Tom Tweedie has come though perhaps the sternest test of his career in the F3 Australian Drivers Championship with enough new knowledge to take his racing to another level.
With the Phillip Island Grand Prix circuit the most challenging test for F3 drivers in Australia, Tweedie managed to extend his National Class points lead and again mix it with the leading cars – and a former championship contender – whilst all the time learning more about the cars and their set-up.
He qualified his Battery World-supported Dallara F304-Renault less than half a second outside of former title contender Leanne Tander's similar F304 Dallara after just one day of testing and one of practice at the 4.46km Victorian track.
In race one, a gamble to utilise an older set of wet tyres – anticipating a drying race track – failed to pay off when more rain came, causing Tweedie to slip off the circuit at turn four on lap eight, putting himself out of the race, but the second race went substantially better, with the rookie finishing second in his class and fourth outright, substantially gapping the remainder of the field and keeping in touch with the overall leaders.
The upshot was not only an additional 15 points to his National Class points' lead, but a wealth of new set-up information and knowledge that he can use for various conditions in future championship rounds.
"I think, if I can take what we learned this weekend from the different car set-ups and apply parts of that to Winton, we should put up another strong performance,” the 20-year-old said, “This weekend at Phillip Island would have to be one of the biggest learning curves we've had all season. Full credit has to go to the team as the Wednesday test day was very strong as we tried a lot of different set-ups while I was dialling myself into the track – that was a great help going into the weekend.
"Qualifying just 0.5secs and 0.3secs off current lap record holder Leanne Tander in Q1 and Q2 was excellent but, in race one, we took a bit of a gamble and put a very old set of wet tyres on that were a bit worn and harder, hoping the track would dry out. Unfortunately, the track was considerably wetter and, with the lack of grip, I came off at turn four and bogged the car. Finishing fourth overall in race two was a far more pleasing result. I gained ground after a turn two, lap one crash and then I just had to keep my head down and try put up a challenge to the leading cars."
Tweedie now leads the National Class by 26 points as the series heads to Winton for the fourth round of the championship over 26-28 June.