F3

AUSF3: Phillip Island Friday report

PHILLIP ISLAND ALIVE WITH THE SOUNDS OF FORMULA 3 PHILLIP ISLAND -- It's fast, flowing and one of the most daunting circuits in Australian Motorsport - and today some of the fastest cars in the country hit the 4.45km of flowing bitumen for the...

PHILLIP ISLAND ALIVE WITH THE SOUNDS OF FORMULA 3

PHILLIP ISLAND -- It's fast, flowing and one of the most daunting circuits in Australian Motorsport - and today some of the fastest cars in the country hit the 4.45km of flowing bitumen for the first time for this weekend's third round of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship.

The field gathered at the Victorian circuit participated in two, un-timed practice sessions today (Friday); a majority of competitors completing a solid day's work in preparation for this weekend's racing.

Based on unofficial times, five of the leading competitors lapped within a second of each other today setting the scene for what is set to be yet another extremely competitive round of the 2006 Gold Star Championship.

Current championship leaders Team BRM -- and driver Ben Clucas - was under pressure early in the day, executing a quick fire engine change between practice sessions.

"Ben reported that the engine lost power early into the practice session so we thought we would play it safe and put the other engine in," explained Team owner Bronte Rundle.

"The car is going well otherwise and I Ben should be right on it this weekend."

Chasing Clucas this weekend will be local hope Michael Trimble (#10 King Springs / Astuti Motorsport Dallara F304 -- Renault), the Victorian driver heading into the round knowing that Phillip Island -- the place where he won a race last season -- could be one of his better hopes to dislodge the current championship leader.

The Astuti Motorsport team has had a busy week -- repairing the engine between a test session on Wednesday and today's running.

Queenslander Chris Gilmour logged plenty of laps in his #17 StyroMax Dallara F304 -- Spiess, the family-run operation continuing to come to grips with their recently purchased car.

"We had a good day," Gilmour said.

"The times were good and there will be more in it when we get new Tyres on it. I think we'll be right up there this weekend."

Leading contenders Tim Macrow, Leanne Tander and Ricky Occhipinti all logged competitive times well within striking distance of the leading pack, the field looking closer than ever this weekend.

"We are pretty happy," Geelong-based Ricky Occhipinti said.

"We were in the low to mid 1m28-second range which isn't too bad at all. I don't think that we can beat Trimble and Clucas, but I can't see why we couldn't challenge for a podium finish this weekend.

"There will be plenty of time in new Tyres in Qualifying." He added.

Occhipinti looks set to lead a strong National Class competition this weekend, Chris Barry, Maher Algadri and John Boothman all taking part this weekend in a close inter-class battle.

Sydneysider Barry, who made his Australian Formula 3 debut at Wakefield Park in March this season, returns for his first ever look at the Phillip Island circuit and said that it was a daunting experience.

"It's an awesome track, I don't think people realise just how challenging these cars are to drive," he said.

"It's good to be back in the seat and I'm looking forward to the weekend"

The weekend will also feature a close battle in the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Trophy Class, current class leader Lauren Gray looking to consolidate her points advantage this weekend despite the strongest class field of the season.

Teammate Bill Maddocks, Graeme Holmes, Rod Anderson and Australian Motor racing icon Brian Sampson are all entered for the class this weekend.

Saturday's action will feature two, 20-minute qualifying sessions to set the grid for the pair of races that make up the third round of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship.

-www.formula3.com.au

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Series F3
Drivers Ben Clucas , John Booth , Tim Macrow , Leanne Tander , Chris Gilmour , Graeme Holmes , Algadri Maher , Lauren Gray , Phillip Island