It was business as usual for defending A1GP champion Neel Jani and Indycar star Marco Andretti in the sprint race at Sepang, Malaysia, as the Swiss star won from pole and the American took out two rivals in a spectacular crash.
Apart from the drama caused by Andretti’s failure to react to the field bunching up ahead of him at the start, the only moments of note in a largely processional 11-lap race happened in and around the pits.
France’s Loic Duval and New Zealand’s Earl Bamber finished where they started in second and third, despite a sharp pitstop that allowed the young Kiwi to shoulder his way ahead of his rival as they rejoined the circuit.
The French were left seething – but not for long, as the New Zealand team ordered their man to give the place back for fear of being given a penalty for an unsafe release.
Ireland’s Adam Carroll, who qualified seventh, finished fifth behind Portugal’s Felipe Albuquerque thanks to another fast pitstop that lifted him past the Italians, and a stroke of bad luck that knocked Britain’s Danny Watts out of the race.
Andretti’s accident, which took out the Indian and Brazilian cars, caused the race to be red-flagged and restarted half an hour later behind the safety car, where Watts found himself stuck in first gear and effectively out of the contest.
He said: “Everything appeared to be okay before the race was red flagged, but when we got going again for the restart, it wouldn’t change up from first gear. So we had to pit and found that it was a problem with the ECU.
“We managed to get out again at the end for some installation laps just to check everything was okay ahead of the feature race. It’s disappointing, but these things happen in racing.”
Jani, who became the fifth different race-winner this season, said: “It was a great race, we had very good pace, a good re-start and pit stop so it was just a perfect race for me. The big race is the feature race though, and we are at the back of the grid.”
Andretti said: “I’m disappointed. No one was to blame, it was just racing, but ultimately I crashed out two cars. You can say it’s unavoidable but at the time I thought everyone was going and I could only see two rows ahead of me. I couldn’t see ahead of the whole field.
“I was about to grab fourth gear, and as soon as the rear tyres were hooking up that was when I needed to be stopping the car so there was no hope. Once you are committed you are kind of stuck with it. In the States you either go or you don’t. Here, they went, and then stopped.”