Narain celebrates his podium finish by spraying champagne at the Zhuhai circuit on Sunday
ON A ROLL: Narain Karthikeyan exults after a historic victory in the feature race of the A1 GP, the world cup of motorsport, at the Zhuhai International Circuit, China, on Sunday. Starting from third place on the grid, he drove like a man possessed from the moment the five red lights turned green for the 45-lap race on the 4.3-km circuit. So convincing was his driving on Sunday that Karthikeyan reeled off three fastest laps, each better than the previous one. Once he came out in front of the hard-charging Jonny Reid of New Zealand after the second pit stop, victory was within touching distance. The fastest Indian in the world clocked 1:08’30.759 seconds to finish 0.502 seconds ahead of Reid. It was also the first win for A1 Team India
PERFECT RACE, PERFECT WIN
Narain Creates History With First A1GP Success
Vivek Mukherji I TNN
Zhuhai: Life in the fast lane can be demanding and exhilarating at the same time. When plans come together fortune smiles to spread the bubbly of joy, otherwise one is left thinking where things went wrong. Computers and data readers are plugged into the brain of the car to find out the renegade component. For most part of this season of A1GP that has been the story of India.
However, in Zhuhai, Arena Motorsport engineers worked with degree of certainty to find that ‘sweet spot’ in the car that Narain Karthikeyan has been asking for. Once he laid his finger on the pulse, the 30-year-old driver created history by winning the first ever race in the World Cup of Motorsports.
Starting from the second row on the grid, Narain drove a perfect race and didn’t put a wheel wrong. He used all his experience of driving at the top level to good measure right through the 45-lap race. After getting off to a decent start, he tried to go past Oliver Jarvis of Britain in the first corner, but on finding the door closing on him he chose to play the waiting game. And, pit stop strategy came into play.
After the first pit stop he went ahead of Jarvis and started cutting down on the five-second lead that Neel Jani had opened up on the rest of the field. On laps 8th, 15th and 28th, Narain posted the fastest times to bring down the gap to below 4.5seconds.
When both the drivers pitted for the second time the dice decisively rolled in favour of Narain. Mechanics of Switzerland had to deal with a problematic right rear wheel nut of Jani’s car, which was enough for Narain to go past the leader to emerge about a car length ahead of Jonny Reed of New Zealand, who had already pitted a lap earlier.
The young Kiwi driver virtually drove on Narain’s gearbox for a good 13 laps, but he dug deep into experience to guard his racing line like a zealous sentry.
“Once I knew I was ahead of New Zealand, I just put my head down to keep things under control. The car allowed me to push during the initial and middle part of the race. Engineers did a good job for this circuit. I hope we can keep this momentum going in the next race in New Zealand,’’ said Narain.
He did push hard during the middle part of the race, while Jani was still in contention. Hitting the kerbs hard, Narain slowly chipped at the lead before luck finally smiled on him.
Talking about setting up the car, race engineer Vinit Patel was the most satisfied man in the pits. “Having driven Formula 1 cars for quite sometime now, Narain likes to drive hard. We had the challenge of setting up the car to suit his aggressive style. On his part, he adapted very well to the requirements of the machine which showed in the result. Hope we can carry forward with this good work in the next race,’’ he said.
Earlier in the sprint race, Narain finished in 7th place after starting from 9th position on the grid. With this win India has moved to 10th place on the points table with a tally of 27 points.