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Hazards hinder NZ's A1GP charge in China


The New Zealand team is philosophical about its meagre points haul in the incident-plagued third round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport held on the streets of Beijing.

Untitled Document Black Beauty finished 10th in the opening Sprint Race, where points are awarded to the first six place-getters, and 9th in the Feature Race to end the weekend with just two points.

The team moves from 13th equal to outright 14th on the championship points ladder with Mexico taking over from Germany on the top rung. Mexico has 24 points, Germany 22 and Great Britain, with 20 points, and Italy, a point behind, soared to third and fourth respectively after impressive weekends.

A1 Team.NZL director of corporate affairs Bob McMurray says track problems made race day a lottery and the team was always battling after qualifying was cancelled and grid positions were retrospectively determined by early performances in the one and only practice session.

"The system rewarded teams on their second runs and penalised those still in the garage when the practice session was cut short. But that's racing and there's not much you can do about it except give it a shot. We could've lucked in as much as we lucked out," McMurray said.

Two major dangers caused limited practice time in the lead-up to Sunday's two points-scoring races.

A notoriously tight hairpin bend at the end of the straight that was practically impossible to navigate forced the cancellation of all practice sessions on Friday and forced organisers to shorten the track by just over a kilometre.

A secondary hazard emerged yesterday when manholes, despite being welded shut, starting losing their covers due to the downforce of the cars having a suction effect as they roared overhead. The solitary 90-minute practice session was dramatically cut short after just 25 minutes.

The manhole covers were re-welded and bolted for today's races and remained in place as much as the grid in the Sprint Race. The top six finished in the grid order they started in as passing opportunities proved rare.

New Zealand picked up two places to 10th only because of misfortune to South Africa and Ireland. Those two nations were the exceptions to the rule as positions one through to 16 finished in the order they began.

The Feature Race was less of a parade because of the added dynamic of the compulsory pit stop and the higher number of yellow flags and safety cars as even minor mistakes caused accidents and hold-ups on the narrow circuit.

"The weekend as a whole didn't provide an effective competition, but the Feature Race defied the odds and turned into a reasonable race," McMurray said.

"A1GP, the teams and the drivers did a remarkable job in turning on a good spectacle given the circumstances and, in the end, we're somewhat thankful for the two points we got."

The New Zealand team now gets off the street to prepare for Round 4 in Malaysia in a fortnight (November 26).

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