EASTERN CREEK A KEY LOCATION TO BUILD A GOLD STAR TITL CHALLENGE FROM Aaron Caratti sealing his title deal at the track in 2005 to James Winslow piecing together a critical piece of his championship puzzle last year, Sydney's Eastern Creek...
EASTERN CREEK A KEY LOCATION TO BUILD A GOLD STAR TITL CHALLENGE
FROM Aaron Caratti sealing his title deal at the track in 2005 to James Winslow piecing together a critical piece of his championship puzzle last year, Sydney's Eastern Creek Raceway has always been a critical component to success in the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship.
The high-speed 3.9km circuit in Sydney's West is a happy haven for the wings-and-slicks racers in Australia's premier Open Wheel championship, Formula 3 cars lapping the circuit quicker than anything else in the country.
The high speed corners and heavy braking zones make the track a favourite of drivers, requiring maximum commitment and dedication.
These traits have shown though in the circuit's role in deciding championships, the annual July foray to the track having been key to most of the past five championship campaigns.
In 2004 Karl Reindler scored every point possible as he drove away from the field to dominate a round that was crucial towards cementing his position in the lead of that years' title race.
In 2005 it was a fellow West Australian driver, Aaron Caratti, who withheld pressure from the strongest grid of the year to score enough points to secure his first major racing title, whilst in 2006 Eastern Creek was the scene of the fifth and sixth consecutive wins for Ben Clucas en route to his crushing title win.
In 2007 the track was critical to the championship hopes of Astuti Motorsport. Running two cars for contender, British driver Charlie Hollings, and Michael Trimble the team finished 1-2 in the first race to give Hollings a narrow lead in the championship.
Race two of that particular weekend is memorable for an emotional win for Italian driver Marco Mapelli - who's tears of joy were clear for all to see as he took his first major racing win.
This year four key contenders in the 2009 Gold Star fight will hope to use Eastern Creek as a springboard to their own title with a strong weekend, as the championship enters a busy second half of the season with three rounds to be contested just in five weeks.
Current championship leader Joey Foster (Team BRM) heads to Eastern Creek with the knowledge that, at least in the past, cars from Team BRM have been the ones to beat at the Creek.
"Looking back, you can see that Team BRM have always had good cars there," Foster said, whilst looking ahead to the remainder of the year, at Winton.
"They dominated there last year so hopefully that's something we can continue in July. It gives you a lot of confidence knowing that the car has won there in the past."
Last year the BRM cars of James Winslow and Nathan Caratti were clearly the fastest at Eastern Creek, qualifying 1-2 for both races with Winslow leading early in race one before being penalised for a jumped start - handing the win to Leanne Tander.
After setting a new lap record in the first race, Winslow rebounded brilliantly in the second to win by nearly 12 seconds whilst Caratti re-set the lap record - his benchmark of 1m24.4881s standing as the time to beat as the field readies for the 2009 round.
Whilst Team BRM dominated at Eastern Creek last year, their closest 2009 rivals Scud Racing endured a tougher weekend.
Driver Stuart Kostera was out-qualified by current Scud Racer Tim Macrow - who was then driving a National Class Dallara - though his speed improved to show top-three pace by the end of the weekend.
The Melbourne team will need to use all of their experience and Macrow's undoubted ability to set up a car to ensure they are on the money from the first session this Friday as the former champ looks to close the 20-point gap to leader Foster.
TanderSport's Kiwi charge, Ben Crighton, will take confidence into the round after witnessing team boss Leanne's win last year, whilst at the same time gaining valuable track time behind the wheel of the teams' National Class Dallara - scoring a third in class in race two.
Crighton comes to Eastern Creek off the back of four podiums in the last six races and at Winton jumped Mat Sofi into third in the championship.
Meanwhile, Mat Sofi will be keen to get back on track after a horrendous Winton Round. The leading local on the grid, the Rossmore-based driver will look to return to the strong 2008 form he showed at the circuit driving his AmPro tools sponsored Dallara.
Eastern Creek is also the home track of Hunters Hill-based driver Tom Tweedie, the current leader in the F3 National Class title race.
Tweedie had his first drive of an F3 car at the circuit twelve months ago and has since gone on to be an occasional outright contender this year, well in contention for outright podiums as well as the honour of becoming the first recipient of the Graham Watson Rookie of the year award.
A small yet feisty grid will front at the Sydney circuit this week with the Shannons Nationals, with two practice sessions on Friday ahead of two qualifying sessions Saturday and two, 13-lap races, on Sunday. For more information head to www.fomula3.com.au