AUSF3: Eastern Creek round one Friday report

FORMULA 3's AUSTRIAN ACE SETS THE PRACTICE PACE AT EASTERN CREEK. An 18-year-old driver from Vienna, in Austria, has posted the fastest time in practice for this weekend's opening round of the 2007 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 ...


An 18-year-old driver from Vienna, in Austria, has posted the fastest time in practice for this weekend's opening round of the 2007 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship.

Astuti Motorsport's Walter Grubmuller topped this afternoon's second session -- the only fully dry one of the day -- with a storming 1m26.1765s lap late in the session to top a competitive 18 car field that has gathered this weekend as a major support act to the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport round at Eastern Creek.

Grubmuller's time was just .042s faster than Fleetcare TanderSport driver Leanne Tander in a pack that is shaping up as one of the most competitive Formula 3 fields ever gathered on Australian soil.

Times in today's second 20-minute session were clearly the quickest of the day, this morning's opening run of the year held in changeable conditions that started soaking wet and ended with a patchy dry line beginning to appear around the 3.9km circuit.

The sun shone in the afternoon giving the teams some much needed dry running in preparation for qualifying tomorrow.

"The track was a bit different from last week (in testing) when it was hot, so it took a while for the Tyres to get hot but it wasn't bad," Grubmuller said.

"The track was slippery and there was plenty of traffic and you could always go faster, but early on it's good.

"It's motivating to be quick this early on; it makes you drive for more tomorrow."

Tander was a confident second, closely shadowing Grubmuller in the dry after topping the first practice session thanks to banking the very last timed lap in the session on a rapidly drying circuit.

"Everything is going to our plan," said the top Australian driver in the increasingly competitive international field.

"The car has no dramas and we are just working to our schedule to make it quicker. I'm confident things are in good shape for qualifying tomorrow."

The quiet achiever of today's session was West Australian driver Stuart Kostera, who took his Team BRM prepared Dallara F304 Renault to the third fastest time just one tenth from the benchmark set by Grubmuller.

"It's all good. It's me learning again, making mistakes that you shouldn't make every lap! The car is really good. It's a really good base for me to work from for the rest of the weekend." The typically laconic driver said.

Behind the top three today came 2006 Asian F3 Champion James Winslow, who blew off the cobwebs of his recently delivered Piccola Scuderia F304 Mugen (The car only arrived in the country Tuesday this week) with a stunned third place.

The British ace was at a loss to explain the time -- possibly a sign of his championship winning potential despite his engine dropping onto three cylinders at the end of the session.

"I honestly can't believe that, I'm amazed with the time," he said.

"The engine and the car are obviously pretty good but it's my first time at the track and in the car so to be that quick is astonishing."

Chris Alajajian was fifth -- and broke a gear linkage -- whilst the form driver of the end of 2006, Tim Macrow, was a quiet sixth in his Cooltemp Racing Dallara.

Mat Sofi was seventh and impressive Italian Macro Mapelli eighth in his Team BRM car.

This morning's practice was just the first time Mapelli had driven a Formula 3 car, the 19 year old setting an astonishing third-fastest time in the wet / dry conditions.

The second part of this year's British equation, Charlie Hollings, was a slightly disappointed ninth in the dry after placing second in the damp conditions earlier in the day.

"The first session in the wet was learning the circuit and getting to grips with the car," the Astuti driver said.

"We bedded in brake pads in the session and just had a few little problems with the car. There's also a lot of time in me - just getting the most out of it. It's disappointing in a way but at the same time there is a lot of time to be had tomorrow."

In the Kumho Tyres National Class an impressive Lauren Gray came to within a second of class pacesetter Tim Berryman despite it being her first real drive of the ex-Macrow F301 Dallara.

Chris Barry and newcomer Daniel Schultz headed John Boothman and Gordon Campbell in the National Class honors.

Rod Anderson and Greg Hunter was the top of the Trophy Class order today.

The opening round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship continues tomorrow with two qualifying sessions to set the grid for the two, 13-lap races to be held tomorrow.

Top Five -- Practice 1
1. Leanne Tander 1:31.7823
2. Charlie Hollings (UK) +0.6415
3. Marco Mapelli (ITA) +0.7475
4. James Winslow (UK) + 0.8544
5. Tim Macrow + 2.8422

Top Five -- Practice 2
1. Walter Grubmuller (AUT) 1:26.1765
2. Leanne Tander + 0.0472
3. Stuart Kostera + 0.1879
4. James Winslow (UK) + 0.3246
5. Chris Alajajian + 0.4413

-credit: formula3.au

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About this article
Series F3
Drivers Marco Mapelli , Charles Hollings , Walter Grubmuller , Chris Alajajian , James Winslow , John Booth , Tim Macrow , Leanne Tander , Stuart Kostera , Lauren Gray