Zhuhai International Circuit, China. 21 October 2001 It was a week full of ups and downs for Asian Formula 2000 driver Denis Lian, who raced this weekend at the Zhuhai International Circuit for Rounds 13 & 14 of the 2001 AF2000 ...
Zhuhai International Circuit, China. 21 October 2001
It was a week full of ups and downs for Asian Formula 2000 driver Denis Lian, who raced this weekend at the Zhuhai International Circuit for Rounds 13 & 14 of the 2001 AF2000 championships.
He finished a strong 3rd in the morning race, and collected 15 points by virtue of finishing 2nd in the AF2000 championship race. He finished 7th overall in the later race, but a 3rd place in the championship. That sealed Denis' position as 3rd overall for the championship.
All was not so peachy this weekend though. The whirlwind weekend started with Denis first arriving in Zhuhai earlier in the week, when he was invited by Team FRD to test their Formula Renault car. An ecstatic Denis said afterwards, "It was a great session. The team and myself are very happy with the sessions. I now have an advantage of knowing the track a little more than the rest of the drivers, as they only begin the practice sessions on Thursday."
That advantage, however, was completely wiped off the slate when his AF2000 car started to misbehave again. For the whole of Thursday and the better part of Friday, Denis had to watch from the pitlane as fellow competitors pilled in more and more lap times. He was one frustrated driver when spoken to on Friday morning.
"The car started a misfiring problem, and all the mechanics could do is guess where or what the problem is, and basically re-do the car's entire electrical system. That means checking the car's electrical sensors - over a hundred of them. It's a shame all this had to happen, because my engineer Richard Smith has tweaked the car's suspension and I can feel the car is quite nicely balanced for this track," lamented Denis.
He was a happy chap once again in the Friday afternoon practice session however, as they fixed up the car's electrical problem, and Denis was flying around the track again.
In fact, he was matching the pace of Karun Chandhok, and the two Formula 3 Japanese drivers - who are racing in Zhuhai this weekend in preparation for next month's Macau GP. Karun would eventually seal the 2001 AF2000 Championship with his 3rd and 1st place finish in the Rd 13 & 14 of the championship respectively.
"I know I'm very quick in the middle section, where there are tighter turns. Phillipe Lescombe, who is the FRD instructor, gave me some good tips when I was testing for them earlier in the week, and as a result, I'm much faster there. Now all that needs to be sorted out is my brakes, and I think I can match the Japanese boys' lap times," said Denis
But that wasn't to be. Denis just couldn't find his rhythm in the first qualifying session, and only managed an 8th fastest lap. He starts his first race tomorrow next to Henry Lee Jr, who has seen plenty of close racing action with Denis in past encounters.
In the afternoon qualifying session, however, Denis felt he was up to speed, but was bogged down by trafiic and yellow flags. Even Meckel Ali, who was very quick in the morning qualifying session, managing to secure 3rd place on the grid for the Rd 13 race on Sunday, could only qualify 5th for the Rd 14 race due to heavy traffic and numerous yellow flags waved as car after car went off and had to be pulled out by rescue cars.
Denis would qualify 6th, starting right next to Meckel on the grid in the afternoon race.
Back to today's races. Denis finished 3rd overall in the Rd 13 race in the morning, with a combination of luck and great driving contributing to the great finish. "It's a meteoric rise as far as I'm concerned, as I only managed to qualified in 8th in this race. So finishing 3rd here is great."
He added, "There was plenty of action for this round, and I was right in the middle of Asif and Karun who were both really fighting it out. Karun made a few mistakes and Asif and I immediately took advantage of the situation. It was a real dog fight between me and Karun as he tried to regain his position, but I'm glad I managed to hold on to position and finish on the podium on this round.
The Rd 14 race later in the day was less than ideal for the Singapore, as he only finished 7th overall. However, his focus then was to just finish the race and collect enough points to secure his 3rd overall placing in the 2001 championship.
"Unfortunately, Meckel Ali - whom I'm battling for the 3rd place overall - spun and hit the wall during the morning race, and that was the end of his racing this weekend. With him out of the picture, and with me already leading Meckel in the championship points going into the Rd 14 race, I didn't want to push it too hard. I came here to take the 3rd spot overall in the championship, and I did it. So I'm extremely happy for that," Denis said.
With the 2nd runner up trophy already in the bag, Denis is planning to go one step ahead by taking the overall championship next year. "I've got my eyes set on that trophy next year," laughed Denis, referring to Karun Chandhok's Championship trophy.
He also said later, "This year has been a real whirlwind - no actually a real roller coaster ride for me. I'm glad it finished the way it did. To be the first Singaporean competing in an international motor racing event is one thing, to finish on this level is fantastic. And next year, I plan to take the next step by winning the championship.