Swiss driver Neel Jani combined boldness with precision to win the Feature race of the A1GP round at Taupo this afternoon.
Just a few days ago Swiss driver Neel Jani was lying in his sickbed, struck down by a virus that rendered him unable even to stand on his feet.
This afternoon he drove his Ferrari-engined car to a decisive victory in the Feature Race of the New Zealand round of the 2008/2009 A1GP series at Taupo.
Earlier today, Jani said he had just begun to get back in training after recovering from the illness that doctors feared initially was meningitis. It had kept him in bed for 12 days, some of them in hospital.
In today’s Feature Race, Jani made a storming start from fifth on the grid, rounding up several drivers and slotting in behind pole starter Adam Carroll who won the Sprint Race this morning.
Through the first pitstop, that order remained unchanged, but the second proved a disaster for Carroll.
The luck of the Irish didn’t hold, and as Carroll was leaving the pits the car initially got away well, but then faltered as stop/stall software cut in. Then it stalled completely and Carroll had to jump-start the engine.
Jani, leaving his pit at the same time, heard the Irish car’s engine on the rev-limiter and not moving forward. He stayed to the right of the pitlane, darted past and took the race lead.
From then on, he controlled the pace, hanging on to the lead at a restart after a Safety Car period, and going on to win by a fraction more than one second.
Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque finished third, 1.3 seconds adrift of Carroll. Australian John Martin, another driver who made a superb start, finished fourth, followed by Dutchman, Robert Doornbos, and France’s Loic Duval.
Kiwi Chris van der Drift drove to an eventual 14th place finish after being hampered by the stop/stall software on the startline. That later became 13th after both Team USA and Team Brazil were slapped with penalities, Brazil's dropping to from 12th to 15th place.
Later in the lap he was hit from behind by the Lebanese car, the impact puncturing a rear tyre. Van der Drift pitted for a new wheel and the crew gave the rear suspension a careful checkover, looking for possible damage.
After a strong performance in the Sprint Race, where he finished fifth, it was a disappointing end of the day for van der Drift.
But not dispiriting. They were issues beyond his control and he was satisfied that Black Beauty had the handling and the pace to have finished near the front of the field from his 10th-on-the-gird starting position.
New Zealand now lies sixth on points, 30 behind leader Ireland which has 65 points. Switzerland is second, 13 behind Ireland.