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Alexandre ImperatoriAfter the opening rounds of the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia’s tenth triumphant season last month saw some of the most spectacular racing ever seen in Asia, the region’s premier sportscar series takes the championship battle to Southern China for Rounds 3 and 4 from June 1 to 3 at the 4.3km Zhuhai International Circuit.

The exceptional Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car grid features an unrivalled line-up of international professionals and exciting newcomers, all eager to prove their mettle against seasoned veterans.

Topping the leaderboard as the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia heads to Zhuhai is PICC Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori, whose impressive pole position and two race wins in Shanghai makes the 24-year-old the driver to beat. With new reverse grid regulations for race two, the Shanghai-based Swiss star put on a dazzling display as he maneuvered his way through the hard-charging pack to grab his second victory of the weekend. Having seized victory in the opening rounds, Imperatori’s rivals are determined to break his six-race winning streak, which began last August, and turn the tables in Zhuhai.

Said reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champion, LKM Racing’s Keita Sawa of Japan, currently second in the overall title race: “Defending the championship is not going to be easy with so much talent and experience this season. Alexandre has so far set the pace, and now I must step up to the challenge and find a way to make up the seven points which separate our team and first place.”

Sportscar and series newcomer Tung Ho-Ping, racing with Budweiser Team StarChase, lies third in the points. Tung’s eighth-place finish in Round 1 gave him pole position for the second race, where he took the final podium place.

Fourth in the standings after a strong debut is fellow series newcomer, Benjamin Rouget of France with Team Yongda Dongfang, one of three new Porsche China dealer team entries. Also expected to be right on the pace in Zhuhai are Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila of Macau, and talented Austrian Martin Ragginger with new Porsche China dealer Team Eagle – Jiejun & Junbaojie.

At the wheel of the Team Carrera Cup Asia Porsche 911 GT3 Cup will be guest driver and 2004 champion Matthew Marsh.

Reigning Class B champion, Wang Jian Wei of Team Betterlife, will be on the hunt for his first overall podium finish in Zhuhai, while Italian Davide Rizzo returns to the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia in Zhuhai, having won five Class B races in his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia debut in 2011.

Fifth overall and second in the Class B title fight, one point behind Rizzo’s BBT team mate Anthony Liu of China, is series newcomer Egidio Perfetti with Seminole Racing Team. The Singapore-based driver made a stunning debut in Shanghai, with a second-place finish in Round 1 and his first Porsche Carrera Cup Asia victory in Round 2. Currently third in Class B is Wayne Shen with Modena Motorsports, whose exciting battle with on-track rival Francis Tjia of OpenRoad Racing in Round 2 saw him earn the final Class B podium place.

Qualifying and Round 3 of the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will be held on Saturday, June 2, while Round 2, where the top eight finishers in the first race will be reversed on the grid, will be held on Sunday, June 3.

Rounds 3&4 – Provisional Entry List
No.1/Keita SAWA (JPN)/LKM Racing Team
No. 3/*Matthew MARSH (HKG)/A/Team Carrera Cup Asia
No. 5/Yuey TAN (SIN)/B/McElrea Racing
No. 6/ZHENG Ting (CHN)/B/BBT
No. 8/Benjamin ROUGET (FRA)/Team Yongda Dongfang
No. 9/WANG Jian Wei (CHN)/Team Betterlife
No. 11/Ringo CHONG (SIN)/Team Kangshun
No. 16/Wayne SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsport
No. 18/Marcel TJIA (HKG)/B/OpenRoad-ART Motorsports
No. 20/Rodolfo AVILA (MAC)/Team Jebsen
No. 21/Francis TJIA (HKG)/B/OpenRoad Racing
No. 23/Paul TRESIDDER (AUS)/B/Hewlett Motorsport
No. 25/Christian CHIA (CAN)/B/OpenRoad-ART Motorsports
No. 27/Adrian Henry D’SILVA (MAS)/B/Nexus Racing
No. 28/John SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsports
No. 31/*TBC/PS Racing
No. 37/Davide RIZZO (ITA)/BBT
No. 55/*Sean HE/PS Racing
No. 66/Rose TAN (CHN)/Team C&D
No. 68/MAK Hing Tak (HKG)/B/OMAK
No. 78/ZHANG Da Sheng (CHN)/Team Basetex
No. 81/HUANG Chu Han (CHN)/B/Hede
No. 83/Dr. MA Chi Min (HKG)/B/Dr. Ma Chi Min
No. 86/Martin RAGGINGER (AUT)/Team Eagle – Jiejun & Junbaojie
No. 88/Egidio PERFETTI (SUI)/B/Seminole Racing Team
No. 96/LI Chao (CHN)/B/Asia Racing Team/Team JR
No. 98/Ho-Pin TUNG (CHN)/Budweiser Team StarChase
No. 99/Alexandre IMPERATORI (HKG)/PICC Team StarChase

*Non series registered

Alexandre ImperatoriPICC Team StarChase and star driver Alexandre Imperatori stunned their rivals at the weekend with a wheel-perfect performance against the strongest field ever in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia history.

Pole position and two superb victories see the team at the top of the championship leaderboard with an encouraging seven point lead. Imperatori set the fastest lap both races for good measure, completing a perfect weekend.

The weekend heralded the start of an exciting new partnership between PICC, Team StarChase, one of China’s top racing teams, and sparkling young racing talent Imperatori.

Said Imperatori, as he celebrated with the team in this home city of Shanghai: “It was a tough but ultimately successful weekend for us, and no better way to begin the season. I believe our pole position was an important psychological moment for us as it was difficult to gauge from testing and practice if we really did have the edge against this unprecedented field.”

“It’s an encouraging start to the season and our championship campaign, but Round 2 certainly proved that it is going to be incredibly competitive. Watch this space!”

As the region’s most competitive and prestigious international sportscar championship got its 10th season underway at the 2012 FORMULA 1 UBS CHINESE GRAND PRIX in Shanghai, PICC Team StarChase were on the pace from the word ‘go’.

Imperatori threw down the gauntlet to his 27 rivals early on, snatching pole position for Round 1 with a scorching lap of the 5.5km Shanghai International Circuit of under two minutes nine seconds, the only driver to do so.

Having given the 24-year-old Imperatori the perfect car with which to take pole, and the all-important championship point which went with it, expert race engineer Frank Rohwer and his technical team ensured the Shanghai-based Swiss ace was in great shape for the first race of the season.

As the lights went out, Imperatori was away like lightning and never look back. Crossing the line with an impressive margin of almost eight seconds from his closest challenger, he had paced the 12 laps perfectly to ensure he was ready for all takers.

Sunday, however, brought a far more testing task. New for the 2012 season is the reverse grid system which sees the first eight finishers in race one reverse for the start of the second race.

While victory in Round 1 may have given PICC Team StarChase a strong moral boost, starting from the fourth row for Round 2, amongst an enormously-competitive field, meant the team had their work cut out for them.

Off the grid, Imperatori was on the hunt for places, as the seven cars ahead jostled for position at break-neck speed. Holding his nerve, he piled on the pressure ever watchful for potential incidents up ahead.

Lap 8 saw the drama unfurl, as a challenge at the front of the pack saw a fast-paced change of position, with cars running wide, coming together, and rejoining the chase. Grabbing his chance, Imperatori’s lightning reactions helped him navigate his way through the melee to claim the race lead in a performance that was nothing short of jaw-dropping. Flat out the flag, he had managed to pull out a margin of more than four seconds by the finish.

Brains, courage and skill, combined with the perfect car, had given Imperatori and PICC Team StarChase the victory, one which tasted all the sweeter for the white-knuckle ride it had been. The race was hailed by one and all as the most exciting in Porsche Carrera Cup Asia history.

The weekend was doubly successful for the team when their second Porsche Carrera Cup Asia entry, for China’s Tung Ho-Pin in the Budweiser Team StarChase car, finished third in Round 2. With Tung joining Imperatori on the podium, it was a proud moment for the team.

Said StarChase Chief Operations Officer Mr. Robby Niermann: “We’re delighted to leave Shanghai at the top of the leaderboard, but the weekend has shown that we’re competing right at the pinnacle of the sport this year. We’re going to have to be completely at the top of our game all year. More than ever, there is zero room for error.”

“We are also extremely proud to have a second car this season, and to have another talented driver on board. We are equally committed to supporting both Alex and Ho-Pin to capture as many race wins as possible for the team,” added Niermann.

Team StarChase will be back in action to continue their quest to capture the 2012 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia title at the Zhuhai International Circuit from June 1-3.

Alexandre ImperatoriThe trials and tribulations of a challenging weekend at the Ordos International Circuit last month have done nothing to dent the formidable resolve and enthusiasm of reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia champions Team StarChase. Quite the opposite in fact, as the two-time title holders head overseas to Malaysia’s Sepang International Circuit.

A storming start to the 2011 season saw Team StarChase dominate the opening four races with a run of unbroken victories and, despite experiencing a number of misfortunes at the new Inner Mongolian circuit in July, the team is just one point away from the top of the leaderboard heading to Malaysia.

Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori, 24, is chomping at the bit to race on one of his favourite circuits in the world, and get the team’s campaign to capture a record-breaking third championship title back on track: “I can’t wait to attack the weekend! We have unfinished business from Ordos, and I want to put things right in Malaysia,” he says. “Sepang is an awesome circuit, definitely one of the top worldwide. It is very technical, with blind corners, fast corners, and is very flowing. Overall, it’s a complete track where you need to be on top of your game to perform. And it’s massive fun to drive there!”

Imperatori knows the 5.6km track well, and he and Team StarChase, which is supported by TransAsia Airways and PICC, tested the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup there during the winter. He believes his track experience and the team’s expertise could give them an edge. “Obviously most of the drivers are also familiar with the track, but I believe we should have a strong package for Sepang,” he said.

Rounds 7 and 8 of the 11-race Porsche Carrera Cup Asia 2011 season will be held at the Sepang circuit as part of a Porsche Weekend of racing and activities.

StarChase Holdings was established in 2006, and is one of the leading dealer groups for Porsche in China today. More information can be found on the official website: www.starchase.com.cn.

Wang Jian WeiThe battle for the region’s most prestigious GT championship title heads to Malaysia next week when the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia takes to the 5.6km Sepang International Circuit for Rounds 7 and 8 of the 2011 season.

The stage is set for a spectacular return to the Malaysian track, the series having last raced there in 2009. Team Jebsen’s Rodolfo Avila of Macau leads the charge as the record field of 26 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars embarks on the second half of the season. Avila shot to the top of the leaderboard with a victory in the last round at Ordos, Inner Mongolia, and at Sepang can expect to face stiff opposition from the likes of Team StarChase driver Alexandre Imperatori, who won the first four races of the season and now trails Avila by just a single point. Racing commitments elsewhere mean the Swiss ace will hand the wheel over to reigning Porsche Carrera Cup Asia Christian Menzel of Germany for the Singapore round next month, so Imperatori must score maximum points in Malaysia to remain in the championship race.

The LKM Racing Team duo of Keita Sawa, third in the standings, and FIA WTCC regular Darryl O’Young will also be on the hunt for points, as will series newcomer Brian Wong of the USA who is making a remarkable debut in Asia.

In Class B, the competition will be just as fierce. Team BetterLife’s Wang Jian Wei of China will be seeking to continue his phenomenal series debut, but on-form rivals Francis Tjia of OpenRoad Racing and Team Kangshun’s Ringo Chong are snapping at his heals in the points. Woyo Racing’s Davide Rizzo of Italy, who made both his series and motorsport competition debut at the start of the season, will be one to watch having won twice in the category in Ordos, taking pole position for good measure.

As the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia prepares to race outside China for the first time this season, both the overall and Class B championship titles remain wide open. The fast, sweeping Sepang International Circuit, host of the Malaysian round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship and venue for the series’ pre-season test, will be in stark contrast to Inner Mongolia’s tight and twisting Ordos track, demanding a radically different set up and driving style.

Supporting the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia are two of the most recognised names in international motorsport, Mobil1 and Michelin. Mobil and Porsche have been partners since 1996. Close co-operation in research and development has led to every new Porsche engine being filled with Mobil1 high-performance lubricant. Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers also have the advantage of racing on cutting-edge tyres supplied by series partner Michelin. The consistent performance and leading technology of Michelin tyres constantly improve the performance of many teams in international motorsport. The partnership between Michelin and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has emerged from a worldwide agreement signed between Porsche AG and the Michelin group.

The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is organised and promoted by Malaysian based Motorsport Asia Ltd.

Alexandre ImperatoriAlexandre Imperatori produced a gutsy comeback drive at Autopolis on Sunday to record the first points’ finish of his maiden Formula Nippon campaign.

The Swiss star, fresh off the back of another Porsche Carrera Cup Asia double victory the previous weekend, turned his attention to Japan’s powerful one-make single seater series with the intention of scoring points in just his second outing following a top ten finish on debut at Suzuka.

After knocking out a number of experienced drivers to reach the second stage of Saturday’s qualifying for the second consecutive round, a slight team miscalculation ultimately left the SGC by KCMG Toyota lining up 12th for Sunday’s 54-lap race, which began in damp but drying conditions. Like most of the field Imperatori started on wet tyres, maintaining position in the opening laps before swapping to slicks.

Having initially struggled with the car’s balance in wet conditions, a change of rubber proved the catalyst for Imperatori’s impressive fight back as he picked off those ahead one by one over the remaining 51 laps while also managing to preserve his tyres over the long stint. Seventh place, two points and leading rookie were his reward at the chequered flag.

Imperatori: “I came here this weekend determined to score points after a decent start to my Nippon career at Suzuka. While I was pleased to make it through to Q2 again, it’s true I was disappointed with 12th. Because of a timing error I didn’t have enough laps to complete the optimal tyre warming sequence which compromised my subsequent flying lap.

“I’m so pleased we turned that around on Sunday. With dry settings the first three laps on wet weather tyres proved very challenging. The grip levels just weren’t there and if I’m honest we probably pitted a lap later than we should. That cost us time but fortunately the car came alive and I was able to push hard straight away which made catching and passing those ahead a bit easier. On new tyres it’s tempting to use all the available grip straight away so I’m delighted that we managed to nurse the tyres for over 50 laps while still pushing hard. All in all it’s been an extremely satisfying weekend. The team performed brilliantly and to come away as top rookie with two points shows we’re heading in the right direction.”

Imperatori travels to Ordos, China on July 8-10 where he will attempt to maintain the perfect start to his Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship. A week later he steps back into single seaters for round three of Formula Nippon at Fuji.

Alexandre ImperatoriFollowing a spectacular start to the season at the Chinese round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship last month, the battle for the 2011 Porsche Carrera Cup Asia championship title heads South for two races at the Zhuhai International Circuit as part of the China Touring Car Championship weekend.

Having won both the opening rounds with series newcomer Alexandre Imperatori, defending champions Team StarChase got their season off to a near-perfect start and top the leaderboard just six points clear of Rodolfo Avila of Macau, competing with two-time champions Team Jebsen. Series newcomer Brian Wong became the first USA driver to stand upon the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia podium in Shanghai, and his strong debut performance puts him third in the points.

China’s Wang Jian Wei with Chinese Porsche dealer entry Team BetterLife, who also made his debut in Shanghai, tops the Class B category for non-professional racers and also lies fourth overall. Snapping at his heels in Class B is Hong Kong’s Wayne Shen just six points adrift, followed by Francis Tjia.

In Zhuhai, expect the LKM Racing duo of two-time champion Darryl O’Young of Hong Kong and Japan’s Keita Sawa to be back with a vengeance after an unlucky second outing in Shanghai which dealt their title aspirations a severe blow. Newcomer Davide Rizzo of Italy will make his debut in Zhuhai and could well provide some surprises, while former Class B champion Philip Ma of Hong Kong is back having missed out on the opening two rounds.

With Mok Weng Sun of Singapore unable to make the Zhuhai races, the series welcomes back Canadian Christian Chia who joins brothers Marcel and Francis Tjia at OpenRoad Racing.

The record field of 26 identical Porsche 911 GT3 Cup cars will line up on the grid for two races on Zhuhai’s 4.3km fast, challenging circuit.

Supporting the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia are two of the most recognised names in international motorsport, Mobil1 and Michelin. Mobil and Porsche have been partners since 1996. Close co-operation in research and development has led to every new Porsche engine being filled with Mobil1 high-performance lubricant. Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers also have the advantage of racing on cutting-edge tyres supplied by series partner Michelin. The consistent performance and leading technology of Michelin tyres constantly improve the performance of many teams in international motorsport. The partnership between Michelin and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has emerged from a worldwide agreement signed between Porsche AG and the Michelin group.

The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is organised and promoted by Malaysian based Motorsport Asia Ltd.
Rounds 3 & 4 – Provisional Entry List
No.3/Alain LI (HKG)/B/Alain Li
No.5/Yuey TAN (SIN)/B/Wimobilize McElrea Racing
No.7/Jeffrey LEE (TPE)/B/Team Pauian Archiland
No.9/WANG Jian Wei (CHN)/B/Team BetterLife
No.11/Ringo CHONG (SIN)/B/Team Kangshun
No.15/Keith VONG (MAC)/B/Asia Racing Team
No.16/Wayne SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsports
No.18/Marcel TJIA (HKG)/B/OpenRoad Racing
No.20/Rodolfo AVILA (MAC)/A/Team Jebsen
No.21/Francis TJIA (HKG)/B/OpenRoad Racing
No.22/Morris KU Yee Lung (HKG)/B/Team DAYCRAFT
No.23/Paul TRESIDDER (AUS)/B/Paul Tresidder
*No.25/Christian CHIA (CAN)/OpenRoad Racing
No.27/Adrian Henry D’SILVA (MAS)/B/Nexus Racing
No.28/John SHEN (HKG)/B/Modena Motorsports
No.37/Davide RIZZO (ITA)/B/WoYo Racing Team
No.55/Darryl O’YOUNG (HKG)/A/LKM Racing Team
No.59/Philip BRIANDET (SIN)/B/Philip BRIANDET
No.66/Rose TAN (CHN)/B/Team C&D
No.68/MAK Hing Tak (HKG)/B/OMAK
No.77/Jacky YEUNG (HKG)/B/Jacky Yeung
No.83/Dr. MA Chi Min (HKG)/B/Asia Racing Team
No.88/Keita SAWA (JPN)/A/LKM Racing Team
No.89/Brian WONG (USA)/A/Absolute Racing
No.98/Philip MA (HKG)/A/Team Hong Kong Racing
No.99/Alexandre IMPERATORI (SUI)/A/Team StarChase

*Non series registered

Alexandre ImperatoriNew Team StarChase driver signing Alexandre Imperatori proved why he was an inspired choice for Porsche Carrera Cup Asia reigning champions when he took two superb victories in the opening rounds last weekend in his TransAsia Airways-backed Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car.

In front of cheering home crowds, the 23-year-old Shanghai-based star didn’t put a wheel wrong on his way to both victories, seizing and holding the lead in the opening race, and then charging unchallenged from pole-to-flag in the second.

The two victories not only put Team StarChase firmly on track for a successful title defence, but also bring their unbroken tally of wins at the 5.5km Shanghai International Circuit to an impressive nine. It was also a superb start to the partnership between Team StarChase and TransAsia Airways, a winning combination that will continue when the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia arrives in Singapore in September for 2011 FORMULA 1 SINGAPORE GRAND PRIX.

Said Imperatori following his second, emphatic victory: “Two wins on my series and Porsche racing debut is fantastic. It’s a great result for the team, and I’m pleased to repay their faith in me. There’s a long way to go in the championship, but it’s good to come away on top of the leaderboard, although I do know it’s going to be a tough season ahead.”

Although the end result in Shanghai was the best possible, it wasn’t all plane sailing. The drama began on the Friday of race weekend, when the team’s practice session – and crucial track time for Imperatori and his Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car – came to an abrupt and premature end after the main drive belt inexplicably broke. Undeterred, the team took to the track for Saturday’s 30-minute qualifying session and immediately impressed setting the second quickest time, just one hundredth of a second off pole.

Team StarChase lined up on the front of the grid, the car shod with brand new Michelins, for the start of their championship defence. After a strong getaway, Imperatori briefly lost a position but some plucky manoeuvring saw him quickly reclaim his place behind the leader.

Holding his concentration during a Safety Car period, Imperatori resumed his challenge for victory as racing resumed, hauling in the leader before making his move to successfully seize the lead on lap six. From there, Team StarChase were in control all the way to the flag and Imperatori’s first victory on his debut outing with the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia.

Starting Round 2 from pole position, Imperatori got away well off the grid, which proved to be crucial as carnage ensued behind him: “I got a proper start this time, which was key as I saw in my mirrors what was happening behind. I just had to concentrate to keep the lead, particularly in the first few laps as I was on old tyres. After four or five laps, I just managed the tyres so I wouldn’t be in trouble at the end of the race, and kept an eye on the gap from the rest of the pack. In the end, it was a comfortable win, but I am very much aware that it won’t always be this easy!”

Team StarChase will be back in action at the Pearl River Delta Region’s Zhuhai International Circuit next month, for two races as part of the China Touring Car Championship. Imperatori will be very much at home in Zhuhai, as it was there where he began his career in junior single seaters, and later raced with A1GP. However, it will be his first time racing a Porsche on the 4.3km circuit, although as he more than proved this weekend in Shanghai, if it has four wheels, he can race it – and win.

StarChase Holdings was established in 2006, and is one of the leading dealer groups for Porsche in China today. More information can be found on the official website: www.starchase.com.cn.

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.”

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.”

The Japan F3 finale was set to be at Sugo, a few hours north of Tokyo: the track featured important level changes, a very twisty first sector and very high speed second part so that it would prove quite a challenge for the drivers.

On thursday, Alexandre concentrated on learning this new track and was experiencing difficulties with the handling of the car and focused on solving these issues. “We are lacking general grip and the circuit is very particular so we need to find the right adjustments that will suit the car best. We are not quite there yet so we need to keep working hard in tomorrow’s practices” Alexandre said on thursday evening.

After further improvements on friday, Alexandre felt more confident for the rest of the week end: on new tyres he could manage to set the second fastest time and knew were to improve on the last couple tenths.

For saturday’s qualifying, Alexandre had to secure two good lap times for each of the last two round’s grids. On his first set of tyres, he set a good time of 1.17.2 that put him in second place on the timing boards. With his second set, he managed his very first lap in 1.17.1 and was on a flyer the next lap when the session was red-flagged. Right before the redflag, team-mate Ali had had time to put in his lap (1.17.08) that pushed back Alex in 3rd place for race 2 while Alexandre was 2nd for the first race’s start. The session was not to be restarted.

At the start of race 1, the young swiss again did one of his now customary great starts to take the lead from second and was leading when an unfortunate mistake allowed the three competitors behind him to pass: “I went a bit wide on a curb as I was pushing hard to make a gap but the curb pulled me on the grass and I had to lift while the others passed me down the straight.” Alexandre bemoaned afterwards. Indeed, Sugo is a track that provide very little overtaking opportunities and Alexandre crossed the finish line in 4th.

On sunday, the weather conditions turned rainy and nobody knew what to expect. Imperatori went from 3rd to second at the start and was putting pressure on the leader for the first 8 laps and the two were clearing from the rest of the field. But as the conditions worsened, the other drivers behind managed to plug the gap and Alexandre fell back to 4th but quickly reclaimed 3rd place by overtaking the early leader of the race. In the later stages of the 25 laps race, Alexandre posted fast laps to close-in on 2nd-placed Matsushita but lacked a few laps to find a way past. Still Alexandre was crowned vice-champion with a last podium of a successful season.

Alexandre Imperatori: “The season was really good, I feel we progressed well and I learned much. Becoming vice-champion with a last podium was important even though I would have preferred to win. I wish to congratulate and thank my whole team for this successful year!”

“Becoming vice champion of such a strong championship means a lot but I look forward to more racing here and stepping on the top step in the near future.”

After setting his print in the japanese racing world, Alexandre now hopes to continue his successful streak in the far-east in 2009. Stay tuned for more information!