F3

AUSF3: Phillip Island round three preview

HOW FAST IS FAST? FORMULA 3 CARS SET TO SHOW THEIR SPEED AT PHILLIP ISLAND. No national or international championship level car or bike visiting the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit this year is likely to be as fast as the cars contesting the...

HOW FAST IS FAST? FORMULA 3 CARS SET TO SHOW THEIR SPEED AT PHILLIP ISLAND.

No national or international championship level car or bike visiting the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit this year is likely to be as fast as the cars contesting the third round of the 2007 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship this weekend.

Formula 3 cars are now the fastest National Championship cars racing in Australia and are at their element when they visit the smooth, fast and flowing curves of one of Australia's premier racing circuits.

The Formula 3 Lap Record at Phillip Island -- 1m27.1423s set in 2003 by Kiwi James Cressey -- is some three seconds faster than the MotoGP Lap Record held by Marco Melandri (1m30.332s) and some six seconds quicker than Craig Lowndes' V8 Supercar Lap Record of 1m33.4839s.

Formula 3 cars average over 185kph each time they lap the 4.46km circuit two hours South of Melbourne and this weekend -- pending good weather -- could give their own lap record a shake given the high levels of competition within the Australian Drivers Championship field.

An 18-car grid will take to the track this weekend to contest the third round of this year's Gold Star championship as part of the Shannons National Motor Racing Championships.

The Flowing nature of the Phillip Island circuit suits the Formula 3 cars to a tee -- using their aerodynamic wings and underfloor and sticky slick tyres to generate astonishing levels of grip through the corners, and their 230hp, 2-litre engines to power them down the straight at up to 260kph.

What follows is a corner-by-corner description of the circuit and the speeds in comparison to a V8 Supercar and a MotoGP World Championship Motorcycle.

Formula 3 Lap Record: 1m27.1923s (Average Speed: 185kph), Set by James Cressey driving a Dallara F301 -- Spiess Opel, in 2003.

MotoGP Lap Record: 1m30.332s (Average Speed Approx 175kph), Set by Marco Melandri, riding a Honda MotoGP bike in 2005

V8 Supercar Lap Record: 1m33.4839s (Average Speed: 170kph), Set by Craig Lowndes driving a Holden Commodore in 2000

Wayne Gardner Straight. Speeds: F3 -- 260kph. V8 Supercar -- 275kph. MotoGP -- 314kph.

Top speed is a world championship bike's forte', as shown by their top speed reached at the end of Gardner straight. A V8 supercar's power pushes their hefty 1350kg to 270kph whilst the Formula 3 car is restricted to a not insignificant 260kph by its wings and the fact it has 500 less horsepower!

Turn 1
Speeds: F3 -- 245kph, V8 -- 187kph, MotoGP -- 214kph.

The Fastest corner in Australia is also completely flat in a Formula 3 car -- the drivers don't lift their right foot at all and fly through at over 240kph, subjecting themselves to almost 2.5 lateral G's in the process.

Turn 2 -- Southern Loop
Speeds: F3 -- 140kph, V8 -- 124kph, MotoGP -- 126kph.

After pulling nearly 2Gs under brakes, the Formula 3 cars use their downforce to fly through the double-apex turn two, the Southern Loop, some 15kph quicker than the others. Caution is advised as races have been won and lost due to drivers dropping wheels off the circuit on the exit of this tricky corner.

Turn 4 -- Honda Hairpin
Speeds: F3 -- 75kph, V8 -- 70kph, MotoGP -- 72kph.

It's not the apex speed that is interesting about the notorious Honda Hairpin -- it's the fact that the Formula 3 cars decelerate at 2.6Gs under brakes and stop substantially quicker -- from a higher top speed -- than the other cars or bikes.

Turn 5 -- Siberia
Speeds: F3 -- 115kph, V8 -- 99kph, MotoGP -- 105kph

The third gear, 2-G Siberia looms as a place where you don't want to make a mistake. Despite its low speed the aero begins to function here and helps to fire the car out of the corner at 120kph.

Turn 6 -- the Hayshead
Speeds: F3 -- 210kph, V8 -- 190kph, MotoGP - 204kph.

Unlike the V8 or Bike, a Formula 3 car doesn't lift at the famous hayshed, instead it uses its wings to grip the track and accelerate it's way towards the hill at Lukey heights. The hayshead doesn't look like much of a corner on TV but its surprisingly tight and one of three or four major places at the circuit where the wings are working to their full effect.

Turn 7 -- Lukey Heights
Speeds: F3 -- 210kph, V8 -- 141kph, MotoGP -- 145kph.

This is where time is made or lost -- and where a Formula 3 cars amazing speed comes to the fore. A light lift of the throttle pedal mid corner to bring the car into line is all that is needed here, as the F3 car flies over the crest some 60kph quicker than anything else. In absolutely perfect conditions, this corner can potentially be flat. In not so perfect conditions taking this corner flat would result in a major off.

Turn 8 -- MG
Speeds: F3 -- 80kph, V8 -72kph, MotoGP -- 75kph

Only slightly slower than Honda, MG is a prime overtaking place as the drivers battle to settle their cars after tackling the daunting Lukey heights another time. Drivers experience 2Gs under braking here.

Turn 9
Speeds: F3 -- 140kph, V8 -- 121kph, MotoGP -- 126kph

Short shifting from second to third, this corner is vital in a Formula 3 car. Because a driver won't lift his foot off the throttle for almost a kilometre (Until turn two) after this corner it's vital to get a good run through here to set up a pass on the front straight.

Turn 10
Speeds: F3 -- 210kph, V8 -- 180kph, MotoGP -- 175kph

With hundreds of kilograms of downforce pushing the car to the road, drivers are still flat as they sweep through the right-hander at turn 10 and onto Gardner Straight and -- although they don't have time to look -- the stunning view of Bass Straight.

Summary

A Formula 3 car's wings are it's key to a strong lap time at Phillip Island but the driver has work to do -- turns like the Southern loop and Lukey Heights, corners that aren't quite flat out, can be the difference between putting a car on pole, or putting it mid field.

Formula 3 cars brake only four times per lap at Phillip Island and are at full throttle for well over 80% of the lap.

For more information about the Kumho Tyes Australian Formula 3 Championship visit www.formula3.com.au

-credit: f3.aus

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About this article
Series F3
Drivers Wayne Gardner , Craig Lowndes , Marco Melandri , Phillip Island