A Captivating Duel

This weekend’s CAMS state race meeting sees the return of national Formula 3 competition to the nation’s spectator track, and as Lachlan Mansell reports, the category has a history of throwing up action and controversy when there’s a title at stake.

Wakefield Park has been the scene of some enthralling Australian Formula 3 Championship battles over the years, the most notable being in 2015 when Jon Collins and Ricky Capo went wheel-to-wheel in their quest for the national title.

After a couple of wheel-banging encounters in each of the races on that fateful October weekend, the title contest descended into a controversial string of protests and counter-protests, which were finally resolved by the FIA court in France more than 12 months after the event.

In fact, the national Formula 3 competition has a habit of throwing up the sort of title fights that former series commentator Richard Craill would describe as “epic” – the 2010 series, when Ben Barker defeated Mitch Evans by a single point, which he achieved by setting the fastest lap in the final race at Sandown, is – quite literally – a case in point.

And on the face of it, the 2018 series looks set to continue that tradition.

This weekend’s round at Wakefield Park marks the penultimate round of a series where the momentum has swung backwards and forwards between a pair of hungry Queenslanders.

Initially, it was Toowoomba driver Cameron Shields who held the ascendancy, winning the opening two rounds at Winton and Queensland Raceway. But in Round 3 at Morgan Park, Shields stalled on the front row of the grid, in a moment that turned out to be something of a metaphor for Shields’ campaign. Since then, it has been Sunshine Coast driver Jones who has taken advantage – he claimed overall honours at Morgan Park, and in the previous round at Sydney Motorsport Park he was comfortably faster than Shields all weekend, securing the round win to head into this weekend with a slender two-point lead.

Of course, there are other categories on the program as well, including two other popular open-wheel classes.

Following his domination at the recent AMRS round, Dylan Thomas will be the hot favourite in Formula Vee but will face tough opposition from Michael Kinsella and Darren Williams.

The Formula Ford state round will be contested by several national competitors including Nathan Herne, Lachlan Mineeff and Tom Sargent. Sargent, in particular, comes into the weekend on a high after a podium finish in the last national round at Tailem Bend.

The HQ Holdens have attracted a typically healthy field of cars, with championship contenders Brett Osborn, Chris Molle and Duane Cambridge set to resume their battle.

This weekend’s Improved Production races will see the Over and Under 2 Litre entries combined in the same field – around the technical Wakefield Park circuit, this is likely to produce some entertaining contests with the nimble U2L cars nipping at the heels of the more powerful O2L cars around the top of the circuit. Michael King, Trevan Spiteri and Ahmed Baghdadi will be the main O2L contenders, while Harrison Cooper, Bob Jowett and Justin McClintock are likely to fly the flag for the U2L runners.

Radical SR3 and SR8 race cars are the vehicles of choice in SuperSports, but they will all need to catch the very rapid Darren Barlow in his Stohr.

Finally, the Production Sports Cars are back for a pair of 30-minute races on Sunday, and have attracted some high-calibre drivers, including Australian GT Championship competitor Daniel Gaunt, former Dunlop Series driver Daniel Jilesen, Porsche racers Peter Boylan, Geoff Morgan and Andrew Macpherson, and two-time Wakefield 300 winner Craig Burgess in his Ginetta G50.

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