Alexandre Imperatori

Up and coming Swiss driver Alexandre Imperatori took the last win of the season held at Southern China’s Zhuhai International Circuit. Running second in the championship, the Asia Racing Team frontrunner knew that the chances of taking the Asian series crown was very little as the only way he could seize it is if the series leader scored not better than a fifth place: “I will simply just do my best to win the race and we’ll just have to see how good that will make” he explained before the event.

Taking full advantage of his knowledge of the track, the young driver was the dominant force, posting fastest lap in each and every official practice session all the way up to pole position during qualifying. With a time of 1m35s.4, he outperformed team mate Jazeman Firhan Jaafar. Third was 2005 German Formula Renault champion and erstwhile series leader Pekka Saarinen half a second clear.

With the final round announced to be conducted by a rolling start, it became a nightmare as being on the outside meant Imperatori practically lost the advantage of occupying grid number 1. Imperatori quickly recognized that is was going to be critical and Jazeman, in fact had quite easily gotten alongside immediately after the green light. To compensate for the helpless loss, Imperatori dove to the outside of Jazeman at turn 1 and managed to pass the young Malay, who was himself fighting with Saarinen. Jazeman lost his front grip and ended up driving straight into the leader Imperatori. To avoid contact, the Swiss had to go off track and dropped to third. He then started to catch up, but with only eight laps in the race he only managed to pass team mate Jazeman for second position in the last lap before the latter made another controversial move, eventually sending his team mate Imperatori in the grass again. Thus, Imperatori finished the race in third.

Imperatori commented “It is regretful that this race got ruined by an organizer’s decision to make a rolling start when it has been standing start all season, clearly giving disadvantage to pole sitter. But it also sad that it went further wrong because of my own teammate’s errors”.

The result of the race thus ended the 13-round 2006 Asian Formula Renault Challenge. A second race, this time 20 laps ‘round the 4.3 km Zhuhai Circuit was a special one-off race and Imperatori was looking forward to show all his potential. For this “feature” race, the starting procedure was back to standing start and the ART leader went off the grid well, tackling Jazeman for second position. The first three were packed, following each other, and in lap 5, Imperatori took advantage of the fight between Saarinen and Jazeman to take the lead of the race. He then started to build a gap as Saarinen appeared unable to match the pace set by the leader. But the appearance of safety car in lap 8, to clear the track of a damaged car, meant Imperatori would have to make the effort again. And so did he; when the safety car came back to the pits, he started pulling a gap again and continued pushing even when Saarinen was no longer in striking distance. On his way to the win, the young driver set fastest lap by over 6 tenths of a second and finished the race with more than eight seconds advantage over Finnish driver Saarinen.

This strong performance was not enough to grab the Asian title, but Imperatori was still happy with the outcome: “I am so happy to take this clear win: we have proven the potential seen this season and it has been a great end to a great season. I am especially happy because I showed I can be very competitive against experienced European drivers. I did the best by winning the race but it was just not enough to get the title; this was not up to me anymore.”

Imperatori has been officially crowned the 2006 Chinese Formula Renault Champion and 1st Runner Up in the Asian Formula Renault Challenge. He also contributed a healthy amount of points to bring the Asia Racing Team to win the Asian Formula Renault Team Championship Title.

“My utmost appreciation and I share the glory of my performance to the team. They undoubtedly did a great job all year by providing me with the best possible car and the confidence to pursue podium results. We will now see what happens for the next season and I hope it will start and continue in same way this one ended: BY A WIN!” concluded an enthusiastic Imperatori.