RICKY O RETURNS TO PLACE PRESSURE ON KUMHO TYRES AUSTRALIAN F3 REGULARS Geelong's Ricky Occhipinti is back -- and he wants to throw a spanner into the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship works at Phillip Island this ...
RICKY O RETURNS TO PLACE PRESSURE ON KUMHO TYRES AUSTRALIAN F3 REGULARS
Geelong's Ricky Occhipinti is back -- and he wants to throw a spanner into the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship works at Phillip Island this weekend.
Occhipinti, the 2006 Australian Formula 3 National Class Champion, has confirmed that he will return to the seat of a wings and slicks open wheeler after nine months on the sidelines with the race winning Astuti Motorsport team at Phillip Island, where he hopes to tackle the established pacesetters in the series at one of his favourite circuits.
Melbourne-based Astuti are riding the crest of a wave at the moment, having dominated the recent Oran Park round of the series with Yorkshireman Charlie Hollings -- lifting the British ace into second in the championship.
Occhipinti, 22, dominated last year's National Class -- for 2001 model cars -- with his family run Formula Uno Racing outfit but received some support from the Astuti camp throughout the season. He will drive the #10 Astuti Motorsport / Whispers Studio / Formula Uno Motors Dallara F304 -- Renault in the Gold Star class at the weekend.
The surf coast youngster said that he was looking forward to a big weekend at the Island in his front-running return to the series.
"There is no doubt that it's going to be a great weekend," 'Ricky-O' enthused.
"Sam and Tony Astuti run a very professional team and with Charlie as a team-mate I think the weekend will be about learning as much as possible so I can hopefully throw a spanner in the works on Sunday!
Occhipinti's last competitive outing in a Formula 3 car came at the 4.46km circuit last season, Ricky outpacing a number of this years current championship contenders in his National Class machinery. Occhipinti clearly has an affinity for the circuit, having clamed a Gold Star / Australian Drivers Championship pole position there ahead of current A1GP Driver Johnny Reid a few years ago.
"It's a track I know well," he explained.
"Without having sat in a '04 F3 car and taking into account the front runners this year have done plenty of miles I think our goals are very realistic."
Should he want to succeed this weekend Occhipinti will have to defeat a host of young talent determined to succeed in this year's race for the Gold Star, a strong 18-car field ready to tackle the circuit where each lap is taken at an average speed of over 185kph.
Current championship protagonists Tim Macrow (the current points Leader driving for Scud Racing / Cooltemp), Charlie Hollings, Leanne Tander (Fleetcare TanderSport), Stuart Kostera (Team BRM) and James Winslow (Team Opes Prime) will all be looking to assert their claim to the title in the third round this weekend, whilst the likes of Mat Sofi (Total Developments) and Italian Marco Mapelli (Team BRM) will be looking for strong runs after tough weekends at Oran Park recently.
Phillip Island will also mark the championship debut of young Mathew Radisich, the nephew of V8 Supercar ace Paul.
Radisich, 18, made his F3 racing debut at the non-championship Australian Grand Prix support races in Melbourne in March this year and will be looking to continue the strong progress towards the front of the field that he was able to show in his debut.
The New Zealander will add to the global flavour of the field this year, joining Brit's James Winslow and Charlie Hollings and Italian speedster Marco Mapelli in the Phillip Island field.
In the Kumho Tyres National Class championship rivals Chris Barry (Data #3) and Victorian youngster Lauren Gray (Scud Racing) will look to continue their season-long battle for class supremacy, hopefully aiming to follow in the footsteps of last years class champion in the near future.
John Boothman (JLB Global Timbers) and Bendigo's Daniel Schulz (Cerasport) will join the battle in a strong National Class entry.
Rod Anderson, Greg Hunter and '06 champ Graeme Holmes will fight out the battle in the Trophy Class.
The third round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star and Australian Drivers Championship will be contested over two races this Sunday, May 6th.