Plenty of Sydney stories as F3 returns to Eastern Creek for crucial round
8/07/2008 at 5:53:53 AM:

THE Return of Sydney-based star Chris Alajajian and conformation that Sydney-based team Piccola Scuderia Corse will elevate 17-year-old driver Justin Tate to the outright championship battle are key ingredients that look set to produce a stunning sixth round of the 2008 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship in the Harbour city this weekend.

The fact that Liverpool driver Mat Sofi is in career-best form and heads to home after his first F3 podium at Phillip Island also enhances the local feeling of the round.

The Australian Drivers’ Championship returns to Sydney for the third time this season after opening their 2008 schedule at Eastern Creek, and hosting the third round at Oran Park in April.

This weekends round at the 3.9km Eastern Creek Raceway will be a critical round with three drivers covered by just 12 points in the outright championship battle – with just six races to go.

Alajajian, a driver for A1GP World Cup of Motorsport outfit Team Lebanon and a former race winner in Australian F3, will return to the track to ‘keep his eye in’, with Team BRM.

23-year-old Alajajian holds the Eastern Creek F3 lap record (1m25.22s) and will make his first start in a 2007-spec Mercedes Benz powered Dallara at the weekend.

A winner of two championship F3 races, Alajajian has stood on the F3 podium an impressive 17 times and will be reunited with Team BRM after racing with them in the early stanza of the 2007 championship before focusing on his A1GP and V8 commitments.

”I like to think of this return to F3 as ‘maintenance’,” Alajajian said.

”It’s about making sure my driving stays up to scratch and I can keep myself in the groove – but it’s always great to have the chance to work with a great bunch of guys at Team BRM and in these great cars. It’s been half a year out of a car for me so it was a matter of waiting for the right opportunity to come along and then jumping at it.”

Alajajian said that the biggest challenge facing his return to the series would be the new cars and their differences to the F3 machinery to which he is more accustomed.

”I’ll need to adapt to the new cars more than anything,” he said.

”They aren’t that different to the old cars but for a lot more aerodynamics so that will be the main thing I need to work on. But I’m pretty happy to be getting back in a car at Eastern Creek which is a track I know well. I think with a good group of guys, a good car and the right preparation we could be on for a good result.”

Whilst Alajajian returns to the series to keep his considerable ability sharp, Marrickville-based Piccola Scuderia Corse (PSC) will instigate a long-term approach with an F3 star of the future this weekend with the elevation of rookie Justin Tate to the teams F307 – Mercedes #27 entry.

Victorian Tate made his F3 debut at the beginning of the season with Scud Racing, before stepping to the National Class with PSC at Mallala, in May.

He showed class-leading pace at Phillip Island recently only to be sidelined with a rare engine failure whilst leading his class.

Tate fills the vacated seat of Neil McFadyen, who is forced to the sidelines after failing to secure enough sponsorship to continue his campaign for a second Gold Star title.

”Strategically it’s best that we now focus on preparation for 2009,” PSC Engineer Matt Thio said.

“A lot of positive interest has been generated towards the team this year and we’re pushing hard to channel this into new initiatives that will add value to a driver’s career in F3.”

The late addition of Alajajian and a second hit out from 2007-champion Tim Macrow ensures a strong 18-car field for this weekends’ round at Eastern Creek.

Macrow, after a fast yet unlucky weekend at Phillip Island, will work with the R-Tek F3 team at the weekend in an attempt to put the team at the front of the pack – much in the same way that Karl Reindler did at Mallala earlier this year.

Opening practice gets underway on Friday morning, with two races to be held Sunday as part of the Shannons Nationals event at the Sydney circuit.

This weekends’ round begins an exciting stretch for the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship with just three rounds remaining in another ferociously tight title battle.

Round seven, at Phillip Island, will feature the series 150th championship race – appropriately in the series 10th anniversary. The finale’ at Symmons Plains will again feature the F3 SuperPrix to cap off a remarkable year.

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