Ben ClucasBritish driver Ben Clucas has won a thrilling and dramatic third round of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star at Phillip Island today, in wet and cold conditions.

Clucas, 21, scored two race wins today in a record setting weekend of Australian Formula 3 competition that is set to be remembered for years to come thanks to its unparalleled drama and frenetic racing at the 4.45-km Phillip Island circuit.

Clucas won this morning’s opening 14-lap event – contested on a wet circuit – after being judged to have rolled at the start and serving a drive through penalty.

The Team BRM / Gawler Farm Machinery Dallara had taken the lead of the race at the end of the first racing lap, Michael Trimble (#10 King Springs / Astuti Motorsport Dallara) having made the best possible start before dropping back to second early in the running.

A safety car at the end of the opening lap to retrieve Brian Sampson from the Siberia sand trap slowed the field, racing getting underway three laps later with Clucas escaping to a solid lead before serving his drive through penalty – that promptly dropped him to fifth.

What followed was a stunning charge through the field, the clearly web-footed Clucas lapping five seconds a lap quicker than anyone as he scythed his way towards the front.

A safety car with four laps remaining – to remove Maher Algadri’s damaged Dallara following a collision with Ricky Occhipinti – also played into Clucas’ hands, the top three (Trimble leading Macrow and Clucas) line astern when the race restarted with a lap remaining.

Trimble made a strong restart, whilst Clucas slipped past Macrow on the run towards the Turn four hairpin.

The championship leader then closed on Trimble with two corners remaining, sliding alongside the Victorian as the pair ran to the flag.

What followed was a classic finish, Trimble pushing the Clucas machine to the inside of the racetrack as the pair crossed the line side by side.

Clucas was scored as the winner – crossing the line an incredible .0039s ahead of Trimble in the closest finish in Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship history.

The second, 10 lap, race was slightly less dramatic, Clucas scoring a win following strong passing moves on both Macrow and Trimble (Who had started from the back of the field thanks to qualifying dramas yesterday) to record a slightly more comfortable half-second victory.

Macrow and Trimble disputed second place, the positions swapping a number of times before the Astuti Motorsport driver wrapped up the position with a few laps remaining.

“It’s been a great day,” enthused Clucas this afternoon.

“The first race was great and the car was perfect. I was able to push really hard and chased the leader down in the first race. It doesn’t really matter what the margin is, the main thing is that we won the race!

“I was quite cautious in the second race (on a drying track) but the car handled well and we were able to win.” He said.

“A really tough weekend,” Trimble said.

“We really struggled with the wet weather setup in the first race and just did everything we could to hold on in front.

“It’s disappointing because we really wanted to go well here but it just didn’t happen. We can catch Clucas at Mallala so we’ll see how we go there.”

Victorian Tim Macrow scored a pair of third place results in what was a promising performance from the privateer competitor, racing competitively with the leaders at what is his home circuit.

Leanne Tander (#42 Fleetcare Tander Sport Dallara F304) scored her two best race finishes of the season, showing consistently improving pace to net two fourth place finishes.

Following her strong performance yesterday, Tander’s performance today bodes well for the remainder of the season as the Melbourne resident looks to become the first ever Female to win a Gold Star race in the awards 50-year history

“I thought I could catch Tim in that second race,” She said following race two.

“We have been a lot closer to the leading pace this weekend and I think that we can continue to build on this weekends result at Mallala, where we have done plenty of testing.”

Chris Gilmour scored more championship points with a pair of fifth place finishes, the weekend highlight coming from his race two start – he went from third to the race lead on the run towards turn one.

Ricky Occhipinti dominated the Kumho Tyres National Class competition, The Geelong based driver surviving contact with Maher Algadri in the opening race to finish sixth outright, whilst seventh outright in the second event was enough to give him maximum championship points for the class.

Chris Barry scored second, with Maher Algadri and John Boothman both having troubled weekends in the class.

Lauren Gray continues to lead the Trophy Class following a consistent performance this weekend; however the standout performance came from experienced campaigner Graeme Holmes, who raced with the leaders in the second race following a decision to run wet Tyres on the drying circuit.

Ben Clucas now leads the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 championship for the CAMS Gold Star by 28 points as the series heads to South Australia’s Mallala Raceway in a Months time.

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Championship Points / Outright

1. Ben Clucas 120
2. Michael Trimble 92
3. Tim Macrow 62
4. Chris Alajajian 52
5. Leanne Tander 50
6. Chris Gilmour 45

National Class
1. Ricky Occhipinti 103
2. Chris Barry 39
3. Tim Berryman 38
4. Maher Algadri 35

Trophy Class
1. Lauren Gray 88
2. Rod Anderson 73
3. Bill Maddocks 55
4. Graeme Holmes 44

Photo by Klynsmith Photo