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GP Week : 06-May-2008
“I T’S exactly as I imagined,” Teixeira smiles, suited and booted and sitting in the corporate hospitality unit at Brands Hatch. “I imagined nation versus nation. That first race here in Brands Hatch in September 2005 was exactly what I had visualised. The colours, the flags, the people supporting their countries … and then today we’re three years into it and it’s everything I thought.” We’re mid-qualifying on Saturday afternoon. The grandstands are full, the flags are waving and the air horns create a chorus of noise as the A1GP drivers roar around this legendary circuit. The engines and the crowd are so loud that I can barely hear the softly spoken, and yet utterly engaging, South African speak. Has A1 been a success? On this basis you’d be hard pressed to disagree. The circuit is rammed, and goes utterly ballistic every time Robbie Kerr’s GBR car or Adam Carroll’s Team Ireland car come into sight. A1GP has come a long way from its first season. Following a year of embarrassing debts, dwindling crowds and poorly-received racing, the championship’s figurehead Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, departed. Co-founder Teixeira took the reins and, in the last two seasons, has turned the championship’s successes around. So much so, that from next season, A1GP will be powered by Ferrari … in a car designed by Rory Byrne. Yes, that Rory Byrne. “We were looking for something to enable us to make a step forward. You must understand Ferrari has never done this before, so it’s something unique in their history. It’s very, very difficult for them to break away from their tradition and come and do this for us. We also have to be careful not to make this into a Ferrari series … this is A1GP! “So to maintain that balance is very difficult. With the negotiations, their commercial people saw the light and realised that the growth was in the emerging markets, and so Ferrari took the decision that this would be a good thing to do.” While looking to the future, however, Teixeira is quick to note the stellar work carried out by Zytec, Lola and Cooper in the first generation of A1GP. “It’s a sad goodbye, because they have done an excellent job,” he confirms. “Our cars, on the technical and safety side, have been very good. We’ve had some big accidents and the guys have been alright. The engines, the gearboxes, have been fantastic and it has served its purpose. “When I explained to them who we were moving to, they literally turned around and said, ‘if we were in your 32