AUSF3: Oran Park round two preview

WHO TO CHOOSE? WIDE OPEN FORMULA 3 FIELD MAKES PICKING A WINNER TOUGH AT ORAN PARK Last time the Kumho Tyres F3 field went to Oran Park, Tim Macrow disappeared into the distance and won convincingly. Charlie Hollings lead at the Australian ...


Last time the Kumho Tyres F3 field went to Oran Park, Tim Macrow disappeared into the distance and won convincingly.

Charlie Hollings lead at the Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne in March and was also quick at Oran Park in testing recently.

In many forms of Motorsport worldwide, most pre-event tipsters can base their tips on four or five drivers that they know will be competitive when the cars hit the track.

In Formula One this year you would be mad to tip against either Ferrari or McLaren, whilst in Champ Car putting your money on ex-Australian Formula 3 driver Will Power or reigning champ Sebastien Bourdais would be good sense.

However when it comes time to pick a winner in the upcoming second round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship at Oran Park Raceway in Sydney, things get a little difficult.

Up to nine different drivers head into the round with more than realistic chances of winning races at the challenging 2.8km circuit an hour outside of Sydney's CBD when the Australian Drivers' Championship gets back into action at the Shannon's' Nationals round this weekend.

Of the nine leading, championship class cars entered this weekend each one has at least one claim to fame, or race result, in the last six months that indicates that they can win this weekend.

Championship Leader Stuart Kostera has been on a tear recently, winning his first ever race at Eastern Creek in February and vaulting himself into championship contention in the process. Kostera, the sole West Australian in the field, was also blisteringly quick at Oran Park in the 2006 season finale'.

Victoria's Tim Macrow is another with winning runs on the board and trails Kostera by just one point in the Gold Star Battle.

23-year-old Macrow will be looking back fondly at last year's Oran Park event when he dominated both races in stunning fashion behind the wheel of his Cooltemp Racing Dallara F304 Spiess Opel.

Another looking to build a strong run this weekend on great end-of-2006 form will be Queenslander Chris Gilmour.

After a tough run in the four non-championship races held at the Australian Grand Prix in March, SnatchIT.com.au Dallara Gilmour returns to the heat of the championship battle at arguably his strongest circuit from the 2006 season.

Completing the ranks of drivers banking on prior form to succeed will be North Shore resident Chris Alajajian, who will once again balance his V8 Commitments with another shot at Open Wheel glory for Team BRM in Sydney.

Where these drivers may struggle, however, is in testing time.

Neither Gilmour, Alajajian, Kostera nor Macrow have tested since the Australian Grand Prix and will head towards Oran Park's challenging crests, falls and bumps without recent experience.

Heading the group of drivers that has all that sorted looks to be Fleetcare TanderSport ace Leanne Tander.

Leanne unofficially dominated testing last week by over half a second and is another to have runs on the board at a track she says is her favourite -- she scored her first career F3 pole there in the final round last year.

Tander joins a group of drivers who have both tested at Oran Park recently and have strong performances on the board prior to Oran Park's round -- possibly elevating them slightly above the chasing pack for pre-event favouritism.

Sydneysider Mat Sofi (Total Developments / R-Tek F3 Dallara-Mugen) qualified inside the top three at Eastern Creek, giving a strong indication of his promise as he heads to his home track.

Italian driver Marco Mapelli was stunning at the Grand Prix in March, taking his Team BRM / Gawler Farm Machinery Dallara F304 Spiess to a quartet of fourth positions in what was only his second ever round behind the wheel of a Formula 3 racer.

Same too goes for Charlie Hollings, Astuti Motorsport's British driver, who won two of the four races in Melbourne, his first on Australian Soil.

In doing so -- after a weekend of pitched battles throughout the four events - he ignited a close rivalry between himself and Tim Macrow that could well push both drivers further forward this weekend.

Last but not least is the second British interloper this year -- James Winslow.

Whilst the Team Opes Prime driver has had a fraught run of late -- mechanical dramas in a new car hindering progress at both Eastern Creek and Albert Park -- the 2006 Asian Formula 3 Champion may well have a secret up his sleeve when it comes to miles behind the wheel of a high speed car.

Winslow recently tested a Formula Renault V6 car at Malaysia's Sepang Grand Prix circuit with great success.

Despite only driving in three of the available eight sessions and never having driven the challenging, high-speed circuit, Winslow clocked the fastest time by 0.2s in his Malaysian sojourn and is currently looking to compliment his Australian Formula 3 duties with a campaign in the Renault series.

The pitched battle for outright honours won't be the only focus this weekend, either.

In the Kumho Tyres National Class Victorian youngster Lauren Gray will tackle more experienced class leader Chris Barry in a fight to claim her first National Class win.

Driving the #25 Scud Racing entry, Gray won several races in the Trophy Class last season and has made the step up this season.

The Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship's second round will be contested over two races this weekend at Oran Park Raceway, in Narellan, South West of Sydney.

-credit: www.formula3.com.au

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Series F3
Drivers Marco Mapelli , Sébastien Bourdais , Will Power , Chris Alajajian , Tim Macrow , Leanne Tander , Stuart Kostera , Chris Gilmour , Lauren Gray , Charlie Hollings