Alex Yoong - One In Twenty-One Million

ALEX YOONG, ONE IN TWENTY-ONE MILLION Alex Yoong is one in 20,932,901 - according to latest census figures. In 2001, he will be the first ever Malaysian to drive in Formula One. Talented and focused he is well aware of what is required. And...

ALEX YOONG, ONE IN TWENTY-ONE MILLION

Alex Yoong is one in 20,932,901 - according to latest census figures. In 2001, he will be the first ever Malaysian to drive in Formula One. Talented and focused he is well aware of what is required. And while he has a huge home following, he insists that he is not racing just to please them.

"The expectation from back home is great but mainly as a result of the general public not being aware of the highly competitive levels that I'm in once I went to British Formula Three. Had I wanted to feed the frenzy back home I would have picked a lesser championship from somewhere else and then win continuously - but that's not my objective. My objective is to get the best experience from racing amongst the best in the world prior to Formula One. I therefore hope the fans and sponsors understand what's best for my long-term goal."

But appreciating his following, Alex recognises those who have helped him to his Formula 3000 role that has now. "Yes, the supporters have been tremendous. The media especially had been extremely helpful too. I'll never forget that. If I succeed, they have all contributed to it."

This season has been full of highs and lows for Alex. He entered the British Formula Three Championship only to leave Alan Docking Racing due to funding shortages, to then go on to race in Italian Formula 3000 and International Formula 3000, where he will be making his first full season debut in 2000. But is he prepared for the stiff competition he will face in 2001?

"Yes. The International Formula 3000 program, being six months ahead of my schedule, had always been for me to learn the Formula One circuits and to get more experience of going into qualifying cold without any testing. Remember the International Formula 3000 field are the best drivers in the world outside Formula One and they too often miss the cut. This is not due to them being less of a driver but the fact is only twenty-six out of forty get in and fourteen don't. The experience this year will definitely be of benefit to my first full year campaign in 2000.

Yoong has now raced on several Formula One circuits including Hockenheim, the A1 Ring and Silverstone. How does the Sepang circuit in Malaysia compare? "If we compare facilities wise the Sepang circuit is definitely the best in the world today. In terms of challenge and actual race track characteristics, it's more difficult to compare as every circuit has it's own merits. If I hazard a guess, Sepang would rate in the top half of the world - but not necessary the best."

Not only is Alex a pretty handy racing driver, he is one of Asia's finest water-skiers. Has he ever thought about jumping ship? "I had never thought of water sports as a career as I had never thought there was anything else besides motor sport - although the laid back lifestyle of water skiing appeals to me. And the two are quite similar. Even the turns we make in slalom is a matter of cornering line taken correctly. In addition to the similarity of speed, danger and skill, water-skiing also requires great sense of balance and strength as in motorsport."

Being relatively new to the big scene, Alex had to adapt to the tremendous pressure of being under the spotlight and coping with less of a social life than he previously had. Is he finding it tough to cope? "No, not really. Perhaps a few years ago I was really not too keen to service the media but I realised it's an integral part of any sports personality's life if he wants to succeed. I do get some social life but it is hard. I arrange activities with my family and close friends as well as use these off days to play, like in water skiing."

Formula One will soon be calling but is he tempted to try his hand at F1 sooner? "Perhaps, I may get a nudge with the right funding to get a one-off for the 2000 Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix but I wouldn't count on it. To be realistic, my projection of my first Formula One race in October 2001 and a debut full Formula One season in 2002 is more likely. I still need to find the right backing."

- Article by Julie Gates courtesy of http://www.race-hub.com

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Series F3000