From Philip Barker in Lake Taupo, New Zealand
The incomparable Michael Schumacher may have just retired but the Germans may well have unearthed a teenager ready to fill his boots. Remember the name Nico Hulkenberg.
At 19, Hulkenberg has dominated the fledgling A1 GP , the new World Cup of motorsport. Although he’s taken the chequered flag four times he insists, “I’m not even thinking about winning the championship at this stage.”
Not bad for what was to have been a season learning the ropes and he wasn’t fazed by the Maori Haka before the New Zealand leg of this world tour, either.
The A1 GP World Cup series brings drivers together “For the Pride of their Nations” in identical cars in national colours. Staged outside the F1 season, it has already produced its own brand of drama in Beijing, Indonesia and Malaysia. The New Zealand leg was staged at Lake Taupo, a dramatic setting in what we’d call an area of outstanding natural beauty, except in NZ the entire country is like that.
Imagine a full England international being staged at Wycombe Wanderers and you’ll get an idea just how big a deal this was for the locals in a town which boasts just one traffic light intersection.
In the land where every sporting team has a nickname, the car was dubbed “Black beauty”. Perhaps another awesome black machine will also enjoy World Cup success this autumn, but for now local driver Jonny Reid had to be content with third in his home race.
Qualifying and the so-called rookie sessions take place on the first two days, the idea being to give younger drivers a taste of driving the circuit against the clock.Then on day three the No1 drivers take centre stage with a sprint race and finally the feature race, both of which count for points towards the overall title. With a full support programme, this is a big event.
The cars had been freighted in by jumbo – a logistical marvel in itself and to walk the pit lane was to spot some of the greatest names of the sport. Emerson Fittipaldi, still exuding effortless style and glamour, Alan Jones leading the Aussies with typical gusto and John Surtees offering his unique experience to the British effort. Sir Jack Brabham also dropped in to help promote a new film to be made about his friend and rival Bruce McClaren.
The local newspaper, The Taupo Times, caught the mood, and if the temporary press centre caught the wind and also shook whenever one of 33 helipcopters took off, there was compensation because state of the art screens and a full range of press information sheets, intermediary and full results were provided speedily.
The race TV coverage is produced by a travelling outside broadcast unit which ensures consistency from race to race and another important part of the media opeation is the production of a daily news summary, produced by the English company Media VU, under the direction of former ITN Sport correspondent Graham Miller. Featuring a range of driver interviews, behind the scenes shots and race footage, it is sent by satellite to all interested broadcasters. Again a simple idea to make sure information gets through even when editors have ever tighter budgets.
Click here to visit the A1 GP website.