AUSTRALIAN F3 STAGES THRILLING SECOND ROUND AT SYMMONS PLAINS Leading trio Ben Clucas, Michael Trimble and Chris Alajajian have together raised the level of competition in Australian Open Wheel racing at Symmons Plains raceway in Tasmania this...
AUSTRALIAN F3 STAGES THRILLING SECOND ROUND AT SYMMONS PLAINS
Leading trio Ben Clucas, Michael Trimble and Chris Alajajian have together raised the level of competition in Australian Open Wheel racing at Symmons Plains raceway in Tasmania this weekend.
All three drivers produced storming performances throughout this weekend's second round of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship and left the Symmons Plains crowd enthralled with a series of thrilling battles today.
After targeting the 26-year-old Symmons Plains lap outright record -- held by Alf Costanzo in an F5000 lola-Chev -- heading into the weekend before promptly downplaying expectations heading into the races, all three drivers today gave the old time a nudge - Clucas falling an agonizing four-hundredths short of the benchmark (51.54 seconds) in the opening race.
Drivers did, however, smash the existing F3 record at the circuit, lowering the existing margin by over 1.5 seconds.
It was British ace Clucas who won the first 25-lap encounter today, leading Alajajian home in a race that saw the two young stars trade fastest times at the top of the timesheets.
The margin at the end was just under a second, with Michael Trimble recovering from a slow start to fill the minor podium position.
It was race two, however, that produced perhaps one of the best races in the series' short history.
After making the best of the starts from Pole, Insight F3 driver Alajajian lead Trimble and Clucas into the opening turn and the trio quickly broke away from the chasing pack.
On lap three Clucas moved into second place thanks to a bold move on Trimble into the final corner and promptly zoned onto the leading Alajajian, moving past into the lead on lap 8.
Clucas would only lead for one lap, however, Alajajian moving past back to the point on the following lap.
It was clear that Clucas had a problem when Trimble moved into the second on lap eleven, the BRM driver slowing a second a lap and leaving the two leaders to escape to a comfortable margin.
The pair promptly engaged into a close battle for the win, Trimble executing a thrilling slipstreaming pass to take the lead with just six laps remaining, holding on to record a stunning victory after a last minute dive into the final corner by Alajajian saw the Insight car run off the track but recover for
Clucas limped home into third place after a broken exhaust sapped his car of power for the second half of the race.
The raced produced three lead changes and three different race leaders throughout its 25-lap duration.
"It's great to get a win this weekend because we really needed one to keep ourselves in contention for the championship," Trimble enthused after the second race today.
"It would have been nice to have had the pace we showed at the Grand Prix, but we got some really good points this weekend and the car was good.
"The racing has been really good this weekend. Alajajian was running a lot of wing on his car so it wasn't too hard to close up behind him and pass. It would've been hard if he had been running less wing, but that's the way it worked out." He said.
"We are very happy and definitely looking forward to the next round."
Alajajian -- who leaves Tasmania with a consistent and competitive pair of second place finishes to his name -- was philosophical about his result in the second race after leading for many of the early laps.
"I was getting lonely out in front so I let the others close up, and I guess I just timed it wrong," he smiled.
"We had lots of speed this weekend and it was just good to get some finishes and score some good points.
"It was really good racing this weekend and I think that it will be like that for the rest of the year."
Clucas was pleased with his race one result.
"I am pleased with the pace that we had," the championship leader said.
"It was good to work my way into the lead after only six or seven laps in the second race. Unfortunately after that it looks like we may have cracked an exhaust so the car lost a lot of power and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to finish.
"In the end I drove for championship points and brought the car home in third place in race two." He said.
The battle for the top six positions was just as close as those fought for the lead, Chris Gilmour, Leanne Tander and Tim Macrow all running close together this weekend to each add to their respective championship scores.
Gilmour finished a strong fourth in the second race in the debut of his new car, backing up a solid 6th place effort in the opening race in a performance that has shown just some of the potential of the affable Queenslander's new car.
Macrow fought hard all weekend and was one of the consistent improvers, scoring the same results as Gilmour -- a fourth and a sixth -- to end the day tied on points with his Queensland rival.
After making wholesale changes to his Dallara F301 overnight, Macrow was much closer to the pace today and continues to slowly close the margin to the leading competitors despite his small budget and aging vehicle.
Leanne Tander scored a pair of fifth-place finishes, but not before fighting a titanic battle for the position in the second race today with Tim Macrow.
After running sixth for a majority of the event, Tander slipped by the Victorian with six laps to go to score the Fleetcare Team's third-fifth place this weekend.
Ricky Occhipinti and Maher Algadri shared National Class honors today, Occhipinti left stranded with just a few laps remaining in the second race thanks to a broken gearbox after a strong weekend.
Rod Anderson, making his first round start for 2006, lead home the trophy contingent although Lauren Gray still holds the class' points lead. <pre> Championship Points -- after 2 of 8 Rounds 1. Ben Clucas 77 2. Michael Trimble 61 3. Chris Alajajian 52 4. Tim Macrow 38 5. Leanne Tander 30 6. Chris Gilmour 29
National Class leader Ricky Occhipinti 60 Trophy Class leader Lauren Gray 68