atmosphere of the place, the enthusiastic and passionate crowd or the fact that it is one of the most famous auto racing street courses in the world?

Probably all of the above.

Last month, A1GP announced a five-year deal to take over from the IRL IndyCar series as the headline single-seater category at the event. The first race on the Queensland track, which has hosted 18 ‘Indy’ Car races since 1991, will be on the weekend of 22-25 October.

A1 Team USA’s Marco Andretti raced with his IndyCar team, Andretti Green Racing, at last October’s event, and has been going there since he was a child – his father Michael won the meeting back in 1994.

“I think A1GP will be a big draw there for sure,” Andretti told A1GP.com. “It’s an unbelievable event. You get a lot of support from the fans and there are plenty of good vantage points to watch. It’s a party city, I know that. You go out there and the fans are out of control!

“As a circuit, it really helps to know the track well, so if I am doing that race next year then it will benefit me. Knowing where the bumps are is key, because you will hit a bump half way through the weekend that you had no idea was there and you almost crash.

“It’s a street circuit so it’s obviously very bumpy, and whatever you can imagine is out there you’re going to hit it. You have to attack the kerbs to make the car work or else you are going to be slow.”

Australia’s John Martin was another racer who was at this year’s event, wining two of the weekend’s three races in the Formula 3 category.

“It’s got a bit of everything,” Martin said. “There’s a quad chicane out the back that’s really, really quick and you can use a lot of kerb which is a bit of a challenge for the car set-up wise. But then there is another section after that that’s quite slow.

“A1GP at Surfers Paradise will be awesome because so many people get revved up for that weekend, it is a massive weekend. There will be over 100,000 people just on Sunday, you won’t be able to move and everyone is there for a big party. It’s a really fun weekend for everyone involved.

“IndyCars were able to pass around there so I think A1GP will definitely be able to as well. Some people said we wouldn’t be able to pass at Chengdu either but we still made that alright. A1GP seems to make it possible to pass anywhere in the world.”

Martin added that he hopes to be Australia’s driver when A1GP makes its Gold Coast debut next October, but thinks that whoever is chosen will be the focus of attention.

“I put a lot of pressure on myself every round to do well, but in Surfers Paradise there will definitely be a lot more pressure on the Australian driver.

"Plus, being from Queensland there would be so many more people that I know there. I have people there booking rooms already, but at the end of the day I would just have to put that aside and go and do the job.”

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