Charlie Hollings closed the margin to the championship lead at the picturesque Phillip Island Circuit. Melbourne-based Formula 3 team Astuti Motorsport have proved that three weeks is like an eternity in Motorsport following last weekend's ...
Charlie Hollings closed the margin to the championship lead at the picturesque Phillip Island Circuit.
Melbourne-based Formula 3 team Astuti Motorsport have proved that three weeks is like an eternity in Motorsport following last weekend's third round of the 2007 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship at Phillip Island.
After British driver Charlie Hollings dominated at Oran Park in Sydney a fortnight ago, the team came back to earth slightly at the high-speed 4.46km circuit but continued to close the margin to the championship lead -- heading into the half way round in the series with Hollings trailing the series lead by just eight points.
Astuti Motorsport returned to a two-car operation at Phillip Island with local driver Ricky Occhipinti joining the team to drive the #10 car steered by Walter Grubmuller at the start of the season.
Hollings qualified his #11 car fourth for race one and fifth for the second race, however his session was not without its problems.
A damaged steering arm meant that for the duration of the second session the Yorkshireman's car was tracking incorrectly, leaving him pleased to be just three tenths of a second from pole position.
"I am happy to have qualified where I did given the steering problems we had. The boys will fix it and the car should be quick in the race," said Charlie after qualifying.
Occhipinti continued his learning curve and adapted to the new car by qualifying eight for both races -- just one second behind the pole position benchmark in each session.
Hollings made an aggressive start to race one and on the opening lap leaped from fourth to second, a position he would hold for the remainder of the race -- dispelling a last-lap challenge from Marco Mapelli to cross the line just .05s ahead.
In race two Hollings again made an aggressive start but the altercation with the other car left him behind the eight ball and in sixth place at the finish.
However the results closed the margin to the championship leader as Tim Macrow leaving the Astuti car just eight points behind heading to the half-way round.
"Our car was very fast and to get second in race one was proof of that," he said.
"I have really enjoyed the circuit and racing here. It wasn't the best of weekends for us but we recovered well and scored some points to close the gap in the championship."
Occhipinti proved that getting to the finish is key in this years competitive championship and finished race one in eighth place and race two in seventh, scoring his first championship class points in the progress.
"It was a tough round," said team owner Sam Astuti.
"Everyone is getting more competitive and the battle at the front is even closer. I think the Piccola boys were ready for a result, and Leanne was also ready for a win so with those two cars back at the front it's just made the series even more competitive.
"Having said that we were very close to the money as Charlie showed in race one by finishing second. Things didn't go our way in race two when Kostera hit Charlie but that's the way things go.
"In this series, this year, it's so competitive that you can't expect to dominate every round like we did at Oran Park." He said.
Astuti said that the thrill of an exciting race for the championship only served to spur his team on to bigger and better things.
"This is as tough as it gets," he enthused.
"It's these kinds of championships you really want to win because it's just so competitive. We will bounce back at Mallala."
He also believed Ricky Occhipinti's debut performance behind the wheel of the #10 car was a sign of things to come.
"I think we can see more big things from him. It takes a while to jump from an '01 Dallara into the 2004 car and be competitive. Some drivers adapt quicker than the others and one race and one test just wasn't enough for him to get up to speed.
"The cars require different style's and different attitudes so with time he could be right at the front." Astuti said.
Astuti Motorsport will next be in action at Mallala Raceway for round Four of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship on June 30 -- July 1.