To a sports fan, there's nothing more evocative than a world cup. Watching the brightest and best players from a nation combine their talents on an international stage creates the perfect storm of sporting fervour, where even the least patriotic spectator cannot help but feel the slightest frisson of excitement when their home nation progresses through the tournament.
But motorsport, thanks to its various disciplines and oft-clashing calendars, hasn't really had an equivalent. There was, however, one such attempt to pit the world's nations against each other in full-blooded racing competition - aiming to be motorsport's own world cup. Step forward, A1 Grand Prix.
Conceived by Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Maktoum Al Maktoum, a member of Dubai's ruling family, A1GP was intended to become an arena of the world's very best drivers. It attracted a number of famous faces; Formula 1 world champions Emerson Fittipaldi, John Surtees and Alan Jones all became figureheads for their respective countries' entries, as did footballers Ronaldo and Luis Figo.
What A1GP stood for was abundantly clear; with promotional materials accompanied by the 'World Cup of Motorsport' strapline, the ensuing royal rumble between countries was something of a unique selling point.
What 'A1' literally stood for, however, is anyone's guess; whether it was named after Sheikh Maktoum's favourite size of paper or after the late-nineties boyband is currently unknown, but it at least appeared above F1 in the phone book.
The teams charged with running each A1GP car were also brimming with pedigree, and the likes of DAMS, Carlin and Arden all threw their hats into the ring for the inaugural 2005-06 season, which spanned the season-opening Brands Hatch round in September to the Shanghai closer the following April.
Although the field amounted to an incredibly mixed bag, with the likes of Will Power and Neel Jani sharing a grid with relative unknowns Ananda Mikola and Khalil Beschir, the real centrepiece was the rather elegant car in use - the Lola B05/52.
With its elegantly styled bodywork, including a distinctive nose design and swept-back rear wing, the A1GP machine certainly looked the part; straddling the line between F1 and IndyCar just so, the fleet of 25 cars bedecked in the entire gamut of national colours was visually striking.
In the back, each car was powered by a 3.4-litre Zytek V8, built specifically for A1GP, and was capable of churning out approximately 520bhp in regular race trim. Featuring two overhead camshafts for each bank of cylinders, the aluminium engine block also proved to be light - weighing 30kg less than the rival Mecachrome GP2 engine of the time.
Teams were all handed the same equipment, the suspension's adjustability afforded opportunities to extract more performance
A1GP included a "PowerBoost" mode, much like IndyCar's push-to-pass system, where drivers could grab an extra 30bhp for a short time for a handful of times per race. The aero, while pretty in form, was also somewhat functional.
The floor featured two Venturi-like tunnels to produce a hefty chunk of downforce, while the front wing was a simple twin-element design to limit the amount of sensitivity in the wake of another car.
Given those are design features that F1 is beginning to cotton onto today, one could suggest that Lola's design concept was almost ahead of its time. Everything else was in line with the FIA regulations of the time, while Cooper provided fat slick tyres to cope with the hefty bundles of torque that the Zytek powerplant could kick out.
In the interests of keeping costs low, the B05/52 also featured a standard shock-and-damper suspension geometry, complete with conventional pushrods. While teams were all handed the same equipment, the suspension's adjustability afforded opportunities to extract more performance. And certainly, the car had to suit a large array of circuits.
The calendar visited almost every continent on the planet, save for the obvious omission of Antarctica and the more curious avoidance of South America (Mexico was the closest host), with the first season including the aforementioned likes of Brands Hatch and Shanghai, but also trips to the streets of Durban in South Africa and to the hallowed corkscrew of Laguna Seca.
Brands, hosting the first ever A1 Grand Prix event, was completely dominated by future Formula E champion Nelson Piquet Jr - who dovetailed his duties for the Brazil team with his GP2 drive. Taking pole, which was done with a curious aggregate time system - selecting the best two laps from four runs, Piquet beat Alex Premat of France to victory in the short sprint race, before surging to a second win with an 11s margin over Australia's Will Power.
Brazil's momentum dropped off over the first season, especially after Christian Fittipaldi replaced Piquet at the team, while the alternating duo of Premat and Nicolas Lapierre snared an inaugural A1 title for France.
The B05/52 was retained for the next two seasons, proving to be a reliable and dependable car. There were few changes to the formula, save for a switch to E30 biofuel in the third year, before A1GP's organisers decided to abandon the car for an entirely new concept - against many of the teams' wishes.
Instead, a new "Powered by Ferrari" car was wheeled out; with design cues from the all-conquering F2004 F1 car, it featured a larger, heavier V8 engine peeled out of the Italian marque's F430 sportscar. While A1GP CEO Tony Teixeira was particularly effusive about the new fleet of Ferrari-powered charges, it's generally considered that the car's introduction signalled the death knell for motorsport's self-proclaimed world cup.
It's slightly ironic then that the B05/52 chassis, which A1GP attempted to kill off, outlasted the series - finding pastures new as the Coloni Motorsport-owned Euroseries F3000 series bought the old chassis for the 2009 edition of the series.
The change of ownership came with a change of bodywork too; the front wing shed its distinctive boomerang-shaped mounting pylons for a more conventional affair, while the rear wing endplates were noticeably squarer.
After a year running alongside the Lola B02/50, used in International F3000 from 2002-04, the B05/52 had the field to itself in 2010 ahead of the championship's rebrand to Auto GP.
FA1 was part of an innovative attempt to host a series of music and racing festivals under the 'Acceleration 2014' banner - in which ex-Baywatch star David Hasselhoff hosted an '80s and '90s-themed night
Essentially becoming a cheaper alternative to the new GP3 series, Auto GP enjoyed a small surge in the quality of teams and drivers joining the grid. The small, predominantly Italian teams which had occupied the field were joined by GP2 stalwarts DAMS, Super Nova and Trident, while future F2 team Charouz also bolstered the field.
Romain Grosjean won the 2010 title despite missing the first two rounds, giving his career a much-needed boost after his forgettable first tenure in F1 with Renault.
Over time, the Lola-designed chassis began to look less and less like the original A1GP car, but it was still the same at its core and retained the Zytek powertrain. Unlike the career of Katie Price, cosmetic surgery prolonged the life of the B05/52, and an F1-style sharkfin introduced in 2010 comprised of the first wave.
It then received a dramatic overhaul in 2013, and a new sidepod and air intake design package meant that the Auto GP car bore very little resemblance to the original Lola design.
Although the key elements were recognisable, it had lost the cohesive design concept that the striking first-gen car brought. Instead, parts were tacked on seemingly for the sake of it; the chassis bulkhead received raised edges to mimic F1, while the sidepod winglets resembled some kind of plasterer's scraper.
While the driver quality had dropped somewhat after a promising start, 2013's Auto GP grid still pulled in solid numbers, before falling again for the following year as the nearly decade-old B05/52 chassis found another home, returning to its roots in a nations-based championship - known as Formula Acceleration 1.
Despite bearing the name of a pound-shop F1 lookalike car, FA1 intended to fill the void that the death of A1GP had left. It was also part of an innovative attempt to host a series of music and racing festivals under the 'Acceleration 2014' banner - in which ex-Baywatch star David Hasselhoff hosted an '80s and '90s-themed night for those in attendance.
The series lasted just a year, and drivers rarely raced for their own countries; if anyone had ever considered Graham Rahal's appearance for Lebanon in A1GP a tenuous affair, then FA1's roster would draw further questions. A cast of ex-GP2 mercenaries filled the grid, and former HRT F1 test driver Dani Clos curiously represented the UK while journeyman racer Sergio Campana represented Portugal more times than his native Italy.
Having barely made a splash, the B05/52 cars found their way back to Auto GP - but as the FIA began to introduce its superlicense points system, the series began to fall on hard times. Just eight drivers lined up for the first Auto GP race of 2015 in Hungary, and the season lasted just one more round before the lack of entries caused Coloni to pause the series and cancel the race of the races.
Auto GP attempted to press on for 2016, but the numbers were even more sparse; to compensate, the championship opened the floor to older cars, but this only tempted one further runner to join the flock.
Left with no real chance of making a splash in international racing, Auto GP merged with the BOSS GP series, a championship populated by old machinery and 'gentleman' drivers.
It was an ill-fitting end to the competitive life of the Lola B05/52, a car which entered the scene as part of a series boisterously brimming with swagger.
But against the odds, the Lola managed to remain in service for 11 years, outlasting its original home by an extra seven years.
Chassis Carbon fibre and aluminium honeycomb monocoque
Suspension Double wishbones, pushrod-activated Ohlins dampers
Engine Zytek ZA1348 90-degree V8 engine
Power 520bhp (550bhp in PowerBoost mode)
Gearbox six-speed sequential Zytek gearbox
Tyres Cooper (A1GP), Michelin/Kumho (Auto GP)