CLOSE TITLE FIGHT LOOMS AS TANDER AND WINSLOW JOIN THE RANKS OF F3 WINNERS, AT PHILLIP ISLAND.
A remarkable fight for the 2007 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 championship is looming after a day of high drama and superb racing at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit in Victoria today.
Four drivers are split by just 15 points in the battle for the Australian Drivers Championship after three rounds following debut wins for James Winslow (# 27 Team Opes Prime Dallara Mugen-Honda) and Leanne Tander (# 42 Fleetcare TanderSport Dallara Spiess Opel) today.
The pair became the fourth and fifth different winners in a season just six races old -- the first time since 2005 that more than four divers have won in the first six events.
Winslow completed a remarkable comeback from a horrific start to the season by winning race one today in crushing fashion whilst Tander drove the race of her career to hold off the pack in race two to secure her first F3 win and the first for a female driver in the 51 year history of the Australian Drivers Championship.
Behind the new winners the two closest protagonists for the series title -- Tim Macrow and Charlie Hollings -- came to blows on track as their personal battle reached a new level today.
In clear but cool conditions Winslow lead from start to finish in race one, making a clean getaway and heading the field by 3.9 seconds at the chequered flag some 14 laps later.
Charlie Hollings held off a flying Marco Mapelli to the line by just .05s after charging from fourth on the grid on the opening lap. Both Hollings and Mapelli took advantage of a poor start by Tander, who was forced as low as seventh on the second lap of the race.
Caught up in the competitive midfield, she then waged a race long battle with Mat Sofi and Stuart Kostera to come away with fifth place, one position behind Tim Macrow's Cooltemp / Scud Racing Dallara.
Mat Sofi -- who logged the races' quickest lap -- was sixth ahead of Kostera and Geelong driver Ricky Occhipinti.
Race two started in similar fashion to the first with Winslow cleanly leading Tander into turn one.
That was until the TanderSport driver launched a daring attack on Winslow on the outside of turn one, Flying around the outside of the race one winner in a high-speed move that rocketed her to the race lead for the first time this season.
It was a lead that she wouldn't loose, recording a 3-second win ahead of Winslow and Mapelli.
Both podium finishers were lucky to score the results they did after a charging drive from Mat Sofi who was having the event of his career.
Sofi ran as high as second -- chasing down Tander -- before the rear brakes of his Total Developments R-Tek F3 Dallara overheated on the 11th lap, causing him to run off the circuit at the notorious Honda hairpin and relegating him to fourth at the finish.
Behind the enthralling leading dice Macrow and Hollings came together on the first lap at the same hairpin -- both then forced to work their way back to a respectable finishing order (fifth and sixth, respectively) to salvage points for their respective championship campaigns.
The mixed results ensured that the battle for the championship closed right up, with Hollings, Macrow, Winslow and Tander split by a negligible margin after three of eight rounds.
Not focussed on the championship battle, however, was Winslow -- the British driver just satisfied to finally take a long-overdue debut championship race win on Australian soil.
"The car was mega, just fantastic - how an F3 car should be," Winslow said today.
"It's been a great weekend for us and things are certainly back on track. I really wanted to win the second race and I made a good start but I knew something wasn't right in the early laps -- I think there was a bit of an issue with the engine map which cleared later in the race.
"Leanne made an awesome, really brave move -- but it's annoying when we're leading the race and something happens that drops you back.
"We got a really good lot of points -- I'd love to go to Mallala to win both races." He said.
Tander explained that it was an all-or-nothing move at the 260kph turn one -- the fastest in the series.
"I got a tow coming down the straight as we were approaching turn one he went to the inside to defend his line, so I went to the outside to see if I could get around him," She explained.
"It was really good for James to give me the room that he did but it was just enough to hang on -- It was a little bit twitchy there but it stuck and from there on I put my head down and tried to get out of there as fast as possible!"
Chris Barry and Daniel Schulz split the wins in the Kumho Tyres National Class today, Schulz -- driving his Ballarat-based CERASport Dallara -- taking his maiden class win in race two and breaking Barry's five-race streak he had maintained to that point. Barry now leads the series by a considerable margin, however, heading into round four.
Lauren Gray (Scud Racing) had a tough weekend but was able to continue to score points in her National Class campaign.
Rod Anderson and Graeme Holmes split the duties in the Trophy Class with Anderson building his solid points lead over his chasing class rivals.
The Next round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship will be held at South Australia's Mallala Raceway between June 30 - July 1.