Chris AlajajianOne of Sydney’s leading racing talents will return to the seat of an open wheeler when the fifth round of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star is contested at Eastern Creek Raceway next weekend.

19-Year-Old North Shore resident Chris Alajajian will return to the seat of his #22 Jack Hillermans Smash Dallara F304 – Renault after missing the last two championship rounds at Phillip Island and Mallala, respectively.

Alajajian, the current Eastern Creek lap record holder, will rejoin the Gold Star series amidst a tight battle for overall honors expected to be waged between Championship leader Ben Clucas, Michael Trimble and Tim Macrow.

Despite missing the two most recent rounds Alajajian still holds sixth in the championship and is just 12 points out of fourth place.

“You always look forward to jumping back into one of these cars,” Alajajian said today.

“It’s the world category to be in and the cars are great to drive. I’m really looking forward to getting back into it.

“Usually I am in and out of categories and always racing, but I’ve had a bit of a break recently which has made me a bit impatient to get into a car again.” He said.

Alajajian said that the fast and flowing Eastern Creek circuit was conducive to good racing.

“Eastern Creek is a very wide circuit, compared to other tracks around, and you really need to use as much of the circuit as possible to get an advantage.

“We can’t get too head over heels predicting results but I’d like to run in the top three at least,” he added.

And whilst Alajajian is set to throw added spice into the battle for outright honors, the season long rivalry between Trimble (Astuti Motorsport) and Clucas (Team BRM) is set to continue at the 3.9km West-Sydney circuit – one of the fastest on the championship schedule.

Clucas leads by 44 championship points heading into the fifth championship round next weekend, however Trimble heads to the western Sydney circuit as the defending winner – he dominated the series’ final round at the circuit last season with his Astuti Motorsport team.

The three are anticipated to be amongst the leading contenders of a strong 18-car field at Eastern Creek as the championship gains further strength in the second half of the season.

After having to adapt to both new tracks and new cars in the first half of the season, Leanne Tander and Chris Gilmour will look to get closer to the front in Sydney after both having prior experience at the circuit in their respective 2006-rides.

Fleetcare Tandersport driver Tander finished on the podium at the circuit late last year, whilst Chris Gilmour took the Cooltemp Racing Dallara – the sister car to his current #17 StyroMax entry – to a podium a round earlier last year.

Gilmour showed flashes of speed at Mallala, holding the lap record for a number of laps in race one before it was bettered by a few tenths towards the end of the event by Clucas.

<p< The Kumho Tyres National Class – for the nominated 1999 – 2001 model cars – will front in Sydney with its strongest field to date, six cars and a number of new and returning competitors taking the circuit.

The battle at the front between Ricky Occhipinti and Tim Berryman is expected to continue, whilst Andrew Mill will return to the field after making a promising championship debut in November last season.

Mill, who will drive a Kevin Miller-owned Dallara F301, proved his potential at the A1 Grand Prix meeting last season with a top ten result in the second race and will be out to continue his improvement in just his second Formula 3 race start.

Sydneysider Matt Sofi will also return to the championship after a strong rookie performance last season.

The former karting ace has had his Benchmark Motorsport team complete a full rebuild of the teams F301 Dallara and will be looking to gain further track miles in his 2006 racing return.

Victorian Lauren Gray will have Bill Maddocks and Graeme Holmes snapping at her heels in the battle for Trophy Class, Gray having consolidated her class points lead at Mallala recently driving her Scud Racing Dallara F396.

The 18-car entry will complete two, 13-lap events this Sunday as part of the CAMS Nationals meeting.

For more information head to www.formula3.com.au