Mat SofiAmPro Racing driver Mat Sofi has salvaged a podium finish in round six of the Formula 3 Australian Driver’s Championship despite a horror weekend littered with limited track time and a series of unfortunate events that were out of his control.

Sofi, driving the #2 AmPro Tools / Errea / Transwest Dallara F307 from Astuti Motorsport, still managed to extend his lead in third place over Ben Crighton after dicing with the New Zealander in both of the two, 12-lap races at the weekend.

The challenging weekend began early when Sofi’s car suffered fuel surge issues, the Astuti team putting in what would be the first of two long nights work to completely replace the fuel system before qualifying on Saturday.

The problem left Sofi with just one session of practice complete and with limited track time ahead of the all-important qualifying.

After qualifying third for race one, Sofi then again set a third-placed effort in qualifying two before a rear suspension pickup point broke on the gearbox of the AmPro Dallara, spearing Sofi off into the sand trap at the high-speed turn one.

Though the car was mainly undamaged, the gearbox needed replacing and after sourcing a borrowed unit from Team BRM, the team was at the circuit until 3AM Sunday morning swapping over the components from the original to the replacement.

The effort paid off, however, Sofi battling with Ben Crighton in a stunning race one dice that often saw the pair side-by-side for third place, the Kiwi only just taking the advantage at the line.

The results were reversed in race two, however, as Sofi took advantage of Ben running wide at turn four to make the pass and score his 11th career podium finish and seventh for the season.

A small win for the team was that Sofi scored the bonus point for setting race’s fastest lap on the 9th of 12 tours, the fourth in his F3 career.

The mood after the race, however, was one of mixed emotions – whilst pleased with the race three result and speed both team and driver knew that the Queensland round was very much a case of ‘what could have been’.

“It is very frustrating because after the test last week we knew that we would be fast here,” Sofi explained.
“Unfortunately we missed so much track time with problems outside of our control that we weren’t able to keep up with how the track was changing, and make changes to the setup accordingly – that set us back and we only really got back to a level playing field by race two on Sunday.

“But it’s still maintained our championship position and the battles with Ben in both races were excellent – there are always positives. We’re looking forward to taking the AmPro car to Oran Park this week to test and then for the big finale’ there this weekend – it should be great.”

Astuti Motorsport and Mat Sofi would like to extend their thanks to Team BRM for the loan of the gearbox that saw them through the weekend and to Ash and Neil from TanderSport for assisting in the rebuild on Saturday night.

“Their help was amazing, without that it would have placed us in a lot of trouble for Saturday,” Sofi said.
“It shows that despite the fact we are all pushing hard to win races, there is a lot of camaraderie in this championship which is fantastic.”

The next round of the Formula 3 Australian Driver’s Championship will be held at Oran Park, NSW, this weekend (Aug 28 – 30).

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Photo by Dirk Klynsmith / F3A.