ALAJAJIAN LOOKING TO KEEP MOMENTUM BUILDING AT PHILLIP ISLAND Stepping into a championship midway through season is never easy, but if you looked at the form of Protecnica Racing and Chris Alajajian in the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 ...
ALAJAJIAN LOOKING TO KEEP MOMENTUM BUILDING AT PHILLIP ISLAND
Stepping into a championship midway through season is never easy, but if you looked at the form of Protecnica Racing and Chris Alajajian in the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star you could be forgiven for thinking otherwise.
Entering their third weekend in Australia's premier open wheeler class, the team heads to Phillip Island Raceway in Victoria, this weekend for round six of the 2005 championship.
Protecnica took control of the car in late June and since its F3 debut, in round four of eight, also the team's first experience running an open wheeler, the Sydney based squad have been punching above their weight in what is a very public classroom.
Entering this weekend, Chris Alajajian is yet to finish off the Formula 3 podium with Protecnica Racing. The eighteen year old Sydneysider claimed a third and second place in the round at Queensland Raceway, and backed it up with a pair of second place finishes at Eastern Creek Raceway last month, where he closed to within ten points of second placed Michael Trimble in the series standings.
Making the experience that much harder, the team had yet to hold a test day, something which was rectified earlier in the week at Phillip Island.
"The test went well," said Alajajian. "We didn't make many changes to the car during the day. We were really just doing laps to see how the car was going. Obviously we wanted to check the basic setup on the car and the handling, but the main thing was spending some time in the car and collecting data to look at before practice starts on Friday.
"It was great to get a chance to test the car. Considering we had never tested or run a Formula 3 car before, the guys have done an excellent job, but a test day helps out a lot.
"Track time at race meetings is so limited, and you can't afford to try anything radical on the car setup because of the ground you will lose. Having a chance to spend some time doing lots of laps, collecting lots of data and being able to think about things at our own pace, without having to hurry between sessions, will help and put is in good shape for this weekend."
It was also Alajajian's first chance to work with experienced F3 engineer and former Sauber F1 engineer Othmar Welti. Welti will take the time out from his duties with German F3 team Swiss Racing Team to spend a weekend working with Alajajian and Protecnica Racing.
"One of the main things we looked at during the day working with Othmar was my driving style. We have never worked together before, so during the day he was able to get a good idea of how I drive the car and what I look for from the car.
"Then, with that information, when we get to the track on Friday morning we will be ready to go and start making adjustments. It will be a good learning experience for myself during the weekend."
As one of the most awe inspiring circuits in the land, complete with an average speed in the region of 180km/hr for Formula 3, it is little wonder 'The Island' is a driver favourite.
"It is a very fast and challenging track for a driver," says Alajajian of the picturesque 4.45km circuit, which overlooks Bass Straight. "In the high speed corners like turn one and Lukey Heights, being smooth and consistent is especially important.
"It has a smooth surface which is good for cars like ours, and the circuit itself is very professionally set-up. And, while you don't get a chance to take it in as a driver, it has a pretty good view!"
Phillip Island Raceway will see the racing debut of the cars new livery. Put together by the team at Jack Hillermans Smash, Alajajian is hoping the livery's source of inspiration will be a good omen.
"I saw the car at my Dads panel shop one day, and there was a picture of a Renault Formula 1 car on the wall," Alajajian explains, "so I figured that they were going to paint the Renault colours on the car. The next time I came back, the car had been sanded back, painted and signed up.
"It looks exceptional; I can't wait to get it on the track this weekend and hopefully with the same colours as the Renault's of Fernando Alonso and Giancarlo Fisichella it will see some success with us as well."
A two day pass for this weekends round of the Australian Motor Racing Series at the picturesque Phillip Island Raceway, south of Melbourne, is just $20, with kids under 16 free.