A PROMISING YET ULTIMATELY FRUSTRATING WEEKEND AT PHILLIP ISLAND 'That's racing.' Arguably, it's the most overused cliche in motorsport. After a troubled race day at Phillip Island in the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the...
A PROMISING YET ULTIMATELY FRUSTRATING WEEKEND AT PHILLIP ISLAND
'That's racing.' Arguably, it's the most overused cliche in motorsport. After a troubled race day at Phillip Island in the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star, though, it's probably the best way to describe the weekend of Protecnica Racing and Chris Alajajian.
Chris Alajajian entered the day looking to score a solid pair of results to aid his battle for second place in the championship. In each race, the 18 year old Sydneysider showed pace, before race results eventually proved elusive. A day without adding to his championship points tally also putting paid to his mathematical chance at the title.
In the first race of the day, Alajajian made an excellent start from fourth on the grid, to challenge the leaders into turn one and move up to second place. He quickly asserted himself as a threat, challenging and eventually making a move on race leader Michael Trimble in turn one to take the race lead.
Trimble snuck back past under brakes at the Honda Hairpin, but Alajajian made an almost carbon copy of his turn one move a lap later to cement his position at the head of the field. He built a lead, keeping the challengers at bay, until the race turned pear shaped on lap six.
Alajajian made light contact with a lapped car around the back part of the circuit while attempting to navigate the traffic, and speared into the wall, ending what had been an extremely promising race and ending Protecnica's perfect record of Formula 3 race podiums.
"From my perspective, myself and Aaron [Caratti] were about to lap one of the cars," said Alajajian. "Leading the race, with Aaron right behind me there was a bit of pressure, so I was trying to get past as quickly as possible.
"Coming into turn 9, I went to the outside. There wasn't enough room to get past, so I went back to the inside and when my nose was about half way down the inside he went back towards the inside. I backed off but it was too late, our tyres touched and I went airborne."
The Protecnica Racing crew worked frenetically between races to turn the car around. It paid off, with the finishing touches being put on the car just in the nick of time -- as the rest of the field headed out onto the track.
There was no repeat of race one's blinding start, but Alajajian settled into a top six position and looked to make a charge as the laps ticked by. While battling with Daynom Templeman, he moved past Tim Macrow; however it all came to naught a number of laps later when Templeman and Alajajian clashed while fighting for the same piece of real estate exiting MG corner. It put both drivers in the gravel trap and out of the race.
"We were head to head around the back of the circuit and I had oversteer, but recovered through MG," Alajajian explained. "Exiting there and going towards the last corner, we were neck and neck. I had the inside line and he wouldn't back off, and if I had backed off, we most likely would have collided anyway. It was a racing incident and one of those things.
"Luck just wasn't on our side today. I want to thank the Protecnica team for getting the car back together in time for race two after the incident I had in the first race, so it was a shame we couldn't get a result in the race for them and Othmar who came all this way and put in a lot of time and effort. "
Despite the lack of results, though, Protecnica Racing is able to take some positives and added knowledge away from the weekend, having worked with renowned Formula 3 engineer Othmar Welti.
"It wasn't a good weekend for the team in terms of results, but in terms of the bigger picture, it was a good weekend," said Protecnica Racing engineer Matt Thio. "For a young engineer such as myself, and a team so new to Formula 3 like Protecnica, it was a phenomenal learning opportunity to spend a weekend working with someone with as much experience and knowledge as Othmar.
"The way he went about the car setup is very different to the way most teams in Australia work, and his whole approach is very professional and thorough. It was a pleasure to work with him."
For his part, the Swiss Racing Team engineering chief and ex-Sauber F1 engineer enjoyed most aspects of his down under working holiday.
"The weather has been a bit strange," Welti quipped. "The last two days have been OK, but the other day wasn't a very good impression, especially coming from summer time for me in Europe and what everybody says about Australian weather.
"I think if we had more luck in the first race this morning it could have been a very nice weekend. They [Protecnica Racing] did a very good job this weekend. They do everything well, it was just bad luck today."
At the completion of round six of eight, Chris Alajajian maintains third place in the series standings. However, today's DNF's has seen the previously ten point deficit second placed Michael Trimble increase to forty, while fourth placed Chris Gilmour now closes to within eight. Aaron Caratti further extended his championship lead after taking a pair of wins today.
After a busy couple of months, Protecnica Racing now takes a break. The next round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star sees the series return to Eastern Creek Raceway in Sydney on November 4-6, as a support to the Australian leg of A1 Grand Prix.
Protecnica Racing thanks the ongoing support of Jack Hillermans Smash, Elf Oil, Scuderia Veloce Motors, Nudie, Workflow Systems, Bilstein, Moody Kiddell & Partners, Heasman Steering, Disc Brakes Australia, Hawk Performance, Monza Mens Boutique, H & R Springs and APT Signs.