Finally, after the months of delays and disappointments, the Union Flag is again lapping with the rest of the A1GP field as Team GBR takes to the track in Chengdu, China.
And despite a complete lack of testing, the British team was among the front-runners in the first practice sessions for A1GP’s second race weekend of the season.
The Brits were among the teams forced to sit out the season-opening races in the Netherlands last month because of delays in the supply of cars – not until this week in China have they been able to run test laps in theirs.
But canny team boss Katie Clements had an ace up her sleeve in the shape of Danny Watts, who was one of the drivers involved in early testing of the new Ferrari-inspired race car on behalf of A1GP series management.
And Watts, now in place as the lead driver for Team GBR this season, has proved competitive from the word go in practice.
Still technically classed a rookie by A1GP, Watts topped the timesheets in the first of the two sessions held on Friday for drivers new to the series and for developing nations – beating ex-F1 racer Narain Karthikeyan and IndyCar star Marco Andretti, who were running for India and the USA.
A hydraulics leak kept him out of the second rookie session but, later in the day, he took part in the first full practice for the teams’ race drivers and briefly ran fastest there, too. He ended the day sixth-fastest, 0.252sec behind reigning champions Switzerland, who again have Neel Jani in the car.
Clements said: “We were so pleased to finally get the new car on track today and Danny and the team have done a fantastic job.
“We’ve had a positive start to the weekend with some strong practice results, which we have to be encouraged by considering the disadvantage that we had heading into the weekend. Everyone is working very hard and we will continue that way tomorrow to put us in the best possible position for qualifying.”
Watts said: “It’s been a positive start early on, we’re going in the right direction and we look fairly competitive at this stage. This morning was the first time we’ve worked on the car and, as we missed the first race, we are playing catch up, but the boys are on top of it.
“The track here at Chengdu is very difficult and bumpy so we’ve just been exploring different avenues to find out about the car and find out what makes it tick. We have to find a compromise with the set-up to deal with the bumpy, twisty section in the middle and the long straight. I think they’ll be a lot of overtaking opportunities in the race.”
Portadown’s Adam Carroll, seeking to atone for a dreadful pair of results in the rain at Zandvoort, set the ninth-fastest time for Team Ireland, while Pakistan’s Adam Khan was a spectator – and will be until next year, by which time A1GP expect to have modified his chassis to take his 6’1 frame.