The Australian Formula 3 Championship battle will shift up a gear in this weekend's sixth round of the Shannons Nationals at Phillip Island, with Nathan Caratti and Leanne Tander entering the weekend sharing the championship lead.

Phillip Island will host the penultimate Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Championship round of the year and the 150th race in the championship's history, which is set to be dramatic with Caratti, Tander and James Winslow covered by just twelve points in the championship standings.

Caratti won the opening race of the season, but both he and Tander were involved in a multi-car accident in round two, costing them valuable points. Winslow took the championship lead at round three, before Caratti moved into top spot in the following round at Adelaide's Mallala Motorsport Park.

The West Australian had a 20-point lead after topping qualifying for round six at Eastern Creek last month, but that advantage evaporated on race day. While Tander took a race win and a second, Caratti had a pair of slow starts and was caught up in a race two incident, which saw him finish fourth and twelfth in the two races.

"Even though we had good speed at Eastern Creek it was a pretty disappointing weekend," Caratti said. "We had pole position for the two races, but we struggled to get the car off the line and then lost time with the race two incident.

"We've had good speed all year, and we won a race and finished second in the other at Phillip Island last time, so we're confident of being back up the front this weekend."

When the series visited Phillip Island in June, Tander lowered the lap record to 1min 26.9031secs, just two seconds shy of the outright lap record and almost ten seconds-per lap faster than V8 Supercar race pace.

After finishing second in 2007 - a season in which she became the first female to win a Formula 3 race - by just two points, Tander is eyeing the 2008 title.

"We had some bad luck in the first couple of rounds and since then have been pushing hard to score wins," Tander said. "That's put us in this position in the championship, so we're going to keep doing the same thing in these last two rounds.

"We've been competitive all year and I know we're capable of winning the championship, there'll be tough competition from Nathan and James but we'll give it everything we can."


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