Suzuka, Japan - Sunday, 25th Mar 2001- Malaysia's Alex Yoong, driving for Team LeMans, qualified 10th on the grid for the opening round of the 2001 Formula Nippon Championship in Suzuka with a time of 1m 46.117s, just 1.176s off pole time of 1m ...
Suzuka, Japan - Sunday, 25th Mar 2001- Malaysia's Alex Yoong, driving for Team LeMans, qualified 10th on the grid for the opening round of the 2001 Formula Nippon Championship in Suzuka with a time of 1m 46.117s, just 1.176s off pole time of 1m 44.941s set by N. Hattori of Team 5Zigen.
This was achieved despite limited running in the faster second qualifying session where Alex only had time for 9 laps due to the right rear brakes jamming with a stone lodged in the calipers while being pushed into the pit box after his 5 installation laps. With only 5 minutes to go Alex managed to haul himself up from 13th after the first session to 10th within 4 laqps.
"I didn't think I was going to go out at all when with 8 minutes to go, the mechanics were still fixing my brakes. But thanks to them, I was sent out with enough time to get my tyres warmed for the flying lap which put me onto the fifth row." said Alex.
"The quick lap wasn't perfect and I felt if we had had time to use our last set of tyres like everyone else I could have gone half a second quicker. The car is getting better all the time and we have a good chance of finishing in the points tomorrow."
Team mate Yudai Igarashi was 14th at 1m 46.602s while India's Narain Karthikeyan driving for Team Impul had to settle for 18th on the grid with 1m 47.840s due to a extremely over steering car following an off track excursion in the first qualifying session. Macau's Andre Couto was 15th with 1m 46.679s and fellow rookie cum team mate Richard Lyons of Britain 17th.
Satoshi Motoyama of Team Impul who had provisional pole after the first session could not prevent the onslaught from five other drivers who pushed him down to 6th on the grid in the dying minutes of the second qualifying session. Motoyama clocked a best time of 1m 45.636s.
Lining up in the front row with Hattori is ARTA Team's Juichi Wakisaka with 1m 45.186s. Team Nakajima's T. Matsuda took 3rd with a time of 1m 45.293s to out qualify his new team mate Ralph Firman from Britain. Fourth on the grid is 2000 race winner Yuji Tachikawa who now drives for Team Kondo. He clocked a time of 1m 45.394s. Germany's Michael Krumm rounded up the top five with a time of 1m 45.596s.
Round 1 will be run over 35 laps of the formidable 5.859km long Suzuka Circuit at 2.30pm, Japan time on Sunday.
Alex Yoong is sponsored by TV3 Malaysia, Malaysian Airlines, TAG Heuer, Brylcreem, NeuroWeb Malaysia, SiteForum and Konica Japan. His participation in Formula Nippon is supported by the Malaysian Ministry of Youth and Sports and Japan Race Promotion. The LeMans Team is sponsored by Domani, Sunoco and SuperStar.