F3 SUPERPRIX WEEKEND BEGINS AT SANDOWN WITH ROOKIE MITCH EVANS IN STUNNING FORM
HE MAY HAVE BEEN on new tyres when most of the field were on olds, but there was no doubting the simple fact that Mitch Evans was the fastest person on his 'official' Formula 3 Australian Drivers' Championship debut in practice at Sandown today.
With all of 20 laps to his name in a 'wings and slicks car' before hitting the circuit today, the 15-year-old runner up in this year's Australian Formula Ford Championship took to his Team BRM Dallara like a horse to Sandown's turf today, and promptly topped both sessions.
Evans was running on brand new Kumho rubber, not having an allocation of previously-used tyres to use in practice as is the norm in the Formula 3 Australian Drivers' Championship.
Team BRM said they thought new rubber was worth six-to-eight tenths at Sandown - but even when that margin is taken into account Evans' opening laps in Formula 3 were impressive, his times placing him right within the leading contenders within this years championship fight.
Behind the flying Kiwi a group of seven to eight cars proved that this years' F3 SuperPrix grid (to be contested over 22 laps on Sunday) will be the most competitive ever.
Six-tenths covered second through seventh positions in practice one, whilst a solitary second covered second to ninth in the second session, proving that when everyone is on equal rubber tomorrows' two qualifying sessions - the second incorporating the new 'Quick Six' session - will be ferociously competitive.
Though it was only practice today's first Formula 3 action witnessed at Sandown since 2004 was not without incident.
Rookie Kristian Lindbom, making his F3 debut this weekend with Astuti Motorsport, got only two-thirds through his first ever lap in an F3 car this morning before a fuel pump failed and left him stranded for the 30 minute session.
Astuti teammate Rio Haryanto was another to get minimal track time in the first session, after his car broke a rear pushrod in the suspension after contact with a kerb at turn one. The recently-crowned Asian Formula BMW champion bounced back brilliantly, however, to finish practice two in third place and prove his potential this weekend.
West Aussie rookie Bryce Moore, driving a TanderSport Dallara F304, was similarly impressive and finished fourth in each session.
Fellow F3 debutants Zhang Shan Qi and Li Shi Cong, both from China and graduates of the Asian Formula Renault championship, also acquitted themselves well on their first visit to Sandown, first visit to Australia and first drive of a Formula 3 car.
Practice two was marred by a massive crash by F3 stalwart John Boothman, who crashed at high speed at the back of the circuit on the approach to the Dandenong Road corner.
Boothman's F301 Dallara made heavy contact with the tyre barrier and was flipped into the air and over the fence itself before coming to a rest upright. With an impact estimated at close to 200km/hr, the structural integrity and strength of a modern F3 car was again proved in the crash, with Boothman taken away from the car shaken and bruised, but otherwise OK.
Tomorrow's action on Yorkshire Investments pole day will feature two qualifying sessions and offer some new excitement to the F3 field.
Qualifying one will be as normal; one 20-minute session to set the grid for race one on Sunday.
Qualifying two, to decide the SuperPrix grid, will be split into two sections, a 15 minute session to set grid positions 7 and back with the fastest six cars progressing to their own 10-minute session called the 'quick six'.