A1GP: Watts to return for Team GBR in South Africa

By LJ Hutchins

CalendarTuesday, February 17th, 2009

 
 

Danny Watts will be back in the Team GBR car this weekend for the next races of the A1GP season, as the series calls at Gauteng in South Africa.

It will be the first racing since January after a planned round at Indonesia’s Lippo Village was cancelled when the circuit failed to get its FIA certification in time.

For the previous race in Taupo, New Zealand, Watts’ seat was taken by Champ Car racer ‘Speedy’ Dan Clarke, after he took a spot of paternity leave.

Clarke, returning to racing after a fallow 2008 season, had a difficult time of it thanks to an incident involving the Brazillian car in the feature race and a spin in the sprint. He finished the weekend with a 12th- and a 13th-place finish.

Now, with Watts taking over the reins again, Team GBR is placed 10th in the standings with 16 points and will be hard-pressed to repeat its annual feat of coming third.

However, he’s done a pretty good job so far with a feature race pole China, converted into two third-place podium finishes. That momentum carried through to Malaysia where he secured a front-row start, although race success eluded the team due to technical issues in both races.

The South African races, to be held at the Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, see the series adopt a new venue after racing on the Durban street circuit in previous years.

But Kyalami is no new track – it is nearly 50 years old and has played host to Formula 1, MotoGP and World Superbike racing and winners including Alain Prost, Nigel Mansell, Gilles Villeneuve, Niki Lauda, Jim Clark and Jackie Stewart.

According to the series organisers, the circuit is fast and undulating, and should prove a challenge for the A1GP teams and drivers: “The circuit retains much of its traditional grand prix nature, which promises to provide a thrilling A1GP event next weekend, although it has recently seen the addition of a chicane at the penultimate corner.”

Watts said: “I’m delighted to be back. I really didn’t want to miss the last one but I wanted to be there for the birth of my son.

“We’re sort of struggling in the points department at the moment so next weekend we’ve got to go out and get a really good result. A couple of podiums would be good.

“We’ll all be putting in our best efforts as normal. It will be my first time at the track but I’ve been watching some onboards from Nigel Mansell in 1992 to try to learn as much as I can before driving on it.”

Team principal Katie Clements added: “I am delighted to welcome back Danny and I am very much looking forward to the new challenges that A1GP Gauteng will present.

“The team has always had the ability to adapt to a new circuit quickly, and I know the same is true of Danny. We know the team and Danny collectively have the talent and pace to be running up the front.

“While it is true that we are not where we wanted to be at this stage of the season, there are a lot of points available over the weekend and as always we will be putting in 110 per cent effort to score as high as possible to be in the fight at the front of the championship.”

We say, good luck, Danny! We’ll be cheering the team on. And see the attached video if you’d like to watch those onboards from Nigel Mansell at Kyalami in 1992.

Saturday’s qualifying starts at 1415 local time (1215 GMT) with Sunday’s 25-minute sprint race starting at 1100 local time (0900 GMT) and the 70-minute feature race beginning at 1500 local time (1300 GMT).

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