PHILLIP ISLAND TO BE THE SCENE OF KUMHO TYRES AUSTRALIAN FORMULA 3s 150th RACE THE KUMHO TYRES Australian Formula 3 Championship will celebrate a milestone at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit next weekend when drivers contest the 150th ...
PHILLIP ISLAND TO BE THE SCENE OF KUMHO TYRES AUSTRALIAN FORMULA 3s 150th RACE
THE KUMHO TYRES Australian Formula 3 Championship will celebrate a milestone at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit next weekend when drivers contest the 150th points-scoring Formula 3 race held in Australia.
The only circuit-racing open wheel category in Australia to comply to fully international FIA-standard regulations, Formula 3 was introduced to Australia in 1999 and in the past three years especially has rapidly grown to new levels of competition and respect within the domestic motorsport landscape.
2008 marks the 10th anniversary of the series formation as a CAMS-sanctioned series or championship and race one of two at Phillip Island -- as part of the penultimate round of the 2008 Australian Drivers Championship -- will be the 150th points-scoring race held.
F3 Australia has also held 12 non-championship races at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The first FIA-spec Formula 3 car was imported into Australia in 1999 by current team owner Bronte Rundle, the Dallara F396 specification car one of a handful to be brought into the country in time for the beginning of the series.
The first official Formula 3 race in Australia (As then a National series) was held at Mallala raceway on May 30th, 1999.
Young Victorian driver Paul Stephenson (then 22 years old) had qualified on pole (1m09.59s), almost a full second ahead of Chas Jacobsen and Sam Astuti -- now the team owner of top outfit Astuti Motorsport.
The pace of development in F3 was shown this year with the pole position time (1m04.41s) a full five seconds faster -- an average improvement in lap time of over half a second per season.
The morning warm-up on Sunday was held in damp conditions but the track was dry -- though it was a cold and windy day - for the race, and witnessed an explosive start from Astuti from the second row to lead lap one.
Sadly Astuti's run wouldn't last much further however as he spun at turn three, on lap two of the race.
"I was running a car with a 24mm restrictor against the 26mm F3 cars and I got a brilliant start," Astuti remembers.
"I led the first lap and it was all looking great until I spun at the hairpin and I guess I couldn't refire the car. It was a really good time though and the field was quite good -- you had a great mix of cars like the new F3 cars and the likes of Brian Sampson and me in the 24mm cars, the older Dallara's and Reynard's."
"It was great back then. The field was quite strong and the racing was good. It was great to be a part of and it still is, though remembering all of this makes me want to look at a comeback!"
Chas Jacobsen assumed the lead, only to be passed by Paul Stephenson on the fourth lap -- a lead that the eventual champion wouldn't loose.
Jacobsen then engaged another current team owner -- Bronte Rundle -- in a massive dice for second and third for the remainder of the 10-lap affair, Rundle coming home second. Former Bathurst Champion Brian Sampson was fourth and Bronte's sun Mark -- now Team Manager at Team BRM -- fifth.
Scud Racing team owner Bill Maddocks was another to compete, racing in the clubman division driving a Richards 201B -- a car designed and constructed by Ian Richards -- current owner of R-Tek and a championship winning engineer.
"Formula 3 was, is fantastic. If I had money I'd still be in it," race one winner Paul Stephenson -- now a leading contender in the Victorian Porsche 944 Challenge - said.
"I remember Sam (Astuti) passing about three of us on the outside on the opening lap at Mallala before he spun. After that I was able to get past Chas and won the race. I won the next couple (nine, in fact) and got the championship, it was a great year.
"F3 is fantastic. They are brilliant cars to drive -- real racing cars. It took a while to grow here but it's fantastic to see it at the level it is now. The competition is very close at the front and the grids are good. It's great to see that it's grown and is getting better and better."
Between races 1 and 149, Stephenson became the most statistically successful driver in F3's history, winning 17 races and even today remains the only driver to have won the championship twice.
Stephenson also co-holds the record for most wins in a single year (11), with Ben Clucas (2006 champion).
Of active (current) drivers, Chris Gilmour has started 76 races with Tim Macrow (48) and Leanne Tander (47) close to the half-century. Trophy class driver Rod Anderson is the most capped, however, having contested over 120 races and raced every year since the series' formation.
Of drivers looking to win the 150th championship, race, Leanne Tander, Nathan Caratti and James Winslow stand out as likely suspects thanks to their relative championship positions and prior form at Phillip Island.
Stuart Kostera and Mat Sofi -- both podium finishers at the Island in June this year -- should also be counted as contenders amidst a 20-plus grid.
Of those entered, only Rod Anderson (Trophy Class Dallara F396) will have been on the grid for both the first and 150th F3 championship races.
Round 7 of the 10th anniversary Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star / Australian Drivers Championship -- will be held at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit as part of the Shannons Nationals between August 8 -- 10.