The A1 Grand Prix single-seater series will begin at Brands Hatch on September 25. This week, Stephen Simpson and Tomas Scheckter were at Silverstone to test the South African team car.

The A1 Grand Prix single-seater series will begin at Brands Hatch on September 25. This week, Stephen Simpson and Tomas Scheckter were at Silverstone to test the South African team car.


CARtoday.com reported in November that A1 Grand Prix racing, billed as the "World Cup of motorsport", made its South African début when President Thabo Mbeki unveiled the country's first A1 series racecar in Midrand. The series founder Sheikh Hasher Al Maktoum, a member of the Dubai royal family, presented SA seat holder Tokyo Sexwale with the car, but at the time, South Africa's official driver for the A1 GP series had not been confirmed.


Following the first test session of A1 Grand Prix cars, each of which is powered by a 3,4-litre Zytek V8 in a Lola-built chassis shod with control Cooper tyres, it would appear that British Formula Renault driver Stephen Simpson and Indy Racing League star Tomas Scheckter are both in the frame to drive the South African entry when the series starts. Both were at Silverstone on Thursday, but according to , former British F3 champion and F3000 driver Alan van der Merwe is also considered a strong contender to secure the drive for the championship, which will start in the United Kingdom next month and conclude at the Beijing Goldenport circuit in China on April 3.


The 12-round championship will also include races at the Eurospeedway, in Lausitz, Germany, Autodromo do Estoril, in Portugal, Eastern Creek Raceway, in Sydney, Australia, Sepang in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Dubai Autodrome in the United Arab Emirates, Parque Fundidora in Monterrey, Mexico, San Antonio street race in Texas, and Laguna Seca in California, USA. The South African race will be round 8 of the series and will be held at either a proposed street circuit around an army base, casino and water park in Durban - or at the Killarney track, in Cape Town, on January 29.


On Wednesday, the British A1 team was first on the track and recorded the fastest lap time of the day (48,888 seconds). The South African car, which was driven by Simpson, completed 42 laps and set the ninth fastest time (49,864 sec) out of 15 runners. On Thursday, France was quickest (48,183 seconds), while the South African team set the 10th fastest time (49,115 sec). At the time of the report, it wasn't clear whether Scheckter completed all of the SA car's 91 laps or whether he shared track time with Simpson.


Overall the 15 teams completed a total of 1 439 laps of the National Circuit at Silverstone over the course of the two-day session. On Thursday, the difference between the first and tenth fastest time was 0,932 seconds.


Alan Jones, A1 Team Australia Seat Holder said: "We have been very impressed, the reliability has been brilliant, there hasn't been a single glitch with any of the cars and that is a fantastic result which bodes well for the future. A lot of the cars aren't in their final livery yet but when they are it will look spectacular".


The field of drivers included several ex-Formula One pilots or their offspring: South Africa - Stephen Simpson and Tomas Scheckter (son of 1979 F1 champion Jody), Australia - Christian Jones (son of former F1 champion Alan Jones, Brazil - Nelson Piquet jnr (son of the three-time F1 title holder), Danilo Dirani and João Paulo Oliveiria, China - Qing Hua Ma and Tingyi Jiang, France - Loic Duval, Alexandre Premat and Nicolas Lapierre, Great Britain - Robbie Kerr and Alex Lloyd, Lebanon - Kalil Beschir and Basil Shaaban, Malaysia - Alex Yoong (formerly with Minardi F1), Mexico - Luis Diaz, Memo Rojas, David Martinez and Salvador Duran, Netherlands - Jos Verstappen (former Benetton and Arrows F1 driver) and Jeroen Bleekemolen, New Zealand - Jonny Reid and Matt Halliday, Pakistan - Adam Khan, Portugal - Pedro Lamy (former F1 driver), Switzerland - Neel Jani and USA - Jeff Simmons.


The SABC has secured exclusive rights with A1 Grand Prix Holdings to broadcast the series on radio and television for the next three years.