|Kumho Tyres Australian F3 Championship to notch up 150th championship race, at Phillip Island
By: Richard Craill Date: 29/7/2008 at 4:51:15 PM
|THE KUMHO TYRES Australian Formula 3 Championship will celebrate a milestone at the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit next weekend when drivers contest the 150th points-scoring Formula 3 race held in Australia.
The only Open Wheel category in Australia to comply to fully international FIA-standard regulations, Formula 3 was introduced to Australia in 1999 and in the past three years especially has rapidly grown to new levels of competition and respect within the domestic motorsport landscape.
2008 marks the 10th anniversary of the series formation as a CAMS-sanctioned series or championship and race one of two at Phillip Island – as part of the penultimate round of the 2008 Australian Drivers Championship – will be the 150th points-scoring race held.
F3 Australia has also held 12 non-championship races at the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.
The first FIA-spec Formula 3 car was imported into Australia in 1999 by current team owner Bronte Rundle, the Dallara F396 specification car one of a handful to be brought into the country in time for the beginning of the series.
The first 'official' Formula 3 race in Australia (then as a National series) was held at Mallala raceway on May 30th, 1999.
Young Victorian driver Paul Stephenson (then 22 years old) had qualified on pole (1m09.59s), almost a full second ahead of Chas Jacobsen and Sam Astuti – now the team owner of top outfit Astuti Motorsport.
The pace of development in F3 was shown this year with the pole position time (1m04.41s) a full five seconds faster – an average improvement in lap time of over half a second per season.
The morning warm-up on Sunday was held in damp conditions but the track was dry – though it was a cold and windy day - for the race, and witnessed an explosive start from Astuti from the second row to lead lap one.
Sadly Astuti’s run wouldn’t last much further however as he spun at turn three, on lap two of the race.
”I was running a car with a 24mm restrictor against the 26mm F3 cars and I got a brilliant start,” Astuti remembers.
”I led the first lap and it was all looking great until I spun at the hairpin and I guess I couldn’t refire the car. It was a really good time though and the field was quite good – you had a great mix of cars like the new F3 cars and the likes of Brian Sampson and me in the 24mm cars, the older Dallara’s and Reynard’s.”
”It was great back then. The field was quite strong and the racing was good. It was great to be a part of and it still is, though remembering all of this makes me want to look at a comeback!”
Chas Jacobsen assumed the lead, only to be passed by Paul Stephenson on the fourth lap – a lead that the eventual champion wouldn’t loose.
Jacobsen then engaged another current team owner – Bronte Rundle – in a massive dice for second and third for the remainder of the 10-lap affair, Rundle coming home second. Former Bathurst Champion Brian Sampson was fourth and Bronte’s sun Mark – now Team Manager at Team BRM – fifth.
Scud Racing team owner Bill Maddocks was another to compete, racing in the clubman division driving a Richards 201B – a car designed and constructed by Ian Richards – current owner of R-Tek and a championship winning engineer.
”Formula 3 was, is fantastic. If I had money I’d still be in it,” race one winner Paul Stephenson – now a leading contender in the Victorian Porsche 944 Challenge - said.
”I remember Sam (Astuti) passing about three of us on the outside on the opening lap at Mallala before he spun. After that I was able to get past Chas and won the race. I won the next couple (nine, in fact) and got the championship, it was a great year.
”F3 is fantastic. They are brilliant cars to drive – real racing cars. It took a while to grow here but it’s fantastic to see it at the level it is now. The competition is very close at the front and the grids are good. It’s great to see that it’s grown and is getting better and better.”
Between races 1 and 149, Stephenson became the most statistically successful driver in F3’s history, winning 17 races and even today remains the only driver to have won the championship twice.
Stephenson also co-holds the record for most wins in a single year (11), with Ben Clucas (2006 champion).
After it finished on the podium in the inaugural race, Team BRM – then known as Bronte Rundle Motorsport - has won 82 races (In both Championship, Trophy and National Classes) held since 1999. The team has also won the most outright titles (3).
Of active (current) drivers, Chris Gilmour has started 76 races with Tim Macrow (48) and Leanne Tander (47) close to the half-century. Trophy class driver Rod Anderson is the most capped, however, having contested over 120 races and raced every year since the series’ formation.
Eight F395/6 Dallaras raced in 1999, and began laying a foundation for the seasons ahead.
With Stephenson again winning in 2000, Peter Hackett won the final season of the ‘initial’ F3 era before a new-generation of cars revolutionised the series the following season.
James Manderson won in 2002 driving a brand-new FIA-spec 2001 model Dallara recently superseded in Europe. The car featured all of the latest international safety regulations and elevated the category further forward.
2003 marked the series most competitive year up to that point, Michael Caruso – now a V8 Supercar star – beating Bart Mawer home in a thrilling two-point fight.
After Karl Reindler just won the 2004 championship ahead of Chris Gilmour, the series took another step forward the following season with Aaron Caratti taking home the title in a 2005-spec, sequential gearboxed Dallara. That same year Formula 3 was awarded the title of ‘Australian Drivers Championship’ by CAMS with the winner taking out the Gold Star award. The series also held its 100th race at Eastern Creek that season, Caratti winning from Michael Trimble.
Since 1957 The Australian Drivers Championship for the CAMS Gold Star has been recognised as the pinnacle of Open Wheel competition domestically.
An international invasion the following season boosted the championship into the eyes of F3s heartland – Europe – thanks to Ben Clucas’ win in the 2006 championship.
2007 took competition to a new high with seven different race winners, whilst 2008 introduced the latest generation of chassis to Australia and has to date witnessed a frenetic dice for the championship between top contenders Leanne Tander, Nathan Caratti and James Winslow.
Of drivers looking to win the 150th championship race, those three stand out as likely suspects thanks to their relative championship positions and prior form at Phillip Island.
Stuart Kostera and Mat Sofi – both podium finishers at the Island in June this year – should also be counted as contenders amidst a 20-plus grid.
Of those entered, only Rod Anderson (Trophy Class Dallara F396) will have been on the grid for both the first and 150th F3 championship races.
Round 7th of the 10th anniversary Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star / Australian Drivers Championship – will be held at the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit as part of the Shannons Nationals between August 8 – 10.
JOHN BOOTHMAN TO RACE IN F3s 150th AFTER STARTING RACE 1 AT MALLALA, 1999.
The Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship would like to acknowledge and thank the support of John Boothman, who due to an oversight was missed in the Media Release issued this morning regarding our 150th championship race to be held next weekend at Phillip Island.
It needs to be noted that John has been involved in F3 since before it actually began, and was present at a meeting at a Coffee Shop in South Yarra that served as the first informal meeting of the category and was a basis on which the series has grown and developed.
John has imported five cars into the country over the ten year history of F3 and currently races in the F3 Trophy driving a JLB Global Timbers Dallara F301 – Fiat chassis.
His continued support of the series sees him entered for the 150th championship race to be held at Phillip Island, next week. At 67, John is the oldest continually competing driver in F3.
John raced in the very first F3 race at Mallala in 1999 driving a Dallara F390. After qualifying 13th, he finished 10th in race one, 12th in race two and 11th in the third.
Boothman finished a strong 3rd in the 2007 F3 National Class competition.
Race Torque Media apologies for the oversight of not including John in the initial Media Release.
Race Results – Race 1, Mallala Raceway, May 30 1999.
1. Paul Stephenson (VIC) - Dallara 396 12:00.7156
2. Bronte Rundle (SA) - Dallara 396 12:05.2000
3. Chas Jacobsen (VIC) - Dallara 396 12:06.3819
4. Brian Sampson (VIC) - Dallara 393 12:08.3638
5. Mark Rundle (SA) - Dallara 395 12:12.9872
6. Graham Blee (VIC) - Reynard 923 12:23.2880
7. Peter Rees (VIC) - Reynard 923 12:26.0609
8. Graeme Holmes (NSW) - Reynard 913 12:26.7879
9. Bill Maddocks (VIC) - Richards 201B 12:57.7200
10. John Boothman (VIC) - Dallara 390 12:58.1333
DNF. Frank Cascone (VIC) - Dallara 391 8:19.4407
DNF. Rod Anderson (VIC) - Reynard 893 3:49.4294
DNF. Sam Astuti (VIC) - Dallara 391 1:19.0012
DNF. Sean Cussell (VIC) - Dallara 395