Nathan Caratti edges ahead as Formula 3 drama gets unleashed on the Island
16/06/2008 at 4:22:06 AM:

NATHAN CARATTI has edged ahead to the largest margin of the 2008 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship season after a pair of stunning race performances during a competitive, combative and controversial fifth round of the championship held at Phillip Island in Victoria.

Caratti edged out Leanne Tander by less than one-tenth to record a thrilling victory in race one before charging to second in race two from seventh on the grid, to comfortably score the most points this weekend.

The Perth-based Team BRM driver now leads the Australian Drivers Championship by 18 points with three rounds – six races – remaining on the schedule this season. Caratti’s triumph was the 80th championship race win for his Adelaide-based outfit.

Caratti began his day in the best possible way by going head-to-head with polesitter Leanne Tander in race one in a thrilling contest.

After getting the best jump off the line, Tander led to turn one whilst contact set back the hopes of two leading contenders behind her soon after.

Neil McFadyen made contact with the rear of James Winslows’ car on lap four on the entry to the Honda hairpin, sending McFadyen spiralling down the order and leaving Winslow’s Team BRM Dallara beached in the mud on the entry to the corner.

The safety car was called to the circuit for two laps with Tander leading to the green flag on lap seven – only to be passed by Caratti on the restart. After repassing her rival, the pair waged a thrilling battle for the next few laps, regularly swapping the lead in an intense dice for the lead.

Caratti slipped past four laps from home and withheld a concerted attack to the line to win by just .0695s.

”It was great to win, it was the race I really needed to do well in because we didn’t qualify well for race two,” Caratti said afterwards.

”It was a fantastic race. I had a really great dice with Leanne for most of it – it was very clean and a lot of fun. Our car had great straight line speed so I was able to use the tow and get past her. She didn’t have so much and once she was behind me didn’t have as good a chance at getting by. It’s a great win and very important for the championship.”

Stuart Kostera scored Scud Racings’ first podium finish of the season with a rapid drive to third place whilst Mat Sofi slashed the existing, five year old lap record in his charge though the field from the lower half of the top ten, finishing fourth.

Race two featured more dramatics with an incident on a race restart throwing the results into confusion.

James Winslow made the best start and led the field to turn two, but had to face concerted pressure from both Tander and a flying Kostera.

However a safety car called on the opening lap due to a stranded car at turn one again bunched the field up – and it was on the restart where the controversy occurred.

Running close behind Winslow, Tander and Kostera were both penalised for overlapping on a race restart after they split Winslow on the run to the line. Both claimed a hesitation in Winslow’s progress – however both were black-flagged at the time and given a drive through penalty.

Winslow held of Caratti for the remainder of the race to record an eventual 1-2 for Team BRM and his second win for the year, whilst Mat Sofi battled with a recovering Neil McFadyen – who had run off the circuit on the opening lap – for third place, overcoming the Piccola driver by just a few thousandths of a second at the line to record his first career F3 podium.

Tander recovered to 6th position in a storming comeback drive and reset the lap record in the process – leaving the new benchmark at 1m26.9031s.

After a stewards inqury, results from the race remain provisional whilst the restart incident is investigated, with a stewards hearing to be conducted at the forthcoming Eastern Creek championship round.

In the F3 National Class the battle between series leader Chris Gilmour and chaser Lee Farrell reached a new level of intensity thanks to a stunning battle in race one.

After then-leader Justin Tate (Piccola Scuderia) had a massive engine failure towards the end of the race, Gilmour and Farrell went side-by-side to the line in a race decided in Farrell’s favour by a staggering .0051s.

It was Farrell’s first win since the Clipsal 500 Adelaide earlier this year and helped close the margin to Gilmour in the race for the $40,000 prize on offer.

In race two the tables were turned with Gilmour winning and setting the classes’ fastest lap to continue his dominant run this season.

TanderSport driver Mathew Radisich completed a great return to the championship after his involvement in the Oran Park crash three rounds ago – celebrating his return with a pair of thirds today.

In the Formula 3 Trophy Class it was a weekend to remember for Jesse Wakeman, the young South Australian R-Tek F3 driver recording his first double win in his rookie season.

Wakeman finished ninth outright in race one and 11th outright in the second and drastically closed the gap to class leader Andrew Mill (Property Solutions Group Racing) in the process after Mill was forced to the sidelines before the first race due to mechanical dramas – though he bounced back well to finish a strong second in class in race two.

The next round of the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star will be held at Eastern Creek Raceway in Sydney, between July 11 – 13.

Update – Monday, June 16th

Neil McFadyen has been stripped of his points from race one after his contact with James Winslow. He retains his fifth-place finishing position and no other drivers gain advantage in points or position due to the penalty. The series’ championship standings have been ajusted accordingly.
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