AUSF3: Oran Park: Series preview

LOCAL LEADS A BIG GRID AS FORMULA 3's 2008 SEASON RESUMES IN SYDNEY In the first round of the 2008 season, teams and drivers from within the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship had to deal with sodden conditions and an abbreviated ...


In the first round of the 2008 season, teams and drivers from within the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship had to deal with sodden conditions and an abbreviated second-race, at Eastern Creek in late January.

In round two they had to deal with the Clipsal 500 Adelaides' notorious bumps and hard, unforgiving concrete walls.

Now, after a two-month break, the challengers have to adapt to the news that they will have six rounds in six months in which to decide the winner of the 2008 Australian Drivers Championship -- starting this weekend at Oran Park Raceway in South Western Sydney.

Essentially, Oran Park will be where the 2008 Championship really begins.

The undulating Narellan circuit has been a bastion of close Formula 3 battles throughout the past two years, close times and competitive racing culminating in the stunning 2007 championship decider held at the circuit late last year.

Oran Park has also been the scene of some stunningly close qualifying action -- four of the last six pole winners scraping their way onto the top spot by less than one-tenth of a second.

That closeness of competition should be reflected in the field entered for this weekend's third round of 2008, points leader Neil McFadyen leading the way into his home championship round.

But McFadyen won't have it all his own way; with Formula 3 Australia chairman James Rosenberg conforming today he anticipates a grid of between 19 to 21 cars for the round.

"We are looking at a fantastic grid for Oran Park and its proof that nothing has really changed since Clipsal," he said.

"We should have at least 19 cars on the grid and possibly a few more. There is a new F307 car being run by Sam Astuti's team as well as the cars that have already shown their capabilities in the first two rounds.

"The championship is moving forward with confidence and the support of our competitors. We are very excited about the year ahead with great fields and the great racing the championship produces."

Neil McFadyen, from Sydney suburb Liverpool, assumed the lead of the championship with a record-breaking run at the Clipsal 500 aboard his #27 Industrie Clothing Dallara F307 -- Mercedes, prepared by Sydney outfit Piccola Scuderia Corse.

McFadyen is now the quickest ever driver to lap the current Adelaide street circuit after smashing the outright lap record in race two as he went on to record his first win in a Formula 3 car and, based on times from testing last week, he could be on track to do something similar this weekend.

Though times were unofficial, he was quickest of all when 14 cars gathered to test last Monday, banking a 1m02.6s lap; a massive 1.2s under the exiting Oran Park Formula 3 Lap record.

"I love Oran Park, it has to be my favourite track," he enthused.

"It's very challenging and in these cars it's a lot of fun. We had a great test day there on Monday (last week) and showed a lot of pace. It's obviously going to be very competitive but I'm looking forward to trying to extend our championship lead."

Second in the championship, James Winslow, swaps teams for Oran Park after recently confirming he'll drive for Astuti Motorsport in their brand-new Renault powered Dallara F307.

Winslow shook down the car for the first time at the Oran Park test and lapped competitively.

Looking to capitalise on the disappearance from the entry list of two drivers -- Ben Clucas and Earl Bamber -- will be Team BRM's Nathan Caratti, TanderSport star Leanne Tander and Transwest / RALT driver Mat Sofi.

Caratti won the opening race of the year at Eastern Creek and sits fourth in the championship, whilst Tander has had a tough initiation to her new car this season, ending her Clipsal 500 run in the wall after being caught out in a multi-car pileup.

Tander has prior Oran Park form to draw on, however; She scored both pole positions at the track in last years' season finale' and in six qualifying efforts at the track has never started lower than fourth.

Sydneysider Mat Sofi -- who lives just ten minutes from the track -- will be another to look for the maximum possible points at his home round after a difficult start to the year.

Oran Park action will include the close battle for the National Class -- where Queenslander Chris Gilmour and Irishman Lee Farrell are split by just two points -- and also the Trophy Class battle where 16 year-old Justin Tate will look to close the gap to class leader Andrew Mill. (Previews forthcoming).

Two races, each 17-laps, will be contested on Sunday as part of the second round of the 2008 Shannons Nationals, also featuring Supertrucks, Commodore Cup, Saloon Cars and the Touring Car Masters. <pre> Championship Points -- After 2 of 8 Rounds

1. Neil McFadyen (Piccola Scuderia Corse) 46 2. James Winslow (Astuti Motorsport) 37 3. Ben Clucas (Team BRM) 36 4. Nathan Caratti (Team BRM) 29 5. Earl Bamber (Team BRM) 23 6. Leanne Tander (TanderSport) 19 7. Mat Sofi (Transwest Racing) 18 8. Stuart Kostera (Scud Racing) 17 9. Ray Chamberlain (Astuti Motorsport) 11

National Class Points -- After 2 of 8 Rounds

1. Lee Farrell 50 2. Chris Gilmour 48 3. Daniel Schulz 41 4. Mathew Radisich 34 5. James Crozier 18

Trophy Class Points -- After 2 of 8 Rounds

1. Andrew Mill 60 2. Justin Tate 45 3. Jesse Wakeman 35 4. Rod Anderson 32 5. John Boothman 30

-credit: formula3.com.au

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About this article
Series F3
Drivers Ben Clucas , Neil McFadyen , James Winslow , John Booth , Leanne Tander , Earl Bamber , Stuart Kostera , Nathan Caratti , Chris Gilmour , Ray Chamberlain , Jesse Wakeman , Mathew Radisich , Andrew Mill