AUS: Series Sandown preview

SANDOWN RACEWAY ASSURED OF HISTORIC GOLD STAR DECIDER THIS WEEKEND GOLD STAR HISTORY will be made, regardless of the winner, during this weekends final round of the 2009 Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, to be held at Sandown Raceway...


GOLD STAR HISTORY will be made, regardless of the winner, during this weekends final round of the 2009 Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, to be held at Sandown Raceway in Melbourne.

Separated by just four points after an epic tussle lasting seven rounds and fourteen races, Melbournian Tim Macrow and British ace Joey Foster will battle for Australia's top Open-Wheel award this weekend and both have a shot at the record books.

A 16-car field has entered for Sandown's SuperPrix event, the largest of the year and one containing the most international drivers ever for a championship round of the F3ADC. It's also the first time since 2004 that Australia's premier open-wheel category will have visited the Sandown circuit.

The list features seven overseas drivers hailing from countries like China, Indonesia, Great Britain and New Zealand, coupled with a group of Australian drivers hailing from New South Wales, Queensland, West Australia and Victoria.

And in a series first, the action from Sandown will be available live and free online across the weekend.

Macrow will be seeking to join an elite group of just eleven drivers to have won multiple Australian Drivers' Championships since it was first awarded in 1957, the 25-year-old from Ormond - just five minutes from the track - having won the title in 2007.

Should he win, Scud Racing's Macrow will also become just the second person ever to win two Australian Formula 3 Championships, Paul Stevenson the only other person to achieve the feat when he won in 1999 - 2000.

Macrow has won seven times this year for a total of 12 podium finishes, seven pole positions and four fastest laps.

Should Foster snare the title, however, it will become the first time in history that drivers from outside Australia or New Zealand will have won the Gold Star in consecutive years, fellow Brit James Winslow having won in 2008.

It would also mark the amazing return to driving after having his back broken in several places after a horrific crash in German F3 several years ago. This year marks the Cornwall chargers' first full season of open-wheel competition since the crash and has featured six wins, eleven podiums, eight fastest laps and a clean sweep of every available point at the Clipsal 500.

A Foster win would also give Team BRM back-to-back titles, a feat the team has never achieved despite title success in 2002, '04, '06 and last year.

The pair will fight for the 53rd Australian Drivers Championship over two races this weekend, though the format has been modified from the usual to add further spice to the title battle.

Sunday will feature a sprint (12 lap) race in the morning followed by the 22-lap SuperPrix finale' in the afternoon to wrap up the season.

Qualifying will also take on a new significance with the second session on Sunday - to set the grid for the SuperPrix race - to feature a new elimination-style format wherein the top six fastest cars will progress through to their own 10-minute session called the ‘Quick Six'.

These six cars will set the first three rows of the grid whilst grid positions seven and back will be decided in the first part of qualifying. A stand-alone, all-in, 20-minute session will set the grid for race one earlier on Saturday morning.

The SuperPrix field features a host of new talent from here and abroad, adding further spice to an already exciting weekend.

In the outright cars, 16-year-old Indonesian Rio Haryanto joins Astuti Motorsport for his second round of the Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship, after impressing in his debut at Queensland Raceway in August racing a National Class Dallara.

Haryanto was recently crowned the Asian Formula BMW champion following the Macau Grand Prix last weekend.

He won't have it all his own way, however, 15-year-old Kiwi Mitch Evans set to make his championship debut driving a sister Team BRM Dallara to that of championship contender Joey Foster.

Evans set the Australian Formula Ford Championship on fire this year, finishing second overall and winning a majority of the races in the second half of the season. Evans knows Sandown well, too, having tasted success at the track when the Formula Ford championship visited earlier this year.

In the National Class four drivers will make their respective F3 debuts this weekend.

Former CAMS Rising Star Formula Ford driver and Karting-star Kristian Lindbom will race an Astuti Motorsport F304, whilst West Aussie young gun Bryce Moore joins TanderSport for the weekend, driving the car Leanne Tander drove to a National Class win at Phillip Island earlier this year.

At R-Tek Motorsport two Chinese drivers, 18-year-old Zhang Shan Qi and 16-year-old Li Zhi Cong, join the field.

From the youthful exuberance of the rookies in the field, F3's oldest driver will also take the starter at Sandown, John Boothman having just won the Australian Super Sprint Championship at Phillip Island last weekend.

The Sandown Formula 3 lap record looks set to be consigned to the record books, the existing benchmark set towards the beginning of the decade in 2002.

The benchmark stands at 1m09.4252 and was set by New Zealand driver James Cressey whilst driving an F301 Dallara.

Action this weekend will be broadcast live online via the Formula 3 Australian Drivers' Championship website. Live streaming footage and audio of qualifying and both races will be available across the weekend as well as on-demand footage.

-credit: formula3.com.au

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Series F3
Drivers Joey Foster , James Winslow , John Booth , Tim Macrow , Leanne Tander , Rio Haryanto , Zhang Shan Qi , Mitch Evans , Phillip Island