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ROUND 1 - Sands takes the Thriller in the Night   
Story By: Administrator  Date: 19/02/2022 at 7:11:58 PM 
After 349 days the Australian Formula 3 Championship has roared back into life at Sydney Motorsport Park, for round 1 of the 2022 season. In the end it was Noah Sands who came out on top after a drama filled weekend that saw racing under lights for the first time in the category and the final race delayed and cut short due to the track breaking up at turn 1.

In cool conditions cars ventured onto the track for qualifying where it was R-Tek Motorsportís Mitchell Neilson who took his first ever Australian Formula 3 pole and with it the $500 All Properties Group Pole Position Award.
Neilsonís 1:24.2689 eclipsed Glimour Racingís Noah Sands by 3-tenths of a second with Tim Macrow Racingís Trent Grubel running in the new Dallara F312/16 a further 2-tenths back in 3rd. R-Tekís Max de Meyrick and Tim Macrowís Ben Taylor completed the top 5, all within just over a second of Neilsonís time.

R-Tekís Andrew Roberts was 6th ahead of 99 Motorsportís Ryan Astley and Tim Macrowís Ross McAlpine. Ruff Racingís Gerrit Ruff didnít manage to complete a lap with gearbox issues.

Race 1 was a close affair off the line with Sands squeezing Neilson into turn 1 follow by Grubel and De Meyrick, things got even closer into turn turn with light contact between the front 2. Sands was then able to ease out a lead crossing the line to win his first ever Australian Formula 3 race on debut. Grubel got past Neilson when he ran wide at the final turn to take 2nd with Taylor close behind in 4th.

Roberts crossed the line 5th taking the National class win with McAlpine 6th. De Meyrick retired on lap 7 after developing a gear selection issue whilst Ruff didnít complete the warm up lap with his gearbox gremlins, 99 Motorsport didnít make it out of the garage due due mechanical issue.

Race 2 start
Race 2 start - pic: Riccardo Benvenuti, Priceless Images

Race 2 was an even closer affair. Pole-sitting Sands suffered a clutch issue of the start and slipped down to 7th by turn 2. Grubel took the lead and was hounded all the way by Neilson eventually winning out by 9-tenths at the flag.

DeMeyrick had a storming start from 7th on the grid to be 3rd by the end of the opening lap, he pace with the leaders for most of the race to finish 3rd just ahead of a recovered Sands. Taylor was 5th ahead of Astley who held off Roberts. McAlpine rounds out the field with still trying to get his car on the grid for the feature race.

Race 3 was the first ever Australian Formula 3 night race and there was drama shortly before the start when officials discovered the tarmac at the flat out turn one was breaking up, there was a lengthy delay with officials finally giving the go-ahead nearly half an hour later.

All drivers formed a gentleman's agreement that after a safety car restart, racing would not resume until after turn two. Neilson lead Grubel followed by Sands for the restart as drivers followed a single file through to turn two as agreed. From there Sands unleashed making two consecutive outside passes at turn 2 around first Grubel for second place and then Nielsen for the win. Nielsen would then run wide allowing Grubel through for second and De Meyrick for the final podium place. Taylor would come home fourth ahead of Roberts who managed to hold off Astley. Ruff finally resolved his gearbox issues to come home 8th ahead of McAlpine.

Sands sweeps around the outside of Neilson
Sands would go on to pass both Grubel and Neilson for the win - pic: Riccardo Benvenuti, Priceless Images

For Sands it was the perfect way to commence his Australian Formula 3 campaign, taking two race wins and the round victory and championship lead heading into round two at The Bend in April. In the National class R-Tek duo Roberts and De Meyrick tied on points for the round with De Meyrick taking of the round win on a count back.

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