2001 Australian Formula 3 Championship. Round 1 Oran Park, Sydney. 17-18 March The first round was greeted with news from CAMS, Australia's governing body, of full championship status for 2001. This was greeted with enthusiasm by all...
2001 Australian Formula 3 Championship.
Round 1 Oran Park, Sydney. 17-18 March
The first round was greeted with news from CAMS, Australia's governing body, of full championship status for 2001. This was greeted with enthusiasm by all competitors in the paddock. "This is a real step forward," said F3 president Fred Douglas. "With full championship status, our champion now qualifies for Macau."
So the budding championship needed some good racing on the track to attack the fans. Boy did they put it on.
It started on Friday with an official test session. Thirteen drivers turned up with young Victorian James Manderson setting the fastest time of 1m07.7139 in the 2nd session. The most consistent driver being Darren Palmer 1st in session 1 and 2nd in session 2. Kiwi Daynom Templeman improved over the day with last year's runner-up Peter Hackett quick as well. Rookie Queenslander Craig Smith was the quickest of the Level 2 runners.
Qualifying was split into 2 sessions. Wet weather greeted session 1 and Peter Hackett used all his experience in Europe to gain pole by 2 seconds. Next was Palmer then came Manderson. Last years Champ Paul Stephenson stood in for a very sick Glen Coombs. He qualified 6th behind Chas Jacobsen and Chris Coombs. Craig Smith put his Level 2 Reynard on 7th ahead of Rees, Beeley and David Choon in 10th. Session 2 was dominated by the BRM cars, with Palmer doing a 1m06.0100 ahead of team mate Templeman 1m06.3816. Race 1 poleman Hackett set a 1m06.5386 just ahead Manderson 1m06.8819. Then came Stephenson still making changes to the car. "The set up was all over the place," he said. " We're getting there though". Jacobsen was next, then came Chris Coombs, Mike Beeley still chasing setup. He only got the car on the track in the first session. " It's still a learning process," he said. "But we're getting quicker each time we go out". Formula Holden convert Damien Digby was in 9th with Rod Anderson the quickest of the level 2 cars in 10th.
Peter Hackett and James Manderson dominated the morning warm up with the BRM boys not too far behind. Manderson getting down to a 1m05.7218. At the conclusion of the session Palmer ran aver a piece of wood going back to the paddock through the, nearing completion, pit area. The piece of wood jammed itself into the bottom of the tub. On further inspection it pierced the tub. "I can't believe it, " said BRM boss Bronte Rundle. "It's a disaster. I can't believe the officials could let formula cars through there. They're too close to the ground. If it wasn't Darren, it would have happened to some one else". Palmer too was speechless. He was standing in the pit's shaking his head. " I've never seen this before. I think I'm out for the day". How wrong he was. The slick BRM crew getting his car ready only minute before going to the marshalling area.
Race 1 was eagerly anticipated. With four drivers all in the 1m06 all weekend, the signs were there for a cracker. Who would get the jump on cold tyres?
The answer was Hackett. He jumped to a small lead over the rest of the field. Then came Manderson, Palmer, Templeman & Stephenson. Peter Rees failed to get off the line with a box full of neutrals. Then the action started, with Chris Coombs spinning first, Mike Beeley bending his front wing and David Choon spinning his new Dallara.
All this was going on while Manderson was edging onto the gearbox of Hackett. By the time Rod Anderson retired on lap 7 the two young guns were locked into a fierce battle. Just behind Palmer had a break on Templeman who had a break on Stephenson. Jacobsen couldn't hold onto Stephenson and began to work his way backwards. Bill Maddocks retired on lap 9 when all the action started. Coming onto the straight, Manderson lined up Hackett for the pass. He got through, only to lose it through the kink and let Hackett back through. Next time around the same scenario and another lose this time by both competitors. Wings, debris littered the circuit. Even an exhaust in the middle of the dogleg. This cause a red flag and with the winner seemingly Hackett. Drivers went back to the paddock where they were told that 11.25 laps was 75% race distance not 11 laps. The stewards wanted them to go out for seemingly a quarter of a lap to finish the race. Cool heads prevailed and the race was at its end. Hackett declared the winner over Manderson. "Just one more lap" said Palmer "and I would have them. They both had damage. I would have taken Daynom along for the ride as well. We missed a 1-2 because of the red flag. But I think it was the right thing to do". Rookie Craig Smith wrapped up Level 2 honours in his first race in the category.
Bring on race 2 cried the fans. One fan I spoke to said, "these formula three's are s#*t hot. Where have they been hiding?" I must admit that the first race was one of the best I've seen in the category for a while. So out they came for race 2. An all blue front row with the BRM cars dominating the 2nd practice session. Off they went. A clean start down to the first corner. John Boothman only lasted 1 lap with Anderson lasting only one more to retire on lap 2. Palmer led from Templeman and Manderson. Manderson got by both the BRM drivers to lead. Templeman got by Palmer and proceeded to put plenty of pressure on the young Manderson. Manderson held his own to take a well-earned victory. Second was Templeman in his second drive in the category. Third was Palmer then came Hackett clear of Stephenson in 5th. Damien Digby was 6th with Rees and Beeley close behind. Graeme Holmes and Chris Coombs rounded out the top ten. Choon, Smith and Maddocks were the final runners.
So an exciting end to the first round of the season. The next round isn't until Wakefield Park in May. There should bee a few more runners as well adding more interest to an important year for the category. See you at Wakefield.