BAMBER HEADS TO AUSTRALIA FOR NEXT CHALLENGE Fast-rising young Wanganui driver Earl Bamber is in Australia this week preparing for his next challenge - driving one of Opes Prime Team BRM's new Mercedes Benz-powered Dallara F307s in the 2008...
BAMBER HEADS TO AUSTRALIA FOR NEXT CHALLENGE
Fast-rising young Wanganui driver Earl Bamber is in Australia this week preparing for his next challenge - driving one of Opes Prime Team BRM's new Mercedes Benz-powered Dallara F307s in the 2008 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 championship.
Adelaide-based Opes Prime Team BMW is one of the top squads in the Australian competition, and the 17-year-old Kiwi will suit up alongside 22-year-old Western Australian Nathan Caratti in one of the team's new F307s.
Formula 3 is regarded as one of the key 'stepping stone' categories between karts and Formula 1 and the Australian series is one of nine currently operating around the world.
Kart-turned-car star Bamber, who first came to international attention when - in his rookie year in cars - he won the 2006 Formula BMW Asia series, is currently one of the front-runners in New Zealand's Toyota Racing Series for the International Motorsport-run, TradeZone-backed A1 Team.NZL Junior Development Team.
And because there are no date clashes the Opes Prime Team BRM drive dovetails nicely.
"That was probably the biggest thing," Bamber said today from Sydney."We looked at the dates....and it was as if it was meant to be."
This weekend the Australian series supports Australia's A1GP round at Sydney's Eastern Creek, then in three week's time the series has a slot on the support programme at the big Clipsal 500 meeting in Adelaide.
In between Bamber will return home to contest the fifth round of the Toyota Racing Series at Manfeild, and afterwards he will head south for the sixth and seventh rounds in the South Island in March before returning to the North Island to contest the final round at the Hamilton V8 Supercar series round in April.
Having won races at the past three rounds of the 2007/08 Toyota Racing Series (including the Lady Wigram Trophy feature at the second round on January 6) Bamber is currently third overall in the series points standings.
Last weekend, at the New Zealand A1GP meeting at Taupo, he also sealed victory in the International series-within-a-series from Ben Harford and Andy Knight.
Bamber joined several other 2008 Kumho Australian Formula 3 Championship title prospects at a series test at the Eastern Creek circuit last week and says that he is looking forward to seeing what he can do with the new car under racing conditions.
"Obviously, being a 2 litre car, it is a bit quicker than the 1.8 litre Toyota I'm racing in New Zealand at the moment but I think the biggest difference is the amount of adjustability, and the difference you can make with it."
Last season the Australian Formula 3 series received a major boost with support from financial services company Opes Prime. That support continues this year with the winner of the Kumho Tyres championship earning $80,000 cash or the right to negotiate a drive in the 2009 Formula V6 Asia Series, and the winner of the National class (for older spec cars) earning $40,000 cash or the right to negotiate a championship class drive in the Australian series in 2009.
Expected to provide Bamber with competition this weekend are last season's runner-up Leanne Tander (Australia's top female driver) and Bamber's Opes Prime Team BRM teammate Nathan Caratti.
Action at the Eastern Creek track begins on Friday with two practice sessions. Qualifying is on Saturday and the two class races are on Sunday.