Neel Jani joined Nico Hülkenberg as A1 Grand Prix’s most prolific winner by scored his ninth victory in the categoty in the feature race at Kyalami.
But disaster struck the championship leaders. Ireland lost their lead in the title race as Adam Carroll crashed out on the first lap of the race.
Portugal’s hopes of cutting into Ireland’s championship lead suffered a huge blow at the start of the race as Filipe Albuquerque bogged down badly and fell to the back of the field.
But by turn five things had swung in their favour again. Fairuz Fauzy and Adam Carroll went side-by-side into turn five, but Fauzy drifted wide and knocked Carroll off the track and out of the race.
Clivio Piccione has converted pole position into the lead with Neel Jani behind him in third.
New Zealand’s Earl Bamber held third and was defending it vigorously from Fauzy for several laps while John Martin (Australia) and Felipe Guimarães (Brazil) followed closely.
After a few laps the inevitable happened. Fauzy braked too late, knocked Bamber out of the race, and Martin passed the pair of them for third. In the chaos further back Nicolas Prost and Salvador Duran also collided, ending both of their races.
Piccione now led from Jani and Martin, but two of the top three hit trouble at their first pit stops. Piccione suffered a slow tyre change, losing the lead to Jani. And Martin stalled, losing a lap to the leaders.
That left Jani leading Piccione, Guimarães and sprint winner Jeroen Bleekemolen, the latter passing Britain’s Danny Watts at the first round of pit stops.
Marco Andretti postponed his pit stop for several laps and briefly led before Jani breezed past him at the first corner. After finally pitting he was passed by four cars including Lebanon’s Daniel Morad and Indonesia’s Zahir Ali. Ali then put an excellent pass on Michael Ammermuller.
Back at the front of the field Piccione was struggling for pace and gradually being caught by Guimarães. The Brazilian driver held a watching brief for several laps but never risked a lunge at the Monaco car. Eventually Piccione ran wide, and Guimarães pounced to take second place.
Meanwhile misfortune had befallen the home entry – Adrian Zaugg suffered a gearbox problem and slowly headed for the pits.
Jani reeled off the final laps without drama but the drivers behind him were racing to the flag. Albuquerque lost pace towards the end of the race and Piccione got within striking distance, but wasn’t able to take second place.
Meanwhile Bleekemolen was fending off Albuquerque who had quietly made an excellent recovery drive from last to take fifth – securing vital championship points.
Morad took sixth place off Watts late in the race to give Lebanon their best ever finish. Andretti was eighth ahead of Ali, and Italy’s Edoardo Piscopo scored the final point.
A1 Grand Prix championship standings (top five)