POSITIVE RESPONSE TO MAJOR SCHEDULE CHANGES FOR 2009 AUSTRALIAN DRIVERS CHAMPIONSHIP
The 2009 Australian Drivers Championship schedule has already been well received by several competitors as a strong foundation to continue growth the series has shown in the past two seasons, despite uncertain financial times worldwide.
The eight-round calendar features racing in four states however a majority of the rounds are scheduled for either New South Wales or Victoria - the two states making up six of the eight events.
The Clipsal 500 in Adelaide and the 3rd annual Tasmanian Formula 3 SuperPrix, at Symmons Plains, are the other two rounds.
With a vast majority of professional Formula 3 teams and independent owner-driver or family-run operations running from the Eastern Seaboard, the geographically compacted 2009 schedule looks likely to help reduce transport costs - with consistently strong grids the aim throughout the season.
The shift to a predominantly eastern-seaboard based schedule means Mallala Raceway will not host a Formula 3 round for the first time in the series ten-year history; Winton, Wakefield Park and Sandown returning to the schedule to give New South Wales and Victoria three rounds each.
"We needed to make a decision based on the competitor base of Formula 3 and ensuring that we maintained a strong, competitive field at all rounds next season, in a time when people are tightening their grip on their wallets," Formula 3 category manager Rowan Harman said.
"Formula 3 Australia worked with the Shannons Nationals to create a schedule that was more evenly spaced and ended later in the season.
"With Clipsal opening the year the decision was taken - and it wasn't an easy one - to replace Mallala with a round in either Victoria or New South Wales to try to lower the costs for a good majority of our competitors. Sadly, the bottom line is that it costs our teams several thousands of dollars to come to Adelaide from Sydney, Queensland or even Melbourne.
"As much as we'd love to be at Mallala this way in the end we feel what we have is still a win-win; South Australia still gets a round of the Gold Star and our teams save thousands of dollars each in travel expenses.
"I know The Clipsal 500 will be a fantastic start to the Australian Drivers Championship and continue the great traditions of top-level ‘wings and slicks' cars racing in South Australia. Mallala has been a key part to our championship for many years and we will look at ways of supporting the event in ways other than competing there."
Two major teams - four time champions Team BRM and the Ian Richards-led R-Tek Motorsport - are Adelaide based and as a result will now only have the Clipsal 500 as their ‘home' event - but both have supported the change to the schedule designed to lower costs across the board.
"It is disappointing that we won't be at Mallala in 2009 given we have raced there in each of Formula 3 Australia's ten years - but for the immediate future of Formula 3 in Australia I think it is a good decision," Adelaide-based Team BRM owner Bronte Rundle said today.
"We love having a round at Mallala given it is our home circuit and the place where we do a lot of testing, but with a majority of the Formula 3 cars in the country based in Sydney or Melbourne - and a number in Queensland as well - it made sense to focus a good number of our events over there to help keep our numbers up.
"Everyone is feeling the pinch, financially, at the moment so anything the series can do to maintain the solid growth in numbers throughout the championship is worthwhile.
"It has been interesting to note the response from South Australian Media and fans, however, who have contacted us to ask why there isn't going to be a round at Mallala," Rundle added.
"It is great to have their support and that kind of interest shows the support that Open-wheel racing continues to have in Adelaide. As a team we hope that they all get out to the Clipsal 500 in March to see the opening round of the 2009 championship, and hopefully we can also be back at Mallala soon."
The Shannons National Motor Racing Championships will continue to race at Mallala, on the weekend of June 6 - 7, with categories including the rapidly growing and high-profile Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge, The Clem Smith Cup for Sports Sedans and a round of the fledgling V8 Touring Car series.
Formula 3 Australia is currently investigating ways of supporting the event in an off-track role.