Nathan MorcomNathan Morcom is officially the fastest man around Mt Panorama!

A record-shattering pole position and a dominant win in the second race at Mt Panorama have given Nathan Morcom a flying start in this year’s Australian Formula 3 Drivers’ Championship.

Driving the CSR/Rondo/DPO/Racer Inc. Dallara F307-Mercedes, the 20 year-old Sydneysider claimed the prime starting position for the first of two races with a sensational 2min 03.2396sec. qualifying lap on Saturday morning. At an average speed of 181.5km/h, it was the fastest officially recorded lap around the legendary 6.213km public road circuit on the outskirts of Bathurst, in western NSW.

(Jenson Button and Craig Lowndes drove sub-2 minute laps in a McLaren Formula 1 car in 2011, but their times weren’t recognised officially because it was a private demonstration and not a race meeting.)

Morcom sliced a massive 1.3791 seconds from the previous mark, set in 2012 by Queenslander Chris Gilmour. However, Gilmour’s outright record stands because Morcom’s time wasn’t set during a race.

Unfortunately a startline gear selection problem prevented Morcom from capitalising on his pole position in Saturday’s first race. He was engulfed by the leading pack, but before he could begin to claw his way through the field, Queensland driver Hayden Cooper crashed at The Dipper on the third lap, bringing out the Safety Car.

By the time Cooper’s damaged car had been removed, there was only time for a one-lap dash to the chequered flag. Morcom was unable improve his position after Ben Gersekowski forced him wide in a braking duel for The Chase corner. The race stewards subsequently disqualified Gersekowski for his actions, elevating the CSR/Rondo/DPO/Racer Inc. driver to fourth place.

But Morcom was untouchable in the second race, held on a wet track after a short rain shower just before the start. From second starting position, he drove around the outside of reigning champion James Winslow at Griffin’s Bend on the second lap, and quickly established a gap over the rest of the field.

He was more than six seconds ahead when Jon Collins crashed heavily at Griffin’s on lap six, again slowing the field behind the Safety Car.

With insufficient time for track workers to clear the track within the 30-minute time limit, the race finished under the full-course caution with eight of the 13 laps completed, giving Morcom his maiden Formula 3 race win. However, because less than 75 percent of the scheduled distance had been completed, only half the usual points were awarded under the championship rules.

After the opening round of the championship, Morcom is in second place on 21 points, 6.5 behind Winslow. The second round of the Australian Formula 3 Drivers’ Championship is next weekend (April 5-7) at the Symmons Pains circuit in central Tasmania.

NATHAN MORCOM QUOTES

Qualifying

“I got caught up with some slower drivers early in the session, but it was a short session so I let them go to get a clear lap.

“The pole lap was a good one, but on my next lap I was going two tenths faster and then I was held up at The Cutting.”

Race 1

“When the starting lights came on I must have pulled the gearshift a bit too hard, because it double-shifted from neutral into second. So I was slow away.

“I caught up to Ben Gersekowski, but then the Safety Car came out for Hayden Cooper’s accident. After that, there was only one racing lap left.

“We were fighting over third place because James Winslow had pushed Steel Guiliana off the track going up Mountain Straight.

“Ben blocked me going up the mountain and across the top, and when I couldn’t get past him into Forrest’s Elbow I got a tow down Con-Rod Straight.

“I was on his outside as we braked for The Chase, but he pushed me off the edge of the track. I had two wheels on the dirt, and thought that I wouldn’t be able to make it around the corner, but somehow I got it back.

“By the time I got going again, Jack LeBrocq had gone through into fourth, but at least I received a couple more points after Ben was disqualified.”

Race 2

“There was a rain shower just before we went onto the grid. There wasn’t much at the bottom of the circuit, but apparently it was heavier across the top. So the race was declared ‘wet’, and we all changed from slicks to wet weather tyres.

“I spent the first lap looking for a place to get past James Winslow. We were both sliding around a fair bit, especially through The Dipper, but my car was a lot faster than his through the corners.

“I liked racing in the wet when I was in go-karts, so it didn’t worry me.

“At the start of lap two I followed James into Hell Corner, got a tow from him up Mountain Straight, and pulled out to pass him on the outside into Griffin’s Bend.

“I was about half a car-length ahead going into the corner, but he gave me racing room, which put me on the inside line for The Cutting.

“He had a go back at me under brakes but I held him out, and across the top I was able to pull out a gap.

“After a few laps I saw in my mirrors that I was about halfway down Con-Rod Straight when the others came out of Forrest’s Elbow, so I tried to maintain that distance every lap.

“I could have gone faster, but the conditions were very tricky and you don’t get a second chance to make a mistake at this circuit.

“Thanks to Ian Richards and his R-Tek Motorsports for a great car, and to my sponsors CSR, Rondo, DPO and Racer Inc. for their support.”

IAN RICHARDS (R-TEK Motorsport) QUOTES

“We already knew Nathan from when he drove one of our cars at the Eastern Creek F3 Championship round in 2010. And we had the set-up data from 2012, when James Winslow won in the same car that Nathan drove this year.

“The only problem we had all weekend was when the gearshift wouldn’t do flat upchanges during Friday practice. It was something in the software – other teams had the same problem – but the electronics wizards soon had it fixed.

“Nathan can drive as fast as anyone out there. Our data showed that there was a bit more time left in his pole lap, and he was going faster on his next lap but he got held up.

“All in all it was a great performance – almost 10/10.”

RESULTS*

AUSTRALIAN FORMULA 3 DRIVERS’ CHAMPIONSHIP, ROUND 1

Race 1 – 8 laps (49.7km)

1. James Winslow (Dallara F307-Mercedes) 24min. 16.5119sec.

2. John Magro (Dallara F307-Mercedes) 24min. 17.6996sec.

3. Jack LeBrocq (Dallara F307-Mercedes) 24min. 20.0903sec.

4. Nathan Morcom (Dallara F307-Mercedes) 24min. 20.7358sec.

Race 2 – 8 laps (49.7km)

1. Nathan Morcom (Dallara F307-Mercedes) 25min. 08.4900sec.

2. James Winslow (Dallara F307-Mercedes) 25min. 09.1039sec.

3. Nick Foster (Mygale M08-Mercedes) 25min. 09.7687sec.

POINTSCORE AFTER ROUND 1*

1. James Winslow 27.5

2. Nathan Morcom 21.0

3. John Magro 19.0

* Subject to official confirmation

Photo by mpix.