Adam Carroll blew away the opposition in qualifying at Brands Hatch with a double pole position that could propel Team Ireland towards the A1GP championship – and the Portadown driver to a seat at the top table of world motorsport.
The Irish are one of three teams able to win the title tomorrow, with defending champions Switzerland ahead in the standings and Portugal also in with a shout – but the best either rival could manage was the Swiss team’s fourth place in the feature race qualifying.
“I am delighted with the result,” said Carroll. “The team did a great job, the car felt good and on new tyres I just found a lot more grip and went for it.
“Now I just have to make the most of the starts tomorrow and hope that we can convert today’s performance into the results we want.”
Switzerland’s Neel Jani held provisional pole late in the feature race qualifying thanks to a lap set using the speed-enhancing Powerboost technology, and the pair went head-to-head on a last lap shoot-out that saw Jani spin off and Carroll use his own Powerboost to snatch pole from the reigning champion.
Earlier he had won the sprint pole using just his raw engine power, outclassing several teams that had chosen to use their one permitted burst of extra power to post a good starting position for the shorter of the two races.
Jani will also start eighth in the sprint race, while Portugal’s Filipe Albuquerque saw his title hopes fade – but not disappear – with a fifth in the sprint and a ninth in the feature.
Team GBR’s Dan Clarke will start 13th and 14th in the sprint and feature races respectively. The British outfit has run well at Brands Hatch in previous seasons but its parent company has fallen victim to the financial downturn and just putting a car out on track should count as an achievement.
For Carroll, the twin poles offer much more than the chance to dominate the races and secure the championship.
Team Ireland’s successes are allowing owner Mark Gallagher to consider taking the team into new racing series – even up to the F1 feeder series like GP2 and Formula 2.
And Carroll’s personal achievements during the season, which have included three race wins and four earlier pole positions, earned him a place at last December’s Race of Champions and have opened up possible routes into either Formula One or the Indy Racing League.
Among the teams hoping to join a budget-capped F1 is Lola, owned by Irishman Martin Birrane, who is known to be an admirer of the Portadown driver. According to the Belfast Telegraph, Carroll admits he has been in discussions “with one or two” prospective teams.
“There may be options for me in F1, especially with new teams expected to come into the series,” he told the Irish Independent.
Meanwhile, his battles against A1 Team USA’s Marco Andretti have caught the eye of the young American’s father Michael, co-owner of IRL front-runners Andretti Green Racing and boss of the US A1GP team. Carroll toured the Andretti Green facilities and met with several teams while at the recent IndyCar race in Long Beach.
He told the Irish Daily Mirror: “We’ve had some fantastic chats, we sat down with Michael Andretti. We’re competing against Marco, we’re winning, we’re up there in every single race and they are struggling to get in the top 10, so they rate me very highly – there is definite interest in America.
“I know I can do it. I just need to go and take the opportunity.”
Starting tomorrow at Brands Hatch…