AUSF3: Eastern Creek round one Friday report

EXPERIENCE THE NAME OF THE GAME IN WET / DRY OPENING DAY OF 2008 F3 SEASON Teams and drivers within the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 championship have been given a wealth of experience after just one day of practice at Eastern Creek raceway...


Teams and drivers within the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 championship have been given a wealth of experience after just one day of practice at Eastern Creek raceway in Sydney.

The 21-car field was presented with both wet and dry conditions today and in the end it was the Opes Prime Team BRM combination of Nathan Caratti and James Winslow who locked out the top spot of both of today's sessions -- Caratti in the dry and Brit Winslow the wet.

The changeable conditions were in many ways a chance for teams to gain information as they work hard to develop car setups for the many new car and driver combinations in this years' Gold Star field.

A shower prior to the opening session of the season saw teams making last minute changes to their cars to suit the conditions, Winslow taking plenty of track information into the A1GP Rookie session -- held immediately after the F3 practice -- he was taking part in.

Winslow's BRM team-mate Earl Bamber was second with another of the black bullet's, driven by Nathan Caratti, in third place -- giving the three-time champion team an ideal beginning to the season.

In practice two it was Caratti who took point, his 1m24.09s lap well under the existing lap record and the quickest practice or qualifying lap set by a Formula 3 car at Eastern Creek in some time.

Caratti was just two-tenths up on his young Kiwi compatriot Bamber to end what was a very strong day for the Team BRM stable.

"It's always nice to begin the weekend with the quickest time," Nathan Caratti said

"The car was quite good but the track was difficult with the rubber laid down from the A1GP session -- it was totally different from where it was last week (During testing)."

The 17-year-old Kiwi sensation Bamber used his considerable open-wheel experience -- despite his age -- today to set the second fastest time in each session, both times less than a second away from the fastest time.

Bamber was another to split his time today with a Rookie-session drive in the New Zealand A1GP car before devoting his attentions fully towards the Formula 3 car over the weekend.

After topping the first session, Winslow said that a setup experiment left the team facing the wrong direction in the second.

"The track changed a lot and we made a fairly radical setup change that didn't quite work," he explained.

Leanne Tander (#42 TanderSport) was third fastest in the dry afternoon session -- one position ahead of Winslow -- whilst Mathew Sofi (#2 Transwest Racing / Total Developments) completed the top five.

Neil McFadyen had an impressive debut in his Opes Prime / Piccola Scuderia Dallara -- the car finished just days before the meeting to allow the 2004 Gold Star winner to make a return to the driving seat after a year on the sidelines.

Today was a testing session of sorts for McFadyen, who's first tentative laps in the wet this morning were his first in an open wheeler for over a year.

Stuart Kostera completed development work on the Scud Racing F307 -- a deal only finalised yesterday -- to complete the championship class runners.

Chris Reindler (#52 TanderSport) was the top of the National Class brigade this afternoon after Irishman Lee Farrell (Opes Prime Team BRM) was fastest in the wet.

The close competition with the revitalised Opes Prime National Class (For the 2002 -- 2004 specification cars) was witnessed with just tenths splitting the fastest time and second-placed Daniel Schulz in the afternoon's dry session.

In the Formula 3 Trophy Class, 16-year-old Victorian Justin Tate was a stunning 11th fastest in the wet conditions in practice one, and a similarly fast 16th outright in the second session -- on both occasions well clear of his Trophy rivals.

Qualifying one gets underway at 08:30am tomorrow to set the grid for race one of the 2008 Australian Drivers Championship, to be held Sunday.

For more information head to www.formula3.com.au

Practice 1 Results:
1. James Winslow 1m44.2853
2. Earl Bamber + 0.6674
3. Nathan Caratti + 1.2221
4. Neil McFadyen + 3.001
5. Leanne Tander + 4.6800

National Class: Lee Farrell 1m49.7954
Trophy Class: Justin Tate 1m58.9453

Practice 2 Results:
1. Nathan Caratti 1m24.0931
2. Earl Bamber + 0.2032
3. Leanne Tander + 0.9006
4. James Winslow + 1.0621
5. Mathew Sofi + 1.6740

National Class: Chris Reindler 1m26.9658
Trophy Class: Justin Tate 1m29.4692

-credit: www.formula3.com.au

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About this article
Series F3
Drivers Neil McFadyen , James Winslow , Leanne Tander , Earl Bamber , Stuart Kostera , Nathan Caratti , Mathew Sofi