BAMBER FOURTH AFTER FIRST AUSTRALIAN F3 ROUND Fast-rising young New Zealand racing driver Earl Bamber (Opes Prime Team BRM) finished fourth overall in what turned out to be his only Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship race at the ...
BAMBER FOURTH AFTER FIRST AUSTRALIAN F3 ROUND
Fast-rising young New Zealand racing driver Earl Bamber (Opes Prime Team BRM) finished fourth overall in what turned out to be his only Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship race at the Australian A1GP meeting at Sydney's Eastern Creek on Sunday.
There were supposed to be two Kumho Tyres series races but the second - which was due to start just before the A1GP feature race - was aborted because of torrential rain.
"We did our warm-up lap then lined up as per normal race procedure but by that stage it was raining fairly heavily so they decided to start the race behind the Safety Car," explained Bamber. " We did that but unfortunately, rather than getting better the rain got worse and the race had to be called off."
It was a disappointing end to what started - and was looking like turning out to be - a very good weekend for the 17-year-old wonderkid from Wanganui.
On Friday, when he combined rookie test duties with A1 Team.NZL (setting the sixth quickest time) with practice in his new Opes Prime Team BRM Dallara Mercedes-Benz F3 car, Bamber was second in both practice sessions while on Saturday he set the third quickest lap time in the first qualifying session (which dictated starting positions for the first race) and the second quickest lap in the second.
He could well have finished higher up in the first race on Sunday as well, but things didn't quite pan out as he had hoped.
"I was up to second place through Turn 2 but to get there I had to go round the outside and by the time I was alongside (the car in second) I was in the marbles and ended up back in fourth," he said.
The race was won by one of Bamber's two Opes Prime Team BRM teammates, Nathan Carratti, with experienced English driver James Winslow (another combining A1 test and Kumho Tyres Australian F3 Championship duties) second, Leanne Tander third and Bamber fourth.
Tander started the race from pole position, directly in front of Bamber, but was slow off the start, allowing Carratti, who had joined her on the front row of the grid, to grab a lead he would never lose.
"Nathan's start wasn't that good, " says Bamber, "but Leanne's was worse. The four of us (with Winslow) were all really close though and it was only Nathan being able to get away out of Turn 2 that allowed him to dictate the pace and go on and win the race.
Winslow passed both Bamber and Tander on the first lap and spent the rest of the race shadowing Carratti's every move. The Englishman got close in traffic but never close enough to contemplate a serious challenge for the lead.
Behind him Leanne Tander had her mirrors filled with Bamber's #4 Opes Prime Team BRM Dallara and at one stage it looked like the young Kiwi would be on the final step of the podium.
"It isn't easy to get past someone here but I certainly had a good go," said Bamber. "I got a really good draft off Leanne and closed right up on her at the end of the main straight - but she had that covered - then I tried again under braking into Turn 2. It was close, but not close enough to make it stick."
Though he ended up only having one race to base his opinion on Bamber says that, overall, it was a positive start to his 2008 Australian campaign.
"Pace-wise we were all pretty close, which is good, particularly when you've got guys like James (Winslow) who's done something like three seasons in British F3, and Nathan (Carratti) who's done Formula Renault in the UK, in the field. And it's early days too. That was my first time in an F3 car and obviously the more time in the car, and the time I spend with the team, the better I will go."
And of his time - his third this season - in A1 Team.NZL's A1GP car?
"All things considered I was pretty happy with the times," Bamber said of the 1.39.235 and 1.21.833 laps which put his sixth overall. "Obviously Friday was a fairly busy day but it was good because with the first Formula 3 practice session held in the wet I was able to bring some valid track and set-up information to the A1 team and vice versa"
Because of the conditions - not really wet enough for wet tyres but too wet to go quick on slicks - Bamber only did a limited number of laps in the first A1 test session, but was able to complete a full programme in the second with the track dry enough to run on slicks.
The 17-year-old young gun now returns to New Zealand to drive his International Motorsport-run TradeZone-backed A1 Team.NZL Junior Development Team Toyota at the fifth round of the 2007/08 Toyota Racing Series at Manfeild over the February 16-17 weekend before heading back across the Tasman to Adelaide to compete at the second round of the 2008 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship at the big Clipsal 500 meeting in Adalaide the weekend after.