A pair of 19th place finishes were the results of a challenging weekend for A1 Team Lebanon in Sydney, Australia. The sixth round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport took place at the Eastern Creek circuit with Australian-Lebanese driver, Chris Alajajian, racing for the nation at this event, his home track.
Friday practice day had shown early promise of a strong weekend with Alajajian posting fifth fastest time, but a qualifying session crash dashed all hopes of high grid positions for the races today. The A1 Team Lebanon crew worked long in to the night and the early hours of the morning to repair the damaged A1GP car that represents the nation in the Series. This morning the car lined up on the grid for the Sprint race and ready for the 14 lap dash to the chequered flag with Alajajian behind the wheel. A sprinkling of light rain just 15 minutes before the start added to the excitement and gave the team another element to consider in their race strategy.
The Lebanon car in 22nd place, started on dry tyres, alongside all the other A1GP cars. Alajajian used his track knowledge to good advantage in the opening lap, improving four positions to lie 18th. He maintained this until lap 7 when he moved up to 17th. The rain then appeared and as the track became wet, Lebanon moved up to 13th as others made mistakes and Alajajian overtook for position. He passed the Italian car for 12th place with three laps to go, but the slippery, greasy conditions then took their toll. Alajajian slid wide and lost a few places on the penultimate lap, spinning off track, damaging the front wing, and dropping Lebanon to 19th place by the chequered flag.
Lining up at the back for the Feature race, with rain falling steadily, it was a challenge right from the start for the young Australian-Lebanese driver. He showed his determination on the first lap, moving up five places to lie 17th. A slide off track after a few laps dropped the team to 20th, with the team pitting for their first set of new tyres on lap 11. However in the bad weather conditions, a couple of off course excursions dropped Lebanon back to 22nd. After the second round of stops the team had improved to 20th, and by the chequered flag Alajajian had moved up to 19th.
Alajajian said, “First of all I must thank the Lebanon crew for working through the night to get my car ready for today. I know they only had about three hours of sleep, yet they rebuilt the car and it ran smoothly without a hitch. I am so grateful for their dedication and commitment. I’m disappointed that I couldn’t have rewarded them with better results, but it was very tough out there; I know I’ve learned from the experience, but I’d like to put this weekend behind me and look forwards now, with the target of better results in the future.”
Luke Craft, Team Principal, A1 Team Lebanon, summed up the weekend saying, “The weekend didn’t go to plan for us. Although we had a good first day, the rest of the weekend was a struggle for Chris. The treacherous weather conditions today added to the pressures on him, but he persevered to reach the end and I think he’s learned from his experience here.”
A1 Team Lebanon enjoyed strong support from the local Lebanese fans. A huge flag waved trackside and the supporters joined the team in the paddock after the race to meet the drivers and the team members. On the grid before the Feature race A1 Team Lebanon hosted Joe Khattar from the Australian Lebanese Chamber of Commerce, Dr Jamal Rifi, President, Lakemba Sports Club and Miss Lebanon Australia 2007, Jessica Kahawaty.
The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport 2007/08 season moves on to Durban, South Africa, for the seventh of the ten rounds of competition. The event, for the third year, will be held on the streets of the city, and takes place from 22 – 24 February.
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