Motorsport: 'Bridesmaid' tag doesn't sit well with A1GP team

By Peter Martinez

The bridesmaid's tag for the second year running does not sit well with the New Zealand A1GP team.

Despite being competitive throughout the 10-round 2007-08 series, New Zealand finished runners-up to Switzerland this year, pipping Britain by one point.

New Zealand, who were fourth in the inaugural 2005-06 series, finished second to Germany in the 2006-07 series, after edging Britain into third, also by one point.

"We went into the season full of hope and expectation but ultimately, the result was a little disappointing," New Zealand A1 team spokesman Bob McMurray said.

"We were a very competitive team and have been the most competitive team over the three-year history of the series.

" We ticked off the targets we set for this year in that we won some of the races and we did better than last year.

"Yes, we came second, still same as last year, but the differences this year was that we entered the last round with a chance of winning the championship whereas last year, we didn't.

"This year, we led the championship on three separate occasions so from that point of view, it has been successful.

"I know it's a cliche but I do think we lost it because of various mistakes.

"We can't really get over the disappointment of not winning because we told everybody we could.

"I still believe we could and we can, but we managed to lose it rather than other teams beat us so to speak."

McMurray felt that the season had unravelled with two consecutive poor rounds but other little mistakes had a compounding effect.

In the Australian round, driver Jonny Reid had finished second in the sprint race at Eastern Creek near Sydney, but then stalled his car while doing a practice start as he moved up to take his pole position spot for the start of the feature race.

He engineered a ninth-place finish after starting from the back of the grid to come away with a share of the championship lead with France.

In following race in Durban, South Africa, Reid, who qualified third for both race, finished 20th after an accident on the first turn in the sprint race and spluttered to 10th in the feature race following a pitstop mishap.

New Zealand picked up just two points for the weekend, slipping to third place while Switzerland took the series lead which they held to the end.

"Probably the key moment was at Durban where things turned around a little bit," McMurray said.

"We scored only two points there after looking good in qualifying.

"There are other key moments - Jonny stalling in Australia when he was on pole position (for the feature race)... Jonny is very talented but we shouldn't have done that.

"There were mistakes made on the track, in the pit lane and off the track...

" I think we made too many little errors through the year rather than not being competitive."

New Zealand team principal Colin Giltrap was expected to review the season in the next few weeks and make decisions on the future of the team.

Although New Zealand had beaten teams such as France, Italy, Germany, the United States and Britain who had huge financial and driver resources in comparison, there was no guarantee the operation would continue.

"The whole thing has to be re-examined every year, you can't assume it will just roll on," McMurray said.

" We get massive support from our sponsors, particularly Fisher and Paykel, but Colin is still the major funder of the team.

"It's a question of whether he can continue to do that, or, first of all, if he wants to continue the franchise.

"And if that's the case (to carry on), we have to look at how the franchise will operate - do we look at the engineering side of it, do we change the drivers?

" There are one or two elements I know we are going to change."

However, McMurray said Reid was still the team's driver of choice despite a number of up and coming challengers such as Chris Van Der Drift, Earl Bamber and Brendon Hartley.

" We have a lot of driver talent - Jonny is still our driver of Black Beauty but we have to look at others just to make sure."

McMurray said it would be exciting to have Ferrari engines for the cars next year because of the association with the most famous name in car racing.

But he did not think adding a couple of hundred horsepower to the cars was going to necessarily make the racing any better.

"It doesn't matter how fast you go, the excitement of the series depends on the racing."

He predicted that even with a new chassis and engine combination to come to grips with, the "fast teams would still be the fast teams".

"It is going to be a new era and a right step for A1 grand prix."

- NZPA


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