championship-winning-potential-from-astutiMelbourne-based Astuti Motorsport have proved to the world that they have the potential to win the 2007 Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship following last weekend’s opening round of the series at Eastern Creek Raceway.

And whilst the team didn’t win a race, both drivers and team worked well together to build themselves a solid platform on which to launch a championship attack throughout the remaining seven rounds to be held around Australia this year.

Astuti Motorsport’s international approach to the 2007 championship saw Austrian youngster Walter Grubmuller and British ace Charlie Hollings join the team in the lead up to Eastern Creek’s A1GP World Cup of Motorsport round at the weekend.

Whilst Grubmuller had the advantage of having tested with the team in the off season, Hollings brought top-level British Formula 3 experience to the team in a balanced driver lineup.

In wet conditions in opening practice, Hollings was a brilliant second in just his first visit to the circuit, whilst Grubmuller was sixth – gaining his first wet weather experience in a Formula 3 car.

In the dry that afternoon the Austrian vaulted towards the top of the tables to set the day’s quick time.

And as if to keep the balance within the team in check, it was Hollings who lead the way for Astuti on Saturday en route to pole position in the second qualifying session. The #11 Astuti Motorsport drivers timed his run perfectly and leaped to the top of the charts after the checkered flag had flown.

Grubmuller continued to develop his setup and experience, and secured fifth and sixth-placed starting positions for the two races – despite being just three-tenths of the pole time in the first qualifying session.

Race day was a drama-filled occasion for the Astuti Motorsport team who experienced the entire gamut of emotions in one five hour period.

Grubmuller’s #10 car was involved in an opening-lap incident at turn two with Italian Macro Mapelli, the pair colliding as the field went three and even four wide in the difficult braking zone. Both failed to finish.

Hollings race was also drama filled, making a solid start to sit in the fourth position for the first four laps of the race, until the 24-year-old was shown the Black flag for rolling at the start. Hollings completed his drive through and rejoined the track in 10th place, recovering to a strong 7th at the finish to at least secure some championship points.

A similar circumstance in the second race was further enhanced when he was turned around in turn two by another competitor – essentially forcing him to work through the field for the third time during the weekend – eventually finishing eighth.

Grubmuller posted an impressive performance, bouncing back from his race one adversity to finish the 13-lap affair in third place.

The fallout from the results leaves Walter 5th in the championship (12 points) and Charlie 8th (8 points).

“It was a very tough weekend. My seating position wasn’t quite perfect and the car rolled only very slightly at the start of the races,” explained Hollings.

”It’s really disappointing because the car was quick. It makes it hard work for the season. The team has been good, but this result is disappointing and frustrating. There isn’t much more to say than that.

“Qualifying was really good. We made some changes to the car and it responded well. After that it was just a matter of me going and finding some clear track to set a time.” He said.

“It was good to come away with a podium after that incident in the first race. I want to thank the whole team for their efforts,” Grubmuller added.

”It’s a shame we didn’t get a race win but we’ll see how we go in Melbourne.

“Astuti Motorsport has been very professional and the car has been strong. We would have liked to have won a race but it’s very competitive and the team did a fantastic job.”

Team Owner Sam Astuti said that whilst it was a character building weekend for his two-car team, there was plenty of positives to be taken from it.

“It was a very challenging race weekend, especially with one of our drivers only arriving on Tuesday and the getting him going and settled in,” Astuti said.

“We went well though even if I thought that we might have a better result overall.

The starts these days are very European – with lots of contact – and it can change anything. There’s just so much going on. It was tough for Charlie because the pedals weren’t right, because he would’ve gone well from pole. Walter did a great job to finish third in the second race which was a really good effort.

“We’ve just got to look forward to Melbourne now and fix the problems we failed at this weekend,” Said Astuti, who is a former Open Wheel racer in his own right.

“It’s not easy this year. There are a few more cars that can win races and it will be a lot tougher to win the series this year.

“Both our guys showed how strong they were in practice, qualifying and also in the races. I think we’re going to have a really strong year.” He said.

Astuti Motorsport will next be in action at the 2007 Formula 1 ™ ING Australian Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Last year Astuti’s Michael Trimble smashed the existing F3 Qualifying lap record to snare Pole Position on the 5.3km Albert Park Street circuit.