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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.

Nathan MorcomFew racing drivers win on debut at the legendary Mt Panorama – but for Nathan Morcom last weekend it was just “blowing out the cobwebs”.

The 20 year-old Sydney driver had gone to the iconic venue with the main aim of learning its daunting 6.2km length on his first appearance.

But he ended up taking the chequered flag!

Morcom drove a Spirit WL08 in the Formula Ford 1600 support races at the Bathurst 12-hour meeting.

It was a precursor to his next Mt Panorama start, which will be in a major national championship series, to be confirmed soon.

“Prior experience at any circuit is important, but especially at Mt Panorama because it’s a public road and you can’t practise there all year round,” he said.

“I hadn’t raced at Mount Panorama before, so I took the opportunity to learn it before the national championship round.”

Despite not having driven a Formula Ford for more than two years, Morcom qualified fifth fastest of the 31 FF1600 drivers, many of them Mt Panorama veterans.

He finished second in the first two races, all the time lowering his lap times as his experience increased.

In the third and final race, Morcom took the fight up to race leader Jonathan Venter, and near the end of the fifth lap he grabbed the lead in a daring move through The Chase.

It was perfect timing, because seconds after he crossed the Start/Finish line to begin lap six, the Safety Car came out following a crash on another part of the circuit.

He duly led the field around what turned out to be the final lap behind the Safety Car, taking the win!

Morcom capped off the win with a fastest race lap more than eight-tenths of a second quicker than the next best.

Afterwards he said that his primary goal was to prepare for his return visit to Mt Panorama, but the victory was a bonus.

“To be honest I wasn’t expecting to win this weekend,” he said.

“I mainly wanted to blow away the cobwebs and be confident here, because next time I’ll be in a faster car against some of Australia’s top drivers.

“At least I know the way around Mt Panorama now!”

Morcom thanked his sponsors, Rondo, Direct Plasterboard Outlet and Racer, for supporting his 2013 racing program.

Results – Formula ford 1600 RACE 3 (6 laps/37.3km)

1. Nathan Morcom (2008 Spirit) 22min. 36.5414sec.

2. Jonathan Venter (2011 Spirit) 22min. 38.3512sec.

3. Brett Francis (2002 Van Diemen) 22min. 38.6239sec.

Photo by Mpix.

Nathan MorcomA persistent handling problem with Nathan Morcom’s car couldn’t disguise his competitiveness in the national drivers’ championship round.

Race finishing positions often don’t tell the whole story – as was the case with Nathan Morcom’s return to openwheeler racing in the seventh round of the Australian Drivers’ Championship at Phillip Island.

At first glance, the 20 year-old Sydneysider’s best result of fourth from the weekend’s three ADC races mightn’t look all that impressive. But a closer examination of the Direct Plasterboard Outlet/Rondo driver’s data reveals that he had the potential to be a contender at the 2012 Gold Star finale.

He was only a few tenths of a second off the fastest lap in during Friday practice. And he clocked the second-fastest lap on a treacherous rain-soaked track in race two, despite severe understeer that afflicted his Dallara throughout Saturday and Sunday.

The handling imbalance, combined with starting grid incidents in all three races, dashed Morcom’s chances of getting onto the podium, much less winning, at the 4.5km coastal Victorian venue. But his performance was a lot more encouraging than his race results suggested.

Practice & qualifying
Having returned to Australia after an abortive F2000 Championship Series campaign plagued by car problems, Morcom was among the quickest drivers in both of Friday’s practice sessions.

In the morning half-hour session he posted the third-fastest lap, only 0.23 seconds behind newly crowned 2012 champion James Winslow. He followed that up in the afternoon session with the second-fast time, just 0.29 seconds adrift of Winslow.

But in qualifying on Saturday morning, Morcom’s Dallara was a distant 2.4 seconds away from Winslow’s pole position time. The Astuti Motorsport car had developed an understeer condition that defied the best efforts of Sam Astuti and 2007 ADC winner Tim Macrow to cure it.

“The front was pushing through the fast turns and on entry to the slow ones,” Morcom reported. “It was costing me time everywhere, even down the straights because I was so slow coming onto them.

“I came into the pits twice to try to fix the problem, but there wasn’t much that Sam or Tim could do in a 20-minute session.

“What made it worse for me was that the Kumho tyres took four or five laps to get up to temperature. Most of the tyres I’ve driven on have been at their best on the second or third lap.

“I only got in two quick laps after my second pit-stop, and then the session ended. If I’d done a couple more laps I probably would have gone quicker, but with the understeer there was no way I could have got close to the front row guys’ times.”

Race 1
Saturday afternoon’s race couldn’t have started much worse for Morcom – his car stalled when the green lights went off!

He’d lost around 10 seconds by the time the Renault fired up again, but he set off after the rapidly disappearing field. He caught and passed two tail-enders, then had a lucky break when the Safety Car came out on lap four and allowed the field to close up.

After the restart he overtook Jake Fouracre for sixth place, and was within striking distance of fifth-placed Lachlan Marshall when the chequered flag ended the race two laps short of the scheduled nine-lap distance.

Morcom’s sixth place subsequently became fifth when the officials penalised Winslow for timing his restart too early after the Safety Car period.

“There was some confusion at the start because there were two warm-up laps,” Morcom said. “When my car stalled, I just had to chase and hope there’d be a Safety Car, which happened, fortunately for me.

“I was able to lap at the same speed as the third, fourth and fifth guys, so without the understeer and the stall at the start, a podium definitely would have been possible.”

Race 2
It wouldn’t be a proper Phillip Island race meeting if it didn’t rain, and the weather gods duly obliged with a Sunday morning deluge!

This time Morcom was almost a casualty before the start. He couldn’t avoid running into the back of Hayden Cooper’s car, which suddenly hesitated as the field took off on the warm-up lap.

The impact damaged the right side of the DPO-Rondo Dallara’s front wing, robbing Morcom of even more front-end downforce, especially on the anti-clockwise circuit’s predominantly left-hand turns.

Even so, he splashed to a fine fifth place in a race that also finished prematurely because of the slower lap times.

“I couldn’t see that Hayden had stopped because his car’s rain light wasn’t on,” Morcom said. “The end plates and flag were missing, and the main plane was touching the track on some corners.

“Sam asked me over the radio if I wanted to pit for a new nosecone, but if I’d done that I would have finished way back. So I took my chances and drove the car the way it was.”

His second-fastest race lap was all the more impressive considering the state of his car, and enhanced his reputation as a wet-weather racer.

It brought back memories of the opening round of the 2010 F2000 Championship Series, when rain late in the race sent most of his rivals scurrying to the pits for wet tyres while he slipped and slithered to victory on slicks.

Race 3
By the time the ADC field gathered for the 14-lap feature race, the rain had gone – but Morcom’s startline jinx still lingered.

Cooper stalled again when the green lights went off, and Winslow, who was right behind, did likewise. As the third in line, Morcom had to wait until the two drivers ahead of him sorted themselves out before he could get underway.

He caught fifth-placed Ben Gersekowski by the start of lap two, and swept by in a bold move through Doohan Corner. Two laps later he dived past Lachlan Marshall for fourth place at Honda Corner, then held the Victorian at bay until the finish.

“The car was still understeering, and after I passed Lachlan I couldn’t make any impression on the leaders,” Morcom said. “It was strange that the set-up changes Sam and Tim made didn’t fix the balance – maybe my driving style isn’t the same as Tim’s.

“But the important thing to come out of this weekend is that I know I can be competitive at this level.”

Morcom said that while his racing program for 2013 hasn’t been decided, he’s keen to go forward after his one-off ADC appearance.

“I like F3, but I’ll look at a few options over the next few months,” he said.

“Thanks to my sponsors, especially Direct Plasterboard Outlet and Rondo, for their support this year, and I hope to be back racing with them again in 2013.”

Photo by MPix.

Nathan MorcomNathan Morcom will return to openwheel racing in the final round of the Australian Drivers’ Championship at Phillip Island on September 21-23. The 20 year-old Sydneysider has switched to the local F3 series after his American F2000 Championship Series campaign was beset by car problems in the first two rounds. Morcom will drive Astuti Motorsport’s Dallara F307-Renault, sponsored by Direct Plasterboard Outlet and Rondo, at the 4.445km Victorian circuit. Phillip Island will be his second race meeting driving an F3, but his first in a Championship class car.

He made a promising National class debut with an F304 Dallara-Opel in the 2010 Eastern Creek Gold Star round, finishing in the top three in each heat despite not having driven the car until official practice. Morcom scored an Australian Production Car Endurance Championship class win with Chaz Mostert in April, but is eager to get back into openwheeler racing.

“I’m really looking forward to driving an F3 car again, especially at Phillip Island,” he said.

“F3s are the fastest cars currently racing in Australia, and The Island is the fastest circuit in Australia!

“I felt immediately at home when I drove an F3 for the first time at Eastern Creek two years ago.

“Without doing any testing, I was only half a second off the National class fastest lap in the races.

“Even though the Championship class is a step up from National, I’m confident of putting in a good performance after testing the F307 at Phillip Island last week.”

Astuti Motorsport boss Sam Astuti echoed Morcom’s confidence in the lead-up to the Gold Star finale.

“Nathan impressed me with his mature attitude and approach during the test day,” Astuti said.

“I think he will be competitive at Phillip Island, even though he hasn’t raced for a few months.”

A bonus for Morcom is that his race engineer will be 2007 Gold Star champion Tim Macrow, who won the overall round at Eastern Creek this year in his annual cameo appearance, driving the same car.

The Australian Drivers’ Championship schedule at Phillip Island begins with two 30-minute practice sessions on Friday, followed by qualifying and a nine-lap/40km race on Saturday, and two races over nine-laps/40km and 14-laps/62km on Sunday.

Sunday’s action will be streamed live on the Internet at www.itvlive.com.au.
PHILLIP ISLAND F3 TIMETABLE

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 21

1050-1120 – Practice

1405-1435 – Practice

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 22

1000-1020 – Qualifying

1335-1350 – Race 1 (9 laps)

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 23

0940-0955 – Race 2 (9 laps)

1230-1255 – Race 3 (14 laps)

Nathan MorcomAnother sterling performance by Morcom Motorsport in the opening round of the 2012 Australian Production Car Endurance Championship at Phillip Island has earned the NSW team its fourth class win in the series on the trot.

The APCEC comprises the two six-hour rounds of the Australian Manufacturers’ Championship at Phillip Island in Victoria, and Eastern Creek Raceway in NSW.

Morcom Motorsport’s Direct Plasterboard Outlet-Rondo BMW 335i has now won the 2WD High Performance class in the past two APCEC races at both circuits.

The car was driven to its latest victory by Nathan Morcom and Chaz Mostert, who finished the six-hour marathon four laps ahead of the next Class B entry. They placed third overall behind the Class A Mitsubishi Lancer Evo Xs of Jim Pollicina-Ryan Simpson, and second placegetters Stuart-Kostera-Ian Tulloch.

In the early laps, a repeat of their upset outright win in last year’s final APCEC round at Eastern Creek looked to be on the cards when Mostert took the fight right up to the leading Evos.

But the pace started to overheat the BMW’s rear tyres, forcing Mostert to slow enough to make the rubber last until his scheduled fuel stop.

Unlike at Eastern Creek, when the Class A cars all failed to retain their qualifying speed advantage over the Class B BMW for the full six hours, this time two of them went the distance without major problems.

At the chequered flag, Morcom and Mostert had completed 189 laps of the 4.5km Victorian circuit, three fewer than the outright eventual winners.

Morcom Motorsport owner Barry Morcom couldn’t fault his team’s performance.

“The Direct Plasterboard Outlet-Rondo BMW didn’t miss a beat all weekend, both boys drove quickly and consistently, and our pit work was fine,” he said.

“Our strategy was to try to put pressure on the Evos. They’re quicker than our car, but their weakness has always been reliability.

“It’s a big ask for a 2WD car to beat the AWDs, though. We have to drive more carefully to keep the rear tyres alive for a whole stint, and our longer fuel range (Production Touring rules allow the BMW to carry 10 litres more than the Evo and Sti) isn’t enough to make up for the speed difference over six hours. Twelve hours maybe …

Nathan Morcom described his two driving stints as uneventful, except for the latter stages.

“There was a vibration on the right side early in my second stint, so I knocked a few seconds off my lap times to make sure we kept third place to the finish,” he said.

“There was no chance of catching the Evos ahead unless they had trouble, and the next car was too far behind to be a threat.”

Chaz Mostert echoed Nathan’s comments, adding that his top priority was to stick to the Morcom Motorsport team’s race strategy.

“It was mainly a matter of managing our fuel and tyres,” he said. “For the first few laps I thought there might be a chance to run with the Evos, but they were too quick – and this time two of them didn’t have any real problems during the race.”

With this year’s second APCEC round at Eastern Creek not until November, Morcom and Mostert will return to their regular racing programs in the meantime.

Morcom’s next races are scheduled on May 12-13 in the F2000 Championship Series round at Road Atlanta in the USA, and Mostert will drive next weekend in the V8 Supercars Development Series round at Barbagallo Raceway in WA.

Nathan MorcomNathan Morcom showed plenty of fighting spirit in an uncompetitive car in the opening round of this year’s F2000 Championship Series at Virginia International Raceway.

The young Sydney driver shrugged off handling and mechanical problems with his Rondo-DPO RFR in practice and qualifying to charge from the rear of the 32-car field to 15th in Saturday’s first race.

His effort earned him the ‘Hard Charger’ award for the race.

Continued set-up problems with the RFR during Sunday’s qualifying for the second race again put Morcom in the back half of the field.

From 19th starting position he passed a handful of drivers on the first lap, but he was punted off the track at the beginning of the second lap.

The car’s suspension was damaged in the incident, putting Morcom out of the race.

Van Diemen driver Robert La Rocca dominated the round by winning from pole position and setting the fastest lap in both races.

Morcom will return to Australia for his next event, the first round of the Australian Production Car Endurance Championship, at Phillip Island on April 28-29.

He is scheduled to drive the Rondo-DPO BMW 335i in the six-hour race with Chaz Mostert, hoping to repeat their win in the final round of last year’s APCEC at Eastern Creek in December.

Photo by Dennis Valet.

Nathan MorcomIt might sound weird, but Nathan Morcom is approaching rounds 11 and 12 of the F2000 Championship Series at Lime Rock Park next weekend as if they were rounds one and two!

With no realistic chance of overhauling the series leaders in the four remaining rounds, Morcom, who is third in the rookie standings and sixth overall, will be going all-out for race wins rather than driving conservatively to rack up points.

“Actually it will be easier than if the championship was at stake, because I won’t have to decide if every overtaking move could cost me points if it doesn’t stick.

“Whenever there’s an opportunity, I’ll just go for it!”

The 2.4km (1.5-mile) Connecticut circuit will mark his return to the American ‘development’ openwheeler series following an 11-week break.

A decision was made after Mid-Ohio in early-July to skip Mosport later in the month to allow Morcom’s Primus Racing team to address issues behind his lacklustre results since he won the opening round at Virginia International Raceway in April.

Morcom isn’t blaming Primus boss Jon Baytos, though.

“To be fair to Jon, in the first half of this year he had commitments to some long-term projects, one of which was re-establishing Primus Racing as a team in its own right instead of hiring other teams’ equipment and personnel.

“To do that he had to find and then fit out a workshop, which took a lot of time and energy that normally would have gone into the racing side.

“I know that Jon has been extremely disappointed that the car preparation this year hasn’t been up to the high standard that he sets for himself and everyone in his team.

“The car problems we’ve had have been frustrating because they’ve prevented Jon from doing what he’s famous for, which is setting up race-winning cars.

“This series is so competitive, and the race weekend timetables are usually so tight, that a small problem in testing or practice can make the difference between starting from the front row and midfield.

“I’ve been close enough to the pace often enough during the season to know that we only need our full quota of track time to be serious contenders.”

Photo by Dennis Valet

Nathan MorcomMid-Ohio was another ‘couldabeen’ race meeting in Nathan Morcom’s F2000 Championship series campaign.

The young Sydney driver was on the back foot from day one of the seventh and eighth rounds of the American development openwheel series.

First, he was sidelined for two of the four practice sessions after the throttle linkage broke on his Rondo Van Diemen, costing him precious track time.

More niggling problems during qualifying prevented him from qualifying higher than eighth for both rounds at the 3.9km Lexington road circuit.

Eighth and six placings in the two races were as much as Morcom could manage in a car that was a full second off the pace.

Despite a frustrating weekend, the top 10 double retained his sixth overall and third rookie positions in the series with six of the 14 rounds remaining.
ROUND 7

Three engine failures in the two previous F2000 Championship Series rounds at Watkins Glen had Morcom hoping for a trouble-free weekend at Mid-Ohio – but that hope was dashed early in the proceedings.

The throttle linkage broke on his Rondo Van Diemen before he’d warmed up his tyres in the second of Thursday’s three practice sessions.

That would have been a nuisance at a conventional race meeting, but this wasn’t a conventional race meeting.

The F2000 and F1600/Formula F Championship Series were piggybacked on Audi club track days, with the practice and qualifying sessions and races run nose-to-tail from mid-afternoon until early-evening each day.

The tight schedule hardly allowed time for car set-up adjustments, let alone repairs.

(In fact, the original timetable had two qualifying sessions and a race on Friday and Saturday, but the first qualifying session was changed to a practice session after the Friday drivers’ briefing.

With only six slicks at their disposal from the first qualifying session onwards, the competitors were adamant that a second qualifying session on the abrasive Mid-Ohio would be a waste of time.)

Morcom’s throttle linkage couldn’t be repaired in time for the third practice session, forcing him to sit out half of the pre-qualifying track time.

Adding further pressure was a team decision to make just one qualifying run – most drivers made two attempts – to conserve the tyres.

Under the circumstances, his one flying lap, just 0.8 seconds off pole and good enough for eighth starting position in the 28-car field, was a remarkable achievement.

The rolling start, down Mid-Ohio’s long back straight, was the usual messy affair.

Morcom lost a handful of places in the first few corners after backing off to avoid a collision with his Primus Racing team-mate, Jonathan Scarallo.

He regained one place on lap two when Tim Minor spun out of the lead pack, then clawed his way back past Gustavo Rizzo and Ethan Ringel back to eighth place.

But Minor was on a charge after his off-track excursion, setting the fastest race lap as he closed on a struggling Morcom in the ill-handling no.2 Van Diemen

The pair swapped places on lap 10 after a brief tussle.

Morcom battled on, though, taking eighth place back again after Kyle Connery dropped out of the lead bunch.

He battled with John La Rue to the finish, crossing the line a fraction of a second ahead.

The race was won by Chris Livengood, with Brian Tomasi second and Robert La Rocca third.

Morcom was disappointed to finish at the blunt end of the top 10, reflected by his fastest lap almost a full second off the pace.

“From the first lap my car wasn’t right – it was snapping into oversteer on every corner,” he said.

“It wasn’t easy to get back the places I lost at the start with the car handling the way it was.

“When Tim Minor came up behind me, his car was so much faster that I couldn’t hold him off for more than a few laps.”
Round 8

Saturday’s practice session, with drivers forced to use their race weekend tyres, posed a strategy dilemma: go out and work on car set-up, or stay in and save the tyres for qualifying and the race.

Morcom hoped that overnight set-up changes would make the Rondo Van Diemen competitive when it counted, and gave the practice session a miss.

But in qualifying another a mechanical gremlin intervened – this time a too-low idle setting that made the engine die off-throttle.

A pit stop remedied the problem, and in the limited remaining time Morcom did well to qualify eighth, 0.940sec. from pole.

Another rolling start shemozzle put him at loggerheads with John La Rue through the opening corners.

The pair banged wheels, bending the Rondo Van Diemen’s steering and damaging the rear suspension.

Morcom acclimatised to the out-of-kilter steering, but the loose back end made the car a real handful.

“The only way I could get any corner exit speed was to back it in and drift through on the throttle,” he said.

“Driving like that doesn’t do the tyres any good on a smooth circuit – it was even worse here!”

Despite his car’s handling and steering handicaps, Morcom overtook Jonathan Scarallo and Joe Colasacco to be sixth.

He had to drive defensively for the final two laps to hold off championship leader Remy Audette, who was recovering from a midfield start, until the finish.

The race was won by Kyle Connery, with Tim Minor second and Brian Tomasi third.

Afterwards, Morcom lamented yet another disrupted his F2000 Championship Series weekend.

“You can get away with small problems during a normal race meeting, but time was so tight here that the small problems I had turned into big problems.

“I’m still confident of being a frontrunner in this series if I can just get a clear run.

“There are still three race meetings to go – maybe it‘ll happen next time.”

Photo by Dennis Valet.

Nathan MorcomA class win in the Australian Production Touring Car Championship round at Phillip Island was ideal preparation for Nathan Morcom before he heads back to the USA to resume his F2000 campaign. James Smith photo.

With a four-week break between F2000 Championship Series rounds, Nathan Morcom didn’t want to idle away the time.

So, during a flying visit home to Australia, the 19 year-old Sydney driver popped down to Phillip Island in Victoria last weekend for a touring car race.

Not just a sprint event, but the first round of the Australian Production Car Endurance Championship, over six hours!

Nathan co-drove a Direct Plasterboard Outlet/Eastern Creek Karts BMW 335i in the race with his father, Barry, and Garry Holt.

And they won their class – by no fewer than five laps!

The car performed faultlessly throughout the marathon, the only hiccups being when Barry received a drive-through penalty for overtaking under yellow flags, and a delaminating tyre near the finish.

Nathan, who clocked the fastest race lap of the three drivers, said track conditions made the high-speed 4.5km Phillip Island circuit even more demanding than usual.

“It didn’t rain but the track was very slippery, so I had to concentrate on being consistent as well as quick.

“One small slip-up on any of the fast corners and the race would have been over for all three of us.

“The only worry was when a tyre started delaminating with a few laps to go – there was a massive vibration through the steering – but luckily it held together until the end.”

Morcom is scheduled to jet out of Sydney today (Monday) to return to the USA for the resumption of the F2000 Championship Series next weekend.

Driving a Rondo Van Diemen for Ohio-based Primus Racing, he’s looking for top-three results in the two rounds at the former US Formula 1 Grand Prix venue in upstate New York.

His 2011 campaign in the USA’s most competitive ‘junior development’ openwheel racing series began with a sensational debut victory and a fifth placing in the opening rounds at Virginia International Raceway in early-April.

But a driving error and car problems in the following rounds at Road Atlanta a month later yielded only a fifth placing and a non-finish.

“I need a strong weekend at Watkins Glen to make up for Road Atlanta,” Morcom said.

“I didn’t make the most of qualifying for the first race, but a bigger problem was that while we were trying get the handling right we didn’t notice that the engine was losing power.

“I finished fifth in the first race, but it was only after the throttle cable broke on the first lap of the second race that we saw the cable had stretched, causing the car to be down on top speed.”

“Fortunately I can drop my worst four races for the final pointscore, but I can’t afford more weekends like at Road Atlanta!”

With four of 14 rounds of the F2000 Championship Series completed, Morcom is third in the Rookie standings and fifth outright (see pointscore, below).