Promising Aida weekend tarnished by mystery handling issue A mysterious handling problem blighted what should have been a positive event for Alexandre Imperatori last weekend when the Japanese F3 Championship visited Okayama for rounds 11 and ...
Promising Aida weekend tarnished by mystery handling issue
A mysterious handling problem blighted what should have been a positive event for Alexandre Imperatori last weekend when the Japanese F3 Championship visited Okayama for rounds 11 and 12.
The former Pacific Grand Prix venue is something of a home circuit for Imperatori's Toda Fightex squad, although local knowledge this time proved less than beneficial.
Friday's pair of 90-minute free practice sessions initially promised much with the Swiss driver ever-present at the top of the timesheets despite running used tyres. The switch to fresh rubber however proved less constructive and the team were unable to find a suitable set-up ahead of Saturday's qualifying.
Hence, the 24-year-old lined up only ninth for the weekend's opening 18-lap race. But a lightening getaway catapulted him forward three spots, before eventually climbing one-further position to finish a creditable fifth.
With no recurrence of the problems which had compromised his previous day's qualifying, Imperatori lined up for race two on Sunday morning with renewed confidence, albeit starting eighth.
And at first he was again in inspired form, climbing through the field in the early stages of the 25-lap race.
But it wasn't long before the tyres on his Dallara-Honda began to severely deteriorate, leaving Imperatori powerless to protect his hard-earned progress. He eventually finished sixth, still two places higher than where he started.
"It was a really strange weekend," said Imperatori. "We tested at Okayama before this event and were able to set times faster than (championship leaders) Tom's. Then when we got here, after an encouraging first practice, the new tyres just didn't work and that compromised our entire weekend. We believe the handling issues are the result of something else however which we haven't been able to pinpoint yet. It could be a monocoque problem as the car is not reacting well to any setup changes. The stifling heat this weekend could also have been a factor."
Rounds 13 and 14 of the Japanese F3 championship come from Sugo in three weeks time (September 25/26) where the combination of long straights and fast, as well as technical corners, will demand a well balanced car.
"We'll test again ahead of the next race to try and find the problem," he added. "Sugo is a track of two halves, the first being very twisty and the second quite fast and flowing. Setting up a car for those sorts of conditions tends to be a compromise between good grip and low drag, so it's really important we sort the car, and tyres, in time for then."