Just two weeks after the last round in Fuji, The Japan F3 competitors met again in Suzuka for round 5 of the championship.

On this extremely technical circuit, the target was to put in some solid points for the championship.

As usual, friday was put to good use by the teams to fine tune the setup of the cars during the two practice sessions of one hour each. In the KCMG team, a lot of focus was put on race work with major tyre degradation anticipated in the very hot and humid weather.

Alexandre didn’t opt to use his new set of tyre and times on old tyres were encouraging but the field definitely seemed to be extremely tight, especially at the front.

For saturday morning’s two qualification sessions, the window of optimal tyre performance was known to be of just a single lap: no room for mistake. On his first and only attempt, “Alex” did a good lap but fell just short of second place and secured third on the grid. For the second qualifying segment, Alexandre modified the tyre management strategy, adding one more warmup lap. He subsequently improved his mark by 2 tenths, with an overall good and mistake-free lap but that was only good enough for 4th. The gap covering 2nd place to 6th place being just a tenth and a half. In the meantime, Honda driver Yamamoto had been using home ground advantage to secure pole positions.

Alexandre: “This qualifying is probably one of the most closely fought I have ever taken part in. I think my lap was already really good but we were playing with hundredth out there… Race will be close but we have prepared for this and with a good start everything is possible. Let’s wait and see”

In the afternoon, Imperatori lined up third on the grid and when the lights went off, immediately jumped into second before pulling a move around the outside of Yamamoto in the quick firstsecond corners to take the lead. The KCMG driver pushed hard to open a gap but Yamamoto could keep up with the Swiss thanks to the slipstream. Ensued a close fight for many laps with the Honda driver trying his very best to take back his position but Alexandre could respond to everything he threw at him, in a good display of race craft. Finally, with three laps to go, Yamamoto spun out of second place in his attempt to stay close to Imperatori. This effectively eased the pressure and gave the number 20 racer a clear path to victory as the two men had pulled a gap over Honda’s Kobayashi and Nissan’s Sato.

Imperatori: “The start was the key and I took just the necessary amount of risks. Then I had to fight real hard to keep the lead because every lap I had to defend into the chicane. I could pull away in the first two third of the lap to see this advantage reduced in the back straight. Probably one of my best race to date, if not in performance, at least in race craft.”

On sunday, Alexandre again took an amazing start from 4th to take 3rd immediately. He then shadowed Sato and closed to within 2 tenths of the Nissan protege in preparation for a move. Unfortunately, he tripped as he lost his downforce following Sato into the fast S-corners and had a scary moment before he could rejoin albeit three positions down. Glued with slower cars and struggling with some aerodynamic damages, the young swiss managed to secure the 2 points for 5th place.

Ryuji Doi, Team manager: “It’s a pity Alexandre had a small mistake in race 2 in an otherwise excellent week-end. We could fight for 2nd place today. But we are hopeful for the next races and overall we can’t complain about our week-end: we beat favorite Honda yesterday, and our sights are set on the championship.”