US-based New Zealand single-seater ace Wade Cunningham joins New Zealand's A1GP World Cup of Motorsport team in China this week to fill the recently created Friday test role in the lead-up to this weekend's third 2006/07 series round in Beijing.
Under an initiative introduced to encourage franchises to give promising young drivers A1GP experience, under 25-year-old's like Cunningham can test with their national team on the Friday before an event up to three times.
Aucklander Cunningham, who won the World Karting Championship in Italy in 2003, and the United States Indy Pro Series in 2005, was invited to join A1 Team.NZL at the pre-season test at Silverstone in the UK in late August, and with his experience on ovals and temporary courses in the United States was considered the ideal candidate for the Friday test role on the temporary Beijing street circuit this weekend.
The new 3.08 km circuit uses streets surrounding the Jingkai Convention Exhibition Centre in Beijing's Economic and Technological Development Zone and has been created as part of a push by city authorities to attract attention to the region in the build-up to the coming Beijing Olympic Games.
Cunningham received the invitation to join A1 team.NZL from franchise holder Colin Giltrap while he was in New Zealand supporting brothers Arron and Mitch at KartSport New Zealand's North Island Sprint Championship meeting at Labour Weekend, but he has since returned to his racing base in Indianapolis, from where he will leave tomorrow to travel to Beijing.
Though he has raced all over the world this will be Cunningham's first visit to China, one he says he is very much looking forward to.
Of the track, however, he says he knows 'as much as anyone else.'
"From the map it looks fairly standard for a temporary circuit...plenty of 90 degree corners, one fast sweeper and one very long straight. Something else that may well be a factor is the weather. I've been keeping an eye on the temperatures over there and by the look of things it is going to be freezing!"
Once his Friday role is over Cunningham will support round driver Matt Halliday over the weekend before returning to the United States to continue working on a drive there for next year.
After two seasons in the Indy Pro Series, the category that supports the IRL, the young Aucklander says he knows where he wants to be. But progress, at the moment anyway, is slow.
"Put it this way," he says. "The off-season is not my favourite time of year. Things are developing but a full-time ride in the IRL with a top team is very hard to come by."
Wade Cunningham is proud to be one of New Zealand motor racing's Black Bullets. To find out more about our Black Bullets go to www.blackbullets.com