Alex Yoong Press Office
Blk.P2, UPM-MTDC Technology Incubation Centre 1,
43400 Serdang, Selangor Darul Ehsan, MALAYSIA
Tel: +60-(0)3-8945 2988, Fax: +60-(0)3-8945 4988,
Mobile: +60-(0)12-638 1948,
ASIAN TRIO SET FOR 2001 FORMULA NIPPON SEASON ?
Boom Year For 2001 Formula Nippon
After the two day pre-2001 season Formula Nippon official joint test sessions at the TwinRing Motegi, Asia’s Andre Couto from Macau and India’s Narain Karthikeyan looks set to join Malaysia’s Alex Yoong in the 2001 Formula Nippon season.
Andre Couto impressed the Morinaga Nova team by setting his best time of the 2 days of 1m 35.287s to be placed sixth overall in the combined two day results. He is expected to sign up with Morinaga Nova team which ran Britain’s Ralph Firman in the last two seasons. He ran a total of 64 laps over the two days.
Narain Karthikeyan only had two hours of testing (32 laps) due to an engine change on the second day after Satoshi Motoyama’s extensive development tests with the Impul team. Given his limited running he seemed to have done enough to also impress the Impul team principal, twice Formula Nippon champion, Kazuyoshi Hoshino to warrant consideration of a seat in the Impul team. Karthikeyan clocked 1m 36.235s to be placed 14th fastest.
Alex Yoong maintained his third fastest position over two days despite not running in the second day with his time of 1m 35.029s set in the last lap of 72 laps in day 1. He is confirmed to drive with Malaysia Team LeMans in 2001.
1998 Formula Nippon champion Satoshi Motoyama (J) reinforced his strong intention to reclaim his title by topping the two day times with 1m 34.060s in only 52 laps of running. He was the runner-up in 1999 and third in this year’s championship behind Team Nakajima’s Toranasuke Takagi and Team 5Zigen’s Michael Krumm from Germany.
Japan’s Ryo Michigami who had the most laps run (155 laps) over the two days with both the Mooncraft team as well as the Docomo Dandelion team clocked the second fastest time with 1m 34.327s. Team Nakajima’s Tsugio Matsuda who is expected to pilot car #1 next year was fourth fastest at 1m. 35.053s.
Team ARTA’s vateran Formula Nippon racer and LeMans 24hr. campaigner, Juichi Wakisaka finished fifth in Alex Yoong’s #21 Malaysia Team LeMans car at 1m 35.278s over 58 laps.
Other non Japanese top drivers from Europe who tested are Donimik Schwager of Germany with Team Nakajima 1m 35.297s seventh fastest after 89 laps, Christijan Albers of Holland 1m 36.208s 13th after 101 laps, Ben Collins of Britain 1m 36.250s 15th after 91 laps, Sebastien Phillipe of France 16th fastest after 85 laps with a time of 1m 36.385s and Germany’s Alex Muller at 1m 37.892s 18th fastest after 46 laps.
Italian F3 champion Peter Sundberg of Sweden who is also chasing for a Formula Nippon seat, was seen at Motegi over the two day test and it is also an open secret that South Africa’s Jaguar F1 team’s test driver, Tomas Scheckter, the French F3 Champion Jonathan Cochet and the Austrian Japan F3 campaigner Robert Lechner are also interested to participate in the 2001 Formula Nippon season.
Meanwhile Britain’s 1996 F3 Champion Ralph Firman is scouting the States for an IRL drive and may well return for yet another season in Formula Nippon if his trip to the States fails to turn up something positive.
With last year’s Formula Nippon runner up, Michael Krumm expected to be retained along with N. Hattori in Team 5Zigen which did not test at Motegi and only 5 seats left unfilled and up for grabs, some of these 10 Europe’s top racers chasing for seats are bound to be disappointed with no drive available for the 2001 Formula Nippon season.
Formula Nippon is indeed rejuvenated and is expecting a boom year for the start of the new millennium. Will it evolve further to be the FIA Asian Formula 3000 Championship with rounds in Malaysia, China and Korea in addition to Japan in the years to come ?
By: Hanifah Yoong
Monday, December 11th 2000