Focus On South Asian Trio

Malaysia's Alex Yoong, 23, leaves for Japan today to face his toughest test to date in an effort to get a top team seat in Japan's Formula Nippon (F3000) Championship for the new millennium season as the final stepping stone to Formula 1.

Team Le Mans, the 1998 champion, will test Alex on December the 8th while Team Nakajima, this year's champion, will test Alex the next day.

These two tests, organised by the promoters and owners of the Championship, Japan Race Promotion, is crucial to Alex getting a top team drive for the first time in his four year professional racing career.

There are only three international Asian racers in Formula racing from outside Japan. They are Narian Karthikeyan of India, Indonesian Ananda Mikola and Malaysia's Alex Yoong. Given the tremendous interests in the far-east economy, they are all with a good chance to reach Formula 1 by early next millennium, probably after the year 2001. All eyes, especially those from the Asian continent are now focussed on these South Asian trio.

Each have a website to promote their exploits at , , and .

Karthikeyan, aged 24, have received an offer to be with the top F3 team, Stewart Racing to campaign in the British Formula 3 Championship for the third year next year with the support of Ford of India and Kingfisher Beer. This decision by Karthikeyan to not graduate to Formula 3000 may pay off if he wins the British F3 Championship with the top F3 team next year.

Mikola, the youngest of the trio at 20, is yet to confirm which championship he'll be taking part in for 2000 although it's most likely he'll repeat the Italian F3000 Championship while eyeing for a drive in the International European F3000 Championship.

In the recent end-of-season International F3 races in Macau and Korea, Alex had fared better than Karthikeyan with a 7th overall in Macau while Karthikeyan was not classified due to a non finish in leg 1 of Macau. Karthikeyan finished a very creditable seventh in leg 2 however. In Korea, Karthikeyan had a big crash in leg 1 and was forced to sit out for leg 2 as the car was too badly damaged while Alex had a stalled car from a collision with another driver while lying 9th of 28 in leg 1 and finished a very creditable tenth in leg 2 from 24th on the grid.

Mikola could not manage an invitation from the organisers and had to sit out both the F3 meetings.

Should either Team Le Mans or Team Nakajima offer Alex a seat for the year 2000 after the tests, Alex will be facing much less pressure to raise the RM6 million needed for next year. This is because, a top team has access to many sponsors and it will only accept a driver if he's good enough and the drive will be an assisted drive.

Further more Alex will be placing himself right at the door-steps of the world's biggest multi-nationals, many of whom are involved in Formula 1 for a long time. These sponsors are available for Alex to further tap his future fundings from.

Recent direct graduates to Formula 1 from Formula Nippon are Eddie Irvine, Ralf Schumacher, Johnny Herbert, Tora Takagi and Pedro De La Rosa.

"I'm prepared to give a good account of myself in the tests and hopeful of securing a seat with one of the two top teams." said Alex. "When that happens I hope to run in the Racing for Malaysia banner to promote Japanese-Malaysian friendship in motorsports to help other racers coming up from Malaysia." he added.