He may have been on new tyres when most of the field were on olds, but there was no doubting the simple fact that Mitch Evans was the fastest person on his 'official' Formula 3 Australian Drivers' Championship debut in practice at Sandown today.
With all of 20 laps to his name in a 'wings and slicks car' before hitting the circuit today, the 15-year-old runner up in this year's Australian Formula Ford Championship took to his Team BRM Dallara like a horse to Sandown's turf today, and promptly topped both sessions.
Evans was running on brand new Kumho rubber, not having an allocation of previously-used tyres to use in practice as is the norm in the Formula 3 Australian Drivers' Championship.
Team BRM said they thought new rubber was worth six-to-eight tenths at Sandown – but even when that margin is taken into account Evans' opening laps in Formula 3 were impressive, his times placing him right within the leading contenders within this years championship fight.
Behind the flying Kiwi a group of seven to eight cars proved that this years' F3 SuperPrix grid (to be contested over 22 laps on Sunday) will be the most competitive ever.
Six-tenths covered second through seventh positions in practice one, whilst a solitary second covered second to ninth in the second session, proving that when everyone is on equal rubber tomorrows' two qualifying sessions – the second incorporating the new 'Quick Six' session – will be ferociously competitive.
Though it was only practice today's first Formula 3 action witnessed at Sandown since 2004 was not without incident.
Rookie Kristian Lindbom, making his F3 debut this weekend with Astuti Motorsport, got only two-thirds through his first ever lap in an F3 car this morning before a fuel pump failed and left him stranded for the 30 minute session.
Astuti teammate Rio Haryanto was another to get minimal track time in the first session, after his car broke a rear pushrod in the suspension after contact with a kerb at turn one. The recently-crowned Asian Formula BMW champion bounced back brilliantly, however, to finish practice two in third place and prove his potential this weekend.
West Aussie rookie Bryce Moore, driving a TanderSport Dallara F304, was similarly impressive and finished fourth in each session.