AUSF3: Albert Park preview

AUSF3: Albert Park preview
Mar 28, 2006, 5:33 PM

BRUNO SENNA HEADLINES COMPETITIVE F3 FIELD READY FOR GRAND PRIX The nephew of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna, Bruno, headlines a competitive 25-car Australian Formula 3 field set to contest the Dodo F3 support races at the 2006 ...


The nephew of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Ayrton Senna, Bruno, headlines a competitive 25-car Australian Formula 3 field set to contest the Dodo F3 support races at the 2006 FORMULA 1 Fosters Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne this weekend.

With the 2006 championship series just one round old, the record field has entered for the non-points scoring event at Albert Park with a host of drivers ready to try and impress the Formula 1 elite watching from pit lane.

Current point's leader Ben Clucas will step aside for the meeting, fellow international ace Bruno Senna taking over the Englishman's Team BRM / John Deere-supported Dallara F304 for a one off appearance on Australian shores.

Senna comes to Australia with a season of British F3 under his belt and will prove a strong benchmark for the local competition to target.

Incidentally, Senna's British Formula 3 Championship team boss will be present this weekend, the Brazilian's Double-R Racing outfit listing McLaren superstar Kimi Raikkonen as an owner.

Senna's trip to Australia will be the ideal preparation for his second British F3 season when he returns to run with the Raikkonen-Robertson team in the competitive British arena.

A host of local talent will be aiming to unseat the Brazilian driver, however, a number of drivers taking some home ground advantage into the meeting as the Formula 3 teams and drivers hit Victoria for the first time in 2006.

21-year-old Michael Trimble will be one such contender, the Astuti Motorsport driver one of the key championship protagonists this season with his Melbourne based team.

Trimble, who missed last year's AGP event in what was his inaugural F3 season, will line up in a Renault-powered F304 Dallara this weekend and will be hoping that the brand's recent Formula 1 form rubs off on the Astuti Motorsport team this weekend.

"It wasn't good to miss last year's event so I'm really looking forward to getting out there this year," said Trimble.

"We struggled at Wakefield Park and since then we have changed heaps of things on the car. We had a four hour debrief after Wakefield with Sam (Astuti) and my Engineer James and we actually learnt a lot and found out some different options we can take with the car.

"We've now got some good momentum heading into the weekend and I'm really looking forward to going well." He said.

Another looking to capitalize on some local support this weekend will be Leanne Tander, who drives for the Melbourne-based Fleetcare Tander Sport outfit that she and husband Garth established throughout the off season.

Leanne posted a strong performance at the opening championship round of 2006 in early March, and will be looking to build on the strong momentum that presently sees her sitting in 5th place in the championship standings after the first of eight points scoring rounds.

Garth finished fourth at the Clipsal 500 V8 Supercar opener last weekend and the Tander Sport team will be hoping that the V8 Supercar success flows into the Formula 3 operation this weekend.

Fellow Victorian driver Lauren Gray will join Tander on the Grand Prix Grid, set to take the wheel of the Scud Racing prepared Dallara F396 she drove to a pair of Trophy class victories at Wakefield Park.

Gray and Tander's presence means that the Formula 3 field this weekend will be one of the first -- outside the celebrity challenge - to feature two female drivers at the Grand Prix event.

Tim Macrow will be out for success at Albert Park, a podium run at Wakefield Park a month ago proving that despite an older car the talented Victorian will be a contender this weekend.

Macrow made his Australian Formula 3 debut in his current car at the Grand Prix last season and will be looking forward to putting a year's worth of development to the test this weekend.

The 22-year-old -- a perennial privateer who has recently struggled for funds -- has managed to raise the finances to compete at the biggest event of the year and will be looking for a strong performance in the hopes of impressing potential sponsors and his local fans.

"A lot of the sponsors that have come on board for this weekend will be in the stands watching us, so we are very keen to put on a good show," Macrow said.

"I really enjoy the circuit. Last year was the first time that we had the new car and we were still learning it so we will go much better this weekend.

"It's our biggest event of the year and I'm really excited just to be going." He enthused.

Set to make his F3 debut at the Grand Prix will be Victorian Formula Ford racer Laurent Le Page, who will steer a third car from Adelaide based Team BRM.

Le Page tested with the team during the off season and impressed with his pace and general feedback and - despite having a major learning curve ahead of him - could be one of the surprises of the weekend.

Joining the BRM trio will be Queenslander Jason Vince, who is another driver to have contested the Wakefield park opener and will look to continue his development in the class.

Vince -- who has secured backing from Kings Transport for the event -- will also sport signage from the Shane Warne Foundation at the Grand Prix in an effort to promote the foundation to the large crowds expected over the four day grand prix weekend.

The rookie ranks will be boosted at the Grand Prix with New South Wales-based Formula Ford driver Wensley Carroll recently confirming his participation aboard a Piccola Scuderia entry.

The Piccola outfit is a proven championship winning team and will give Carroll his best possible chance of a strong debut into the world of Formula 3 racing.

The 25-car field will again include a number of inter-class battles, with the National and Trophy class fields flourishing this season and providing some close racing right throughout the pack.

After squaring off at Wakefield Park, National Class contenders Tim Berryman and Ricky Occhipinti will again go head to head this weekend.

Occhipinti, who hails from Geelong, will be hoping that the form showed by the Geelong Cats AFL team in the pre season competition (they won) will spur him on during his attempt at Grand Prix 'premiership' glory.

2005 Trophy Champion Bill Maddocks returns to the fold this weekend, a packed field including veteran Brian Sampson -- the 1975 Bathurst 1000 winner -- who will return for his second shot at F3 action on the streets of Albert Park.

71-year-old Sampson raced a Rod Anderson prepared car last year in what was his 51st anniversary of his first time competing at the famous Albert Park circuit.

The Dodo Australian Formula 3 field will have a hectic schedule this weekend with Practice, Qualifying and the first race scheduled for Thursday and one race each day thereafter.

First practice gets underway at 10:20am local time this Thursday, March 30th.


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