Spa Francorpchamps, Belgium - Thursday, 26th August 1999 - Malaysia's Alex Yoong today proved he's Formula 1 material in front of all the F1 team owners with a spectacular 8th out of 20 seasoned international F3000 drivers in his group in a wet...
Spa Francorpchamps, Belgium - Thursday, 26th August 1999 - Malaysia's Alex Yoong today proved he's Formula 1 material in front of all the F1 team owners with a spectacular 8th out of 20 seasoned international F3000 drivers in his group in a wet qualifying session at the famous 6.968 km Spa circuit.
Only 13 drivers from each group comprising odd and even competition numbers (26 starters out of 40 entries) are admitted to the race proper which will be run in front of some 100,000 spectators at 3pm on Saturday immediately after the F1 qualifying run.
For a greater part of the 45 minutes session, Alex shocked the F3000 teams as he was lying on pole and second. But as the track started to dry, Alex was called in for the change to slick tyres by his team a few laps too late. With only 10 minutes of the session to run Alex was knocked down to 14th position as his dry weather slick tyres had no time to warm up. A herculean effort at the very last 2 minutes of the session left by Alex launched Alex from 14th (outside the cut) to 8th at the very last seconds of the session.
"I am beyond words to explain my joy in qualifying." said Alex. "The damp conditions allowed us to compete on a level playing field where as in the dry we have been struggling with car setup due to no testing so far." "It is a huge relief to me personally as it proves that I can play with the big boys even though there are the odd few that may not have much faith in what we are trying to achieve over here."
Monaco motorsports team boss, Lamberto Leoni was overjoyed. "Alex keeps improving. His effort today was spectacular for a driver who is still a rookie in F3000. All my friends in the F1 paddock telephoned me to congratulate the team on Alex's effort. I am proud of him."
Alex's team mate, Marco Apicella of Italy who was in the even number group however failed to qualify due to set up problems with his car.
Some other notables who also failed to qualify were Mario Haberfield (1998 British F3 champion) and Bas Leinders of Belgium (1998 German F3 champion)
F.Walfish of France who was first in the odd number group while Jason Watts of Denmark who topped the even number group will line up on the front row for the 30 lap race on Saturday 28th of August.
Alex will aim to finish amongst the top half of the 26 starters for the race on Saturday as he related his plans "Its a very long race. Thirty laps around Spa is 210km. The Merdeka Race this weekend in Sepang as a comparison, is a 300km endurance race with 3 or 4 driver changes. Imagine the attrition rates in this race this Saturday, with the 3 to 5 Gs laterally and vertically and in cars that are much more physical to drive than all race cars bar Formula 1.If I pace myself properly and stay out of trouble I'll finish in the top half or better."