f3Leanne Tander has shown that she will be a force to be reckoned with in this weekend’s sixth round of the 2006 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star following today’s two practice sessions at Phillip Island.

Tander, driving her #42 Fleetcare Tandersport Dallara F304 – Spiess, was third in this morning’s opening session and topped the afternoon session in chilly conditions at the 4.6km circuit south of Melbourne.

The strong results today mark the first time that the 25-year-old driver has topped a session since joining the championship full time this year – both team and driver showing that they are coming to grips with the high speed nature of the cars.

“I’m really happy with the day,” Tander said following practice two.

“It’s the first time that we have been able to come to a track and be right from the first session. We haven’t been able to do that before and it’s great that it’s all starting to come together.

“Although there is a long way to go this weekend I think it proves that we are stepping up to the mark. I know I can replicate this pace in the race on Sunday but the key will be doing it in qualifying tomorrow.” She said.

Local driver Michael Trimble was strong early in the day, taking his #10 King Springs Astuti Motorsport Dallara to the quickest time in first practice before posting 3rd best time – although less than two tenths from pole – in the second outing.

“The car wasn’t bad today,” Trimble said.

“We are making a couple of changes but we know where the speed is. We had a really good test here Wednesday and learnt a lot about the car so there is no reason why we cant have a good weekend.”

Trimble’s new teammate, Kiwi driver Andy Knight, impressed in his first official outing in a Formula 3 car, placing sixth fastest in the opening session today less than a second from the quickest lap – set in the session by Trimble.

Knight, who has extensively raced Formula Ford, Formula Toyota and Formula Ford 2000 in the United States earlier this year, was enthusiastic about his experience to date.

“The cars are great to drive. In ways they are similar to a lot of the other things I have driven just with more grip, more power and more speed.” He said.

“I’m happy with the way things are going today.”

The cold climate of Victoria’s springtime may not be much like his native Queensland, but StatchIT.com.au driver Chris Gilmour posted a hot performance today, taking his newly sponsored F304 Dallara to strong early results in practice.

“The ‘snatch it mobile’ was really good today,” said Gilmour

“We made some changes between rounds and this is the closest that we have been to the pace this season.

“There are a few more changes we can make overnight to make the car better but I’m really enthusiastic about the weekend.”

Tim Macrow (Scud Racing) and championship point’s leader Ben Clucas each took a turn near the top of the times today and both look set to be quick this weekend.

Geelong’s Ricky Occhipinti topped the National Class bunch today driving his Formula-Uno-Racing Dallara F301, whilst Tim Berryman spent the day coming to grips with the circuit in what is just his first visit to the circuit in his brief Kumho Tyres Formula 3 career.

Graeme Holmes looks set to continue his rapid advance on the Kumho Tyres Trophy Class lead held currently by Lauren Gray after comfortably topping both sessions today.

Two, 20-miunute qualifying sessions will be held tomorrow to decide the starting order for each of the two respective 14-lap races to be held Sunday.

For more information about the Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship head to www.formula3.com.au