Courtesy Stuart Morrison Public Relations
Estoril, Portugal (October 23, 2005) The third round of the A1 Grrand Prix Series today at the Portuguese circuit of Estoril proved to be a rollercoaster of a ride for Team Canada’s Sean McIntosh. The highlight of the day was Sean’s fourth successive top ten finish, the Vancouver racer claiming seventh in the opening sprint race having qualified in the top ten for the first time yesterday.
While a more dramatic feature race would see Team Canada forced to post their first retirement of the season, the four points collected by McIntosh in the sprint race further promoted the team to sixth overall in the point standings out of 25 competing nations in the inaugural A1 Grand Prix Series.
Sean’s weekend kicked off with Team Canada aiming to build on their third place podium finish at the EuroSpeedway in Germany two weeks earlier. The 20-year-old’s immediate goal was to post a top ten qualifying time to set himself up for a competitive sprint race and an equally strong starting slot for the hour-long feature race.
With Portugal offering competitors a blend of sunshine and rain throughout Friday practice and Saturday qualifying, Team Canada set to work continuing to maximize their track time with the A1 Lola-Zytek. Their hard work reaped reward as Sean posted the seventh fastest aggregate qualifying time for the sprint race.
In contrast to yesterday’s track conditions, today boasted clear blue skies over the 4.36km Estoril circuit and the earlier rain showers proved to be a distant memory as the field took the rolling start for the 18-lap sprint. Sean immediately broke into the top six but later slipped back to his seventh place starting position.
As the balance of his car shifted due to the warmer conditions, Sean’s advances were kept in check and, in his own words, the race turned out to be ‘fairly lonely and uneventful’ but importantly he would take the checkered flag in a solid seventh place to add four more points to Team Canada’s championship tally.
This afternoon’s feature race made amends for the lack of on-track action showcased in the earlier sprint event. As the grid lined up in the finishing order from the first race, Sean once again found himself sitting seventh, the field starting the second race from a standing start.
There was early drama as stalled cars forced the field to take evasive action while charging to the first turn. The safety car was prompted into immediate action and not for the last time over the 36-lap feature.
Several teams opted to take their mandatory pit-stop during the early caution period but Team Canada chose to keep Sean out and he climbed as high as fifth in the maiden stages. Just a few laps later the team called Sean to the pits but a slow stop, once again a stuck wheel nut the guilty culprit, dropped him down to 17th with nine laps completed.
McIntosh successfully hustled his way back into the top ten as a second safety car period saw another flurry of activity in the pits. The return to racing was brief as Jos Verstappen outbraked himself in the Dutch car collecting Team Germany in the process. Two more laps under caution further disrupted Sean’s progress but with additional entries pitting he took the restart on lap 20 in eighth, directly behind Team Great Britain’s Robbie Kerr.
Sean’s Portuguese outing was to last just one more lap however as contact with Kerr at the second turn pitched the Team Canada entry into the barriers and out of the race. Sean’s run of four straight top ten finishes was brought to an abrupt end and the team was left to rue what might have been given the strength of his performance in the race. Team France triumphed in both races at Estoril.
Choosing to reflect on the positives Sean commented:
”We were certainly looking good for two solid top ten finishes here in Portugal but unfortunately it didn’t quite pan out that way. That said it’s been another good weekend for the team. We improved our form in qualifying which was an important goal and we’ve proved that we can race comfortably in the front pack. The next step is to run with the leaders and keep our points challenge going.”
Round 4 of the A1 Grand Prix Series heads down under to Australia and the Sydney-based Eastern Creek circuit, 4-6 November.
Results A1GP R3 Estoril, Portugal
Team Canada, Sprint Race Started: 7th / Finished 7th (4 Points)
Team Canada, Feature Race Started: 7th / DNF (0 Points)
Nations Points Standings after Round 3 Team Canada, 6th (18 Pointts)