F3

AUSF3: Eastern Creek preview

CHAMPIONSHIP HANGS IN THE BALANCE IN F3s EASTERN CREEK RETURN A different Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship to the one that started the season will return to Sydney's Eastern Creek raceway this weekend. Australia's top Wings and ...

CHAMPIONSHIP HANGS IN THE BALANCE IN F3s EASTERN CREEK RETURN

A different Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship to the one that started the season will return to Sydney's Eastern Creek raceway this weekend.

Australia's top Wings and slicks category began it's 2007 campaign at the 3.9km circuit in Sydney's west in February this year, as a support to the Australian round of the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport, and returns to the fast and flowing circuit at the weekend to kick off the second half of the season.

And where the first round featured ultra close and competitive racing, it was only the very beginning of a championship battle that has evolved over the subsequent six races to become one of the series' closest on record.

The series returns to Western Sydney with the championship hanging on a precipice -- and one dominating weekend or unfortunate non-finish at Eastern Creek could shape the second half of the year and help decide the 51st Australian Drivers Champion>

Since those first two races at the start of the year four key contenders have emerged from the pack with Macrow currently leading Charlie Hollings by just five points, Leanne Tander by six and James Winslow by just nine with eight of this years' scheduled sixteen races completed.

The championship lead actually changed hands twice at Mallala a fortnight ago, Winslow taking the points lead after his stunning first-race win, whilst Macrow was able to wrestle a reduced margin back via a strong win in race two.

Macrow and Winslow's race triumphs at Mallala were their second each for the year, Joining Charlie Hollings as the only multiple race winners so far.

Tander (Race 2, Phillip Island) and Kostera (Race 1, Round 1 at Eastern Creek) are the other drivers to have scored wins this season.

Team BRM pairing Stuart Kostera (5th, 65 Points) and Italian Marco Mapelli (6th, 64 points) are still well within the hunt -- with 44 points up for grabs this weekend both could theoretically lead the series following the round - and both were impressive in Sydney at the start of the year.

Even Mat Sofi (7th, with 39 points) is still a contender as the local driver looks to use his home circuit to score his first championship podium after a sequence of strong performances this season that have not delivered the desired result for the 22-year-old.

Both Mapelli and Sofi can also consider themselves realistic prospects for race wins and as such may have a more than significant bearing on the battle for the lead of the championship should they succeed at the creek this weekend.

Whilst the battle for the outright championship is ferociously close, several key contenders are slowly applying pressure to the man dominating the Kumho National class so far this year -- Chris Barry.

New South Wales driver Barry has only been beaten for class honours once this season in his Data #3 Dallara and has already scored three quarters of last years class winning score (201 points, by Ricky Occhipinti) in just half the time.

However Victorian driver Daniel Schulz (#57 CERA Sport Dallara F301) and Melbournian Lauren Gray (#25 Scud Racing Dallara) closed the margin to Barry at Mallala and both will be looking to usurp the class dominator on the faster Eastern Creek circuit.

The trio will lead a five-car class battle for supremacy this weekend, the National Class cars utilising the previous-generation 1999 -- 2001 model Formula 3 cars.

After two rain-affected rounds (Both Phillip Island and Mallala featured either wet races or sessions) showers are forecast for this weekends round in Sydney.

The fifth round of the 2007 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star will be contested over two, 14-lap races at Eastern Creek this Sunday at the Shannons National Motor Racing Championship round.

Official practice and the regular two qualifying sessions take place on Friday and Saturday, respectively.

-credit: www.formula3.com.au

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Series F3
Drivers James Winslow , Leanne Tander , Stuart Kostera , Lauren Gray , Charlie Hollings , Phillip Island