Tim MacrowThe 46-year old tradition of Australia’s fastest racing cars visiting Oran Park raceway will come to a close this weekend following the running of round six of the 2009 Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship for the CAMS Gold Star.

Powerful ‘wings and slicks’ racing cars have become an annual feature on the Oran Park racing schedule and the track has had its hand in making and breaking the careers of many big names within the sport.

Like the drivers, the categories representing the Gold Star have come and gone with the past five seasons having witnessed the fully international cars from Formula 3 fight out for Australia’s premier open-wheel award, as will again be the case this year.

In the past categories like Formula Libre, Formula 5000, Formula Mondial, Formulae’s Brabham, Holden and F4000 and Formula Two have all featured at the circuit and have thrilled fans with top-level ‘wings and slicks’ racing.

But the one constant is that Oran Park and Wings and Slicks Open Wheelers go hand-in-hand – just ask those that have driven the 2.8km Grand Prix circuit in one for proof.

The challenging, undulating layout has always been synonymous with the Gold Star.  Its combination of slow, medium and high speed corners brings out the best attributes in Open Wheel cars as it has done since the track was opened in 1962, during the era of open wheel greats like Bib Stilwell, Spencer Martin and Lex Davison.

This weekend names of the future like Joey Foster, Tim Macrow, Mat Sofi, Ben Crighton and Tom Tweedie, amongst others, will be completing the Gold Star chapter in Oran Park’s history book.

Oran Park has been more than just a challenging circuit and a test of a driver’s ability – it has also defined the careers of two particular drivers who have secured the highest award in Australian motorsport at the circuit.

2006 V8 Supercar Champion Rick Kelly clinched his first major title at Oran Park in 2001, when he powered a Birrana Racing Formula Holden to two commanding race wins that gave him enough points to seal the Gold Star with two rounds remaining.

Kelly, now driving a Jack Daniel’s Holden Commodore in the V8 Supercars, says that Oran Park brings fond memories of his early days racing in the ADC.

“It does bring back memories,” Said Rick.

“That year in the Australian Driver’s Championship was very enjoyable. It’s the quickest form of racing that I’ve ever driven and it’s sad that this weekend will be its last race meeting.

“It’s such a flowing track that was a lot of fun. There are a lot of corners and there are some bumpy areas which are a little bit hairy in one of those cars – but it’s got some great corners like the dogleg that are just a lot of fun.”

Kelly continues to have high praise for the circuit despite the V8s having farewelled it last year.

“It’s one of the best tracks in Australia and I’d love to see another track like it,” he said. “If it had a resurface I think it would be the best track in Australia, excluding Bathurst.”

Six years later, another young Victorian driver won his first Gold Star at Oran Park in one of the most dramatic season finale’s in all of Australian Motorsport.

After three years of trying, Tim Macrow won the 2007 Australian Formula 3 Championship for the CAMS Gold Star when he triumphed in a three-way fight with Leanne Tander and British driver Charlie Hollings.

The lead in the championship changed hands between all three of the drivers over the course of the weekend and it was only a sensational start in the second and final race of the weekend managed to leap Macrow from fourth to the lead of the race.

He then withheld 15 laps of massive pressure to win the race and the title in the most dramatic fashion possible.

“That was the best start of my career and that weekend as a whole was pretty incredible,” Said Macrow, who co-leads this year’s title in a close battle with British driver Joey Foster.

“I crashed in the rain on Friday and then only qualified fourth for race two so that made things difficult, but we were able to come through at the start and win. It’s certainly one of the reasons why Oran Park has plenty of good memories for me.

“In 2006 I won both races there so I’ve had a lot of success there and it means a lot to have been able to do that at a track with so much history within the Australian Driver’s Championship.”

Oran Park also has personal history for Macrow, his surname featuring regularly on the circuits honour roll with two generations of the well-known racing family having won at the circuit.

“My dad (Peter Macrow) raced there and had a lot of success in the 1970s and my brother (Adam) won a race here during his title year in the Fujitsu V8s – so we have a lot of personal history at the place,” he said.

“It will be sad to see it go this weekend but it’s great that Joey (Foster) and I are fighting so hard for the Gold Star this year. It’s appropriate that we should be so close coming into the final round at Oran Park and hopefully we can put on a couple of exciting races this weekend to cap off the Gold Stars history at the track.”

Macrow and Foster are currently tied for the lead of the Formula 3 Australian Driver’s Championship after Macrow was able to win both races at Queensland Raceway last weekend.

Oran Park is the penultimate round of the 2009 Gold Star and as such looks likely to form a crucial part to the title hopes of drivers’ racing in this year’s championship as it has done so often in the past.

The 2009 Formula 3 Australian Drivers Championship field will tackle two, 15-lap races on Sunday as part of the big Shannons Nationals event that is the final ever National-level race meeting at Oran Park.

The Formula 3 Gold Star era has produced its fair share of sensational races at Oran Park, and also plenty of history – for instance, Leanne Tander became the first female driver in the history of the Australian Drivers Championship to score a pole position, when she topped qualifying one at Oran Park on October 28, 2006, during the Gold Star’s 50th anniversary year.

Race winners in the ‘f3 era’ include Tander, British drivers James Winslow and Charile Hollings and, of course, Macrow.

As the fastest cars in the country, naturally the Australian Driver’s Championship holds Oran Park’s outright lap record.

It was set in 2000 by Orange, NSW, driver Tim Leahey driving a Reynard 92D Formula Holden and stands to this day at 1m01.6718s.

The lap record for the less-powerful Formula 3 cars that now make up the Gold Star category is 1m03.9747, set by Michael Caruso, driving a Dallara F301 – Fiat, in July 2003.

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

Photo by F3A / Klynsmith Image