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Indonesia beckons A1 racers JAKARTA - For the second time in two weeks, the A1GP series returns to South East Asia. This time, the series will set up camp at the Sentul circuit on the Indonesian island of Java, 42km from the capital Jakarta, for round five of the 12-round season. The Sentul circuit is located in the wealthy region of Bogor, a popular summer resort and centre of trade for products of the surrounding region including coffee, tea and assorted spices.

The 4.12km track is set against a backdrop of the spectacular scenery of the area, in the shadow of volcanoes and thick rainforest, and features fast, flowing corners up to 15m wide and straights up to 900m in length. Completed in 1994, the circuit was the first serious attempt in South Asia to host a Formula 1 Grand Prix, however the country never hosted the championship for which it was built. The circuit has however hosted a round of the MotoGP championship and regularly welcomes the Asian Formula 3 Super Series.

Last year’s A1 races provided thrilling racing for the 46,000-strong crowd, with Team France taking victory in the sprint race after overtaking pole sitter Robbie Kerr on the first lap. The feature race produced a surprise result however, with Canada’s Sean McIntosh finishing on the top step of the podium despite starting last on the grid and suffering a drive-through penalty.

The race this year takes place in early December during the Indonesian monsoon season, so heavy rain and high humidity levels could well feature on practice and race days. Series leader Team Germany’s Nico Hülkenberg proved himself adept at coping with the Asian deluges last time out at Sepang. The 19-year-old star took the lead of the rain-soaked Malaysian feature race on the first racing lap and went on to win by an unprecedented 43 seconds from Great Britain’s Robbie Kerr.

“There’s a good chance it could rain in Sentul, just like it did in Sepang,” said Hülkenberg. “Obviously we did very well when it rained – we looked at the weather and did a compromise set-up for rain and if it dried. Of course as a driver you’d need to adjust your driving style too, but I hope we can do just as well in the wet here as we did in Sepang.” Hülkenberg has never raced at the Indonesian circuit before, but has been preparing well for his first trip to Sentul.

“I’ve never raced at Sentul before but to prepare for it I’ve watched last year’s race, looked at the onboard footage and the team has given me the data and the speeds from last year. When I arrive I will also walk the track with my engineers. The track looks quick, there are lots of straights and not many chicanes so it’s important to get a good balance between downforce and speed.”

Hülkenberg’s preparations have also included a GP2 test with Super Nova in Valencia. “The first day was not too bad, especially as it was only the first time I had sat in a GP2 car, and the second day we improved by 0.2secs, perhaps I expected more, but all in all it was a good test and the team were very happy.” A1GP’s visit to Sentul will be particularly special for Team Indonesia, and lead driver Ananda Mikola who lives just a few kilometres from the circuit.

“The circuit is not so difficult to learn, but it’s quite easy to make a mistake when you push too hard," said Mikola. "We’ve got to focus on the racing because we know we have good car, we set some good lap times here last year so I know I can be up there. I want to be on podium and I think that anything can happen – a lot depends on me and strategy. Hopefully the spectators will help us; it’s really important we do well as we need to prove to everyone that we can bring the "World Cup of Motorsport" here and make it a success.”

David Clare, A1GP chief operating officer, fully expects this year’s race weekend to attract the same enthusiastic crowd. “For many fans, last season’s race was the first time they had seen international motorsport on their own soil," said Clare. "To see the popular, well-known figure Ananda Mikola at the wheel of a car emblazoned with their national flag was a real thrill and everyone really got behind the team. This year I hope we will show just how far we’ve come as a series too; we’re now better prepared for the challenges of this area and have worked closely with the Indonesian government and organisers to ensure the spectators have an even more enjoyable experience.”

The weekend’s action starts on Friday 8 December with the rookie driver and developing nations’ practice session from 11.00 – 12.00. Following qualifying on Saturday, the sprint and feature races will take place on Sunday 10 December at 11.00 and 15.00 respectively.

Posted in Sports @ 07 December 2006 03:39 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink

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