Adam Carroll had been calm and composed all weekend but he admitted last night that he had “cried tears of joy and relief” as he guided his Ferrari-powered car round the final lap of the A1GP championship at Brands Hatch.
He was racing to victory, racing to his second win of the day and carrying Team Ireland to the World Cup of Motorsport.
It had been an emotional journey for the 26-year-old from Portadown whose racing career has hit so many bumps in the past five years. But if anyone ever had doubts about Carroll’s ability or his temperament they needed to be at Brands Hatch this weekend.
He took on an international field of 24 nations and left them wallowing in the wake of his luminous green machine.
Fastest in qualifying for the sprint race, fastest in qualifying for the feature race, he went on to win both with room to spare and deliver the World Cup to Team Ireland.
He and the team they call “the band of brothers” came to the A1GP finale with a two-point lead over Switzerland, the reigning champions, and six in front of Portugal. By the end of a “perfect weekend”, Carroll had delivered 21 points out of a maximum of 22, leaving the Swiss driver Neel Jani trailing 17 behind — and he smashed the circuit record for good measure.
"It really was a perfect weekend for us," he said afterwards. "We did what we wanted to do; the plan was to come here and win both races from pole. We proved we were too hard to beat. It couldn't have worked out better. The momentum we had coming into here was fantastic. But you can never count guys like Switzerland out.
"I didn't get a good start in either race — I wouldn't recommend starting on pole here at Brands to anyone. The slope makes it difficult but I knew if I stayed on the inside, I'd avoid any collisions or anything like that."
He had been forced to settle for second place behind Mexico in the early part of the sprint race but once again his pit crew came to the rescue, changing his tyres in record time to get Carroll back out on track ahead of the Mexican Salvador Duran.
For the remaining laps he pulled away to finish seven seconds ahead of India’s Nairin Karthikeyan with Duran third. Jani was a distant eighth and the writing was already on the wall for the Swiss champions.
Carroll's only problem in the crucial feature race was catching the lapped Team USA car of John Hildebrand on two occasions, as well as a delay during his second pitstop due to a queue of cars coming into the pits as he tried to leave.
"The guys did a great job with the stop, but they had to hold me," said Carroll. "It could've been dangerous, so we lost time, maybe three seconds. That's the only reason it was slow. In all, I think the USA car was in front of me for 10 laps,and it was very frustrating. Every time I got close, he didn't let me past and there were no blue flags."
But Carroll (below) paid tribute to his team after the race: "They are unbelievable. I'd say they're one of the best teams on the earth. They might be a big bunch of women – you have to be a drama queen to join! — but the guys didn't leave until they'd worked for 29 hours on Friday to make sure the car was right. That says a lot about them.
“This win is for them and much as for myself and I admit I cried a bit, quite a bit, during the last lap. The emotion of it all just got to me. It has been a hard road to this point, for me as well as Mark Gallagher and the Team Ireland guys who have been with him for the past four years. This is for them.”