Switzerland muscled to the top of the A1GP standings following two commanding performances by Neel Jani in Malaysia.
Team GBR and Ireland are now sixth and seventh after difficult days – Oliver Jarvis twice lost out in the battles of sharp elbows at the front of the field and was hit by a post-race penalty, while Adam Carroll performed well in the sprint and made the best of a problem-littered feature race.
Jani, traditionally a strong performer at Sepang, led from the start in the sprint race and won with ease, dragging Frenchman Loic Duval along in his wake for second.
Jarvis had qualified third but made contact with France in the second corner and lost places, eventually finishing seventh. Carroll pushed hard, gained places and kept out of trouble for a ninth-place finish.
However, post-race penalties for Germany and the Netherlands promoted both drivers up the standings, GBR eventually being classified sixth and Ireland seventh.
The feature race was more of a dogfight, with Jani challenged hard for his win. The polesitting Swiss kept his lead at the start, ahead of a battle between Duval, Jarvis and Brazilian Sergio Jiminez in which the Frenchman had taken the upper hand by the time an incident between South Africa and Canada on lap nine brought out the safety car.
Most drivers pitted at this time and Jani briefly stalled. The four cars arrived at the pit exit at the same time and were held there, with Jani and Jiminez as the ‘front row’ and Jarvis and Duval behind them.
Jiminez made it to the first corner ahead while Jarvis took second but could not hold it, dropping to fourth. Jani eventually regained the lead – and the win – in the second round of pitstops.
Meanwhile, other drivers were closing on the leaders – Dutchman Jeroen Bleekemolen passed Duval but lost the place again during the pitstops, while for the second race in a row Germany’s Michael Ammermuller played dodgems through the field, hitting Jarvis then, after a drive-through penalty, also hitting the Czech car.
Jarvis lost places after the contact with Germany, then suffered a drive-through penalty for speeding in the pitline. He finished the race in the final points position, 10th, but lost even that once the stewards had got busy investigating the race.
Having been penalised in the sprint race earlier in the day, Ammermuller was disqualified from the feature race altogether for causing avoidable accidents, while Team GBR and Brazil were both docked two seconds for “gaining an unfair advantage” during the mass exit from the pits after the safety car. This dropped Brazil to third, promoting France to second, while GBR ended up a frustrating 12th.
Adam Carroll ran as high as fifth before pitstop and tyre problems and a 360 degree spin forced him back – under the circumstances he was very pleased with seventh, a result that makes Ireland one of only four nations to have scored points in every race so far.
He said: “I made a good start in the Sprint Race and kept out of trouble as a few cars ahead tripped over each other, and then I just pushed as hard as I could. It was a difficult race so it was good to get some points.
“The Feature Race was really tough, though. I lost the rear end of the car into Turn five after the first pit stop but managed to recover. I was pushing really hard but we struggled in the second stint. The car felt good in the third stint, though, and I was putting in consistently quick times. It’s great to still come away with some points and we know where we need to improve for China.”
Team Ireland owner Mark Kershaw praised his driver: “Considering some of the problems we had today, a double points finish is a good save. Scoring in the sprint race from 13th on the grid was as much as we could have hoped for while in the Feature the second set of tyres didn’t work well for us so Adam did really well to recover.”
Afterwards, the Team GBR camp sounded battered by their experiences. Speaking before the news of his demotion from 10th, Jarvis said: “It’s probably the hardest race I’ve ever had to only get a point. It’s a disappointing result for the team and hopefully we will do better in ZhuHai.”
Team Principal Katie Clements added: “Oliver drove fantastically all weekend and we had a good car but these things sometimes happen. The team really pulled together though and despite the problems it’s great to come away with some valuable points. We’re all now looking ahead to China where we hope to be back up on the podium.”
Jarvis also described his turbulent feature race: “At the start, going into the third corner, the throttle stuck so when I braked I locked the front wheels, and ultimately lost two places on the exit.
“The team did a great job in the first pit-stop and we got ahead of France coming back out on track in third. On the restart, I managed to get Switzerland round the outside, but he had a better run out on the second corner and drove down the inside of the third pushing me out wide to allow France back through leaving me in fourth.
“I put pressure on France for many laps then Germany made a ridiculous move hitting the left rear and causing me to drop a couple of places. Unfortunately we got a drive through penalty after the second pit stop as I couldn’t get my car to slow down enough for some reason, which lost us valuable time.”
The result of the day’s racing is that Switzerland now top the standings, with France and New Zealand behind them. The Netherlands have, as they threatened, overtaken GBR and now sit fourth. South Africa drop to fifth, ahead of GBR and Ireland, then Brazil, Mexico and China.
Malaysia race results
Sprint race results, adjusted for penalties: 1 Switzerland, 2 France, 3 Canada, 4 Brazil, 5 New Zealand, 6 Great Britain, 7 Ireland, 8 Italy, 9 Malaysia, 10 South Africa, 11 India, 12 USA, 13 Portugal, 14 Lebanon, 15 Czech Republic, 16 Germany, 17 Pakistan, 18 Netherlands, 19 Indonesia, 20 Mexico, 21 China, 22 Australia
Feature race results, adjusted for penalties: 1 Switzerland, 2 France, 3 Brazil, 4 Netherlands, 5 China, 6 India, 7 Ireland, 8 New Zealand, 9 Australia, 10 USA, 11 Mexico, 12 Great Britain, 13 Malaysia, 14 Pakistan, 15 Czech Republic, 16 Indonesia, 17 Lebanon, 18 Italy, 19 South Africa, 20 Canada, 21 Portugal, DSQ Germany