AUSF3: Symmons Plains round two preview

F3 TESTING HEATS UP FREEZING CONDITIONS AT SYMMONS PLAINS Racing car drivers are usually used to coping with all conditions that Mother Nature throws at them -- and yesterday's test session in preparation for Round 2 of the 2006 Kumho Tyres...


Racing car drivers are usually used to coping with all conditions that Mother Nature throws at them -- and yesterday's test session in preparation for Round 2 of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship was no exception.

Tasmania's Symmons Plains raceway yesterday started out relatively dry before heavy rain mid morning created extremely wet conditions at the circuit just outside Launceston.

Conditions were so fierce that there was even a considerable snowfall on the mountains that surround the picturesque circuit, with more forecast today.

Eight of this weekend's fourteen-car entry logged laps in the full-day test session, a number of competitors completing a solid shakedown for the weekend's second round of the championship.

Team BRM Driver - and current championship leader - Ben Clucas got his opportunity to shine in conditions similar to what is the norm in his usual Motorsport scene in England, getting his first chance of being behind the wheel in wet conditions since his arrival in Australia earlier this year.

Clucas completed a number of fully-wet laps in his John Deere sponsored car yesterday before a broken gearbox input shaft ended his day early.

"The track is very good," the British driver said after his run today.

"Although it only has three real corners they are all quite challenging.

"The day went quite well. It's a shame that we had the problem with the input shaft but it's good that it happened today and not the Friday, Saturday or Sunday of the race meeting.

"We'll just have to wait until Friday to see how we go against the other competitors when everyone is here." He added.

Clucas' closest rival in the championship after the first round -- Astuti Motorsport driver Michael Trimble -- completed a number of wet laps today and showed that the team has rebounded well following on from their disappointing Grand Prix showing last weekend.

Team owner Sam Astuti was pleased with the day's efforts.

"I'm very happy with where we are at," the Melbourne-based team owner said.

"We got lots of useful data today. It would have been nice to have gotten in some dry running but we missed that window.

"We think that the car is very good. We have put a lot of work into it since the Grand Prix and we're ready." He said.

Fleetcare Tander Sport driver Leanne Tander had her first real meaningful wet weather hit out in a Formula 3 car, gaining significant experience in the conditions in her first real wet drive since her first ever test of a Formula 3 car early last season.

Tander, who currently sits 5th in the Australian Drivers Championship for the CAMS Gold Star, heads into the weekend looking to continue her -- and her team's -- steep learning curve in the world of Formula 3 competition.

"I'm happy with how it went today," she said.

"I usually like the faster circuits but I'm actually quite enjoying it (Symmons Plains). It was really the first time that we were able to get experience in the wet conditions because the last time I drove in the wet it was my first test in a Formula 3 car.

"I think that we have a chance to be very competitive this weekend," Tander added.

And whilst the weather was cold, the new car presented yesterday by Gilmour Racing certainly injected some warmth into the day's proceedings.

Sporting a striking new Orange and White livery, the Queensland team's new Dallara F304 recently purchased from Prema Powerteam was given its first shakedown in preparation for driver Chris Gilmour's attack on this weekends round and the remainder of the championship.

Utilizing experience gained from driving Cooltemp Racing's similar car in the opening round of this years series', Gilmour said that his family-run team was happy with the first hit out aboard the new #17 entry.

"Things went pretty well today," the affable Queenslander said after the test.

"The car was very good to drive. We had a couple of little problems but it's best that we found them today instead of during the race weekend.

"We learnt a lot about these cars running the Cooltemp car so we are taking what we learnt from that into the new car and going forward from that. It's nice to drive so hopefully we should have a good weekend." He said.

West Australian Formula Ford driver Nathan Caratti stepped back into the Dallara he drove for Champion team Insight F3 last season yesterday, completing a number of laps of the Symmons Plains circuit in preparation for his return to Australian Formula 3 this weekend.

Stephen Borness, Jason Vince and Maher Algadri also completed laps.

Queensland-based Vince emerged unscathed from a substantial impact into the tyre barrier just before the well known Symmons plains hairpin, the team repairing the Kings transport-supported car in time to give the F3 Rookie some more laps at the end of the day.

This weekend's racing marks the first time since 2003 that the wings-and-slicks Formula 3 cars have visited the Tasmanian circuit, with lap records expected to tumble thanks to the recently resurfaced track.

V8 Supercar driver Garth Tander -- on hand to crew on wife Leanne's car -- expected the lap record to be comfortably undercut this weekend.

"We were about four seconds quicker here after the resurfacing in the V8s, so I would expect these cars to be able to break the 50-second barrier," he explained.

"The grip on the circuit has dropped off by about thirtry percent in the few years since they have resurfaced it, but it should still be very fast for these cars."

Opening practice for the second round of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship gets underway this Friday morning.


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Series F3
Drivers Garth Tander , Ben Clucas , Stephen Borness , Leanne Tander , Nathan Caratti , Chris Gilmour , Algadri Maher