INTERLOPERS ADD TO TITLE BATTLE AT EASTERN CREEK THROUGHOUT the first five rounds of the 2010 Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, title contenders Tom Tweedie, Mitch Evans and Ben Barker have had things mostly their own way as they fight...
INTERLOPERS ADD TO TITLE BATTLE AT EASTERN CREEK
THROUGHOUT the first five rounds of the 2010 Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, title contenders Tom Tweedie, Mitch Evans and Ben Barker have had things mostly their own way as they fight out a private battle for Australia's top open-wheel title.
That looks set to change this weekend at Sydney's Eastern Creek raceway with things looking set to get a whole lot tougher at the pointy end.
Their once-private battle will be joined by several proven contenders looking to make their mark by winning races and driving without the need to consistently score points getting as the title contenders must.
Experienced F3 racers Mat Sofi and John Magro will return to the series and will be joined by Sydney youngster Nick Foster at the weekend, the three adding additional depth to what will be the largest field of the year to date.
Couple in an in-form Chris Gilmour and the ever-improving Chinese driver Zhang Shan Qi and you get a spicy field of potentially-winning contenders, though it doesn't stop there.
Sofi, from Liverpool in Sydney's West, won his first Formula 3 race at Eastern Creek twelve months ago however hefty commitments at his burgeoning business have forced the man who finished third in last year's title race to the sidelines this season.
Set to drive his existing F307 chassis prepared by Astuti Motorsport, Sofi has suggested that he will aim to stay out of the intense battle being waged by the title-contending trio, though perhaps not in the way they might think.
"I won't get involved in racing the three title contenders- I hope to be out in front of those guys!" Sofi grinned.
"In all seriousness, though, it's great to be back. It's bad enough to be out of one of these cars for a month, let alone almost a year. I'm not underestimating how competitive it's going to be this weekend and I'm sure it'll take me a few laps to get back in the grove.
"I'm pretty confident that we can have a good weekend because we had a very fast car at the creek last year and won a race, so it's a place with good memories for me.
"The level at the front is very high as always, so it should be a good fight."
Sofi's Astuti Motorsport F307-Mugen will be supported by new sponsor Cremoso at the weekend.
Meanwhile, popular Queenslander John Magro will suit up for the first time since Round two at Symmons Plains, Tasmania, in May this year.
The North Queensland Mango farmer has secured support from just4WD.com.au as he reunites with team owner Ian Richards in an R-Tek Motorsport F304 Dallara. Though he will be driving the older model car, Magro said he was looking at Tom Tweedie's outstanding performances as a benchmark for Eastern Creek.
"Tom is the benchmark this season - in the F304 cars as well as outright - and if we can race with him this weekend at Eastern Creek it will have been a good weekend," Magro said.
"I'm looking forward to getting back in the car. We had a good run with R-Tek going earlier in the year but on a limited budget we could only do the two rounds. I can't wait to pick up where we left off and get the just4WD / Rockstar car to the front of the field.
"It's an awesome grid and the competition will be pretty intense."
Magro and Sofi join Astuti Motorsport's recently announced driver Nick Foster amongst a 14-strong field set to tackle the high speed, 3.9km Eastern Creek Raceway layout.
Competition will be especially tight during qualifying, with six cars progressing through the initial session to the Meguiar's Quick Six shootout for pole position on Saturday morning.
A strong Queensland contingent will make the trek south with Chris Gilmour - who scored his first podium in years at Morgan Park - young star Ben Gersekowski, Roman Krumins and Jimmy Mann all entered for this weekend's racing.
Whilst Gilmour has proven experience at Eastern Creek and Krumins at the super quick Phillip Island, Gersekowski and Mann face a steep learning curve as they experience one of the fastest tracks on the calendar for the first time.
All four, along with Tweedie, Barker, Zhang and Evans, are in contention for the inaugural East Coast Shootout, a three-round 'title within a title' being contested in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria this year.
F3 stalwart's John Boothman and Graeme Holmes also return to the track this weekend, Boothman for the first time since recovering and rebuilding following a massive crash at Sandown during practice for last years' season finale'.
Practice begins this Friday - September 10th - before Meguiar's qualifying and the first sprint race are contested on Saturday. Sunday will feature a second sprint race and the main feature.