Alexandre Imperatori completed a strong week-end in Motegi with two second places, and secured big points for the Japan Championship as he catches up in the standings.

The sixth round of the Japanese Formula 3 championship was held at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Tochigi prefecture, 140km north of Tokyo.

For this round, tyre supplier Hankook had developed a new compound of tyre to cope with the very hot conditions found in Japan during the summer. The competitors sampled this tyres for the first time during practice on friday and were very surprised with the behavior.

Alexandre Imperatori: “The new tyre seems to be much harder because we lost a lot of adherence compare to the old one. It is much trickier to drive and we have to work hard to find the proper setup to make these tyres work. It’s actually a shame because we had put the finger on an excellent setting with the previous tyres so everything must be done again.”

To make this challenge even harder, rain disrupted the practice sessions so deciding setup of the cars for saturday’s qualifying was indeed a bit of a gamble.

During the qualifying 1, Alexandre could set a time of 1.49.0 and secured a front row starting position beside Honda’s Yamamoto who managed to go a tenth quicker than the Shanghai-based swiss.

In an attempt to solve some overall grip issues, minor changes were made to the car for the second qualifying. Unfortunately these didn’t pay off as Alexandre could just manage 1.49.2 and with the level of competition in the championship this year, the two tenths missing meant the swiss from KCMG would start race 2 from the fourth place.

In race 1, Alexandre attempted to jump into the lead at the start but suffered slightly too much wheel spin and couldn’t mount an attack. Still struggling with grip, Alexandre pushed to stay with leader Yamamoto and in front of ex-GP2 racer Sekiguchi. With overtaking difficult in Motegi the 14-laps race was rather uneventful and the top three finished in the order they started: Yamamoto from Imperatori from Sekiguchi.

Alexandre Imperatori: “If you can’t pass at the start, it is hard to do it later in Motegi but I have to consider the championship and second is not a bad operation. Tomorrow we start 4th so it will be harder for sure but with a good start everything is possible!”

Indeed, when start of race 2 was given at 12.45 local time, Alexandre got off the line well to slot in second place of the 20 laps race. “start was OK but I still had issues with wheel-spin which I believe are related with the new compound of tyre. Otherwise I believe we could even have gotten the lead, but it was already a good effort.”

Overnight, the team changed a major component on the car to try to find the lacking grip with these new tyre specification and while it worked rather well in the early stages of the race, it became worse as the tyres wore off and leader Yamamoto slowly edged away. Nonetheless, Alexandre secured his second runner-up finish of the week-end, without having been threatened during a race that involved physical fitness and mental focus as well. Indeed, the weather was extremely hot and humid and Alexandre was glad he could count on a recent strong training session with his trainer in Shanghai!

Alexandre Imperatori: “For the championship it was very important to have a strong and consistent week-end and score points in both races. We have achieved this target and we came back into 3rd place in the standing, closing on 2nd place. But it will be very important to find a way to make the car work better with these new tyres, like we managed to do with the first specification of tyres.”