PERFECT DAY FOR CLUCAS AS BRITISH DRIVER DOMINATES AUSTRALIAN F3 SEASON OPENER British driver Ben Clucas leads the race for the 50th anniversary CAMS Gold Star award after dominating today's opening round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3...
PERFECT DAY FOR CLUCAS AS BRITISH DRIVER DOMINATES AUSTRALIAN F3 SEASON OPENER
British driver Ben Clucas leads the race for the 50th anniversary CAMS Gold Star award after dominating today's opening round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship at Wakefield Park Raceway.
Clucas today comfortably won both races at the 2.2km-long circuit just outside of Goulburn in regional New South Wales, scored both fastest laps and now has a handy 16-point lead in the championship race after the first of eight rounds this season.
The Team BRM / Gawler Farm Machinery drivers' stunning wins were set up in the early laps of both races, using crushing pace in the opening few laps to build a comfortable buffer on the chasing pack.
Clucas lead the opening race by almost three seconds after the first three laps, and went on to win by almost five. He repeated the performance in race two, winning by over 10 seconds in a day of domination.
"Apart from the second qualifying session it was the perfect weekend," Clucas enthused.
"It went perfectly. I was very pleased with the consistency I had in both races today.
"The last thing you want to do is start the championship with a non-finish, so to start with two wins is better than I could imagine.
"Thanks to team BRM for a fantastic car and to all of my sponsors for their support." He said.
Victorian driver Michael Trimble used consistency to score a solid haul of championship points at Wakefield Park, taking third and second-place results in the two races respectively and building a strong foundation for his championship challenge in the process.
Whilst not able to quite match the pace of the leader, Trimble's Astuti Motorsport Dallara progressively improved over the course of the weekend, giving the 21-year-old reason for hope for the year ahead.
"To be honest, we ended the weekend how we would have liked to start it," he said.
"The pace was good in the final race and we are still improving so I'm quite happy with the weekend.
"We've got a strong haul of points to kick the championship off and build on at the next round."
After showing promising pace in second qualifying, Sydneysider Chris Alajajian had a mixed race day in his Insight F3 Dallara F304.
Alajajian scored a fighting second in the opening 20-lap race behind Clucas, whilst a high-speed spin in the early stages of race two ended any chances of a podium finish -- Sixth being the end result.
After making a reasonable getaway from pole position and settling in behind Clucas in the second race, Alajajian spun his Jack Hillermans -- sponsored car at speed in turn two. The car was undamaged and was able to resume after a short stop in the scenery.
"I had focused on warming the brakes up on the warm up lap," said Alajajian.
"Unfortunately going into turn two the rear brakes locked and I spun. There was a lot of dirt and dust on the circuit from a previous race and once I hit that I was gone.
"It was very disappointing because I was hoping to have raced with the leader in the second race and get some more points for the championship."
Tim Macrow utilized consistency to score strong results this weekend, finishing fourth in the opening race and a competitive third in race two.
The Victorian privateer often showed glimpses of his strong 2005 form this weekend and would be poised to be a championship contender if not for a lack of funds threatening the remainder of his 2006 campaign.
Macrow said that the results were pleasing, if not quite good enough.
"It is good to be on the podium," he said after race two.
"We just haven't quite had the chance or the speed to challenge the leading two or three this weekend, but we were able to be consistent and score some really good points.
"If we can find the budget we will certainly be back and challenging for even better results later this season."
Competitors behind the leading quartet experienced frustrating -- yet promising for some -- results today.
Leanne Tander scored seventh and fifth-place results after a difficult day, an off track excursion in the opening race backed up by a solid run in race two.
The Fleetcare Tander Sport driver still managed to score 14 points this weekend and has established a base with which to build on this season.
Queenslander Chris Gilmour's day went from frustrating to promising in the end, an electrical fault in the opening race leaving Gilmour stranded in pit lane for the first three laps of the opening race.
The Cooltemp Australia-supported team believed the fault to be water in the car's electrics after the Dallara's Fire bomb was accidentally set off after qualifying yesterday.
The team was able to fix the problem overnight thanks to a loaned extinguisher from Insight F3, Gilmour a much happier fourth in race two.
In the new National Class competition a battle between Ricky Occhipinti and Tim Berryman looks set to be one of the highlights this season, the pair each taking a race win and a fastest lap in the two races today.
Occhipinti was a late arrival this weekend, but said that he was ready to challenge for the National class title in 2006.
"It was a really rushed effort to get here this weekend, but we did it and were pretty competitive," the Geelong, Victoria, driver said.
"We're confident that we'll be able to complete the year and shoot for the National Class Crown.
Fellow Melbournian Lauren Gray was the sole representative in the Trophy Class competition this weekend, giving her Scud Racing Dallara more miles and a strong points haul in preparation for the class' contenders expected to return to the championship later this season.
The next round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the 50th anniversary CAMS Gold Star award will be held at Tasmania's Symmons Plains Raceway, near Launceston, in April.
Championship Points -- After 1 of 8 rounds.
1. Ben Clucas (Team BRM / Gawler Farm Machinery) 43
2. Michael Trimble (Astuti Motorsport ) 27
3. Tim Macrow (Tim Macrow Racing) 22
4. Chris Alajajian (Insight F3 / Jack Hillermans) 21
5. Leanne Tander (Fleetcare Tander Sport) 14
1. Tim Berryman 38
2. Ricky Occhipinti 36
3. Chris Barry 24
1. Lauren Gray 44