ATCC: Zhuhai qualifying report

Zhuhai International Circuit, China. 20 October 2001 Qualifying Day Action! - AF2000 It was a day of surprises today in the Asian Formula 2000 Rounds 13 & 14 qualifying sessions, with Japanese newcomers Tatsuya Kataoka and Katsuyuki Hiranaka...

Zhuhai International Circuit, China. 20 October 2001
Qualifying Day Action! - AF2000

It was a day of surprises today in the Asian Formula 2000 Rounds 13 & 14 qualifying sessions, with Japanese newcomers Tatsuya Kataoka and Katsuyuki Hiranaka stealing the thunder for the regular AF2000 boys.

The Japanese drivers are here this weekend to get "warmed up" for next month's AF2000 race in Macau, which they have registered for. Racing under the Team XO Racing banner, the Japanese duo are certainly THE formidable pair on track this weekend.

Kataoka and Hiranaka have both recently completed their drives in the 2001 Formula Toyota series in Japan, and besides the Macau event, are gearing up also for planning a few test sessions with various Japanese and European Formula 3 teams. Said Hiranaka earlier in the week, "The AF2000 series is the perfect opportunity for us to gain that extra race experience and exposure, especially in Macau where we are hoping to race also."

In today's qualifying sessions, the two Japanese traded grid positions for tomorrow, with Kataoka taking pole in Rd 13, and Hiranaka in Rd 14, and vice versa for 2nd position on the grid. Meckel Ali took the 3rd spot on the grid for Rd 13, while Karun managed to salvage some pride by claiming 3rd position in the Rd 14 race later in the day.

"They were blistering fast," said Meckel Ali, who for the first time outpaced Karun in qualifying. "I'm very happy with the results, and my team (Meritus) did an excellent job getting me out today. As far as I'm concerned, this is pole position when it comes to the AF2000 championships, as the two Japanese are not racing in the 2001 AF2000 championship," said Meckel.

"I concentrated on trying to save as much tyres as possible, and hopefully that will go a long way in tomorrow's 10 lap race. In short, today's session was a great one for me. The good result is one thing, but I'm happy with the way I'm trying to improve myself for future races," said Meckel after the Rd 13 qualifying session.

Karun Chandhok, after a qualifying a dismal 4th position for tomorrow's Rd 13 race, came back strongly and managed to outdrive 4th place qualifier Henry Lee Jr and Meckel Ali in 4th. He later said, "I'm not happy at all to have qualified 3rd on the grid tomorrow, although this is considered a pole as far as the championship is concerned. But I'll have to say, hats off to the Japanese from XO Racing. They are very quick, especially through the tight turns."

"This has not been a good week for me," Karun added. "My car, which was badly damaged in that crash in Korea, couldn't be ready in time for this weekend. In the end, I had to drive another car, which I need to get used to all over again. All I can hope for this weekend is to finish the race well and collect the championship points necessary to claim this year's AF2000 Championship."

This weekend's Asian Formula 2000 races are part of the Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS) happening at the Zhuhai International Circuit, China, along with the Asian Touring Car Championships (ATCC).

-AFOS-

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Series General
Drivers Karun Chandhok , Tatsuya Kataoka , Katsuyuki Hiranaka