PODIUM IN SUZUKA. PROBLEM PREVENTS VICTORY Alexandre Imperatori had to make do with a podium finish in Suzuka despite having a winning pace: an engine problem meant he couldn't do better than 3rd. After a month break, the japanese F3 was back...
PODIUM IN SUZUKA. PROBLEM PREVENTS VICTORY
Alexandre Imperatori had to make do with a podium finish in Suzuka despite having a winning pace: an engine problem meant he couldn't do better than 3rd.
After a month break, the japanese F3 was back on track at the mythic Suzuka circuit. It is the second time this year that the drivers visit this venue, yet the heat of the japanese summer would surely pose some challenges: "In anticipation of this race I have used the break to train very hard and make sure I am ready to dedicate my full focus to seeking the performance" Imperatori said.
The week-end began promisingly, with Alexandre setting the fastest time on old tyres in friday's practice session. "We used different new tyres in the afternoon than our competitors so even though we were a little slower on new tyres we are not really worried as we have found a good setup with my engineer."
The qualifying was held on saturday morning and Alexandre took the best out of his tyres to secure a spot on the front row of the grid for both races. With cars only separated by a tenth, it would prove a close fight in the races. Unfortunately the first race was decided at the start when the young swiss made his first startmistake of the season and stall the engine: "I anticipated the start a fraction too much and had to reclutch. At the same time the lights went off and in the precipitation I wrongly managed the clutch and stalled. It was entirely my mistake" the PTRS driver admitted.
He could restart and had to settle for 5th place: "I was quite quicker than the guys in front but as soon as I came too close into the bad air it became really difficult". Also the engine tuners revealed afterwards that the engine was abnormally hot by just a few degrees and had automatically entered into a safe mode, retarding the timing of the engine.
Therefore, Alexandre took precautions in sunday's race: "I cooled the engine as much as possible in my installation lap in a bid for performance in the first few laps". At the start, Alex took off the best when the lights came off and lead into the first corner. At the hairpin, a competitor from the A-class spun in front of the car number 20 of Imperatori and the swiss had to take the inside line to avoid the car. He also had to slow down too much and put 2 wheels off the track. Second placed Matsushita just had the time to take the outside line and could accelerate better and easily take the lead. "The hairpin incident is sheer bad luck. I was quite a lot quicker than Matsushita (5 tenths a lap in fastest lap classification) so I could have gone away. As soon as I got behind the engine kept heating too much like yesterday and I gradually lost power. Even in slipstream I was loosing ground but could make up in the corners.".
Alex being stuck behind Matsushita allowed Yamauchi (Toyota TDP driver), to catch up and in lap 9, Imperatori could not block a pass down the main straight: "I could make a small gap out of spoon, yet he was easily catching up in the straight and out of the chicane he just got too much slipstream and that was it" Alexandre commented. Top speed standings indeed showed Yamauchi to have a 5 km/h advantage at the speed trap.
The first three had created a gap and Alexandre kept pushing but with his engine again in safe mode it was hard to try any move, even though he had the quickest pace. "In the bad air, it was hard to try anything and I couldn't even gain from the slipstream so it was a hard race but we got another podium here and the championship is open. Now we need to look at the engine problem and fix it for the next race in Fuji".