Less than two-tenths of a second split the first three cars in practice for the final round of the 2008 Kumho Tyres Australian F3 Championship at Symmons Plains Raceway.
In practice one, championship leader James Winslow's 50.9141secs mark led BRM team-mate Nathan Caratti and title rival Leanne Tander, before the top two positions were reversed second time around, as Caratti set the quickest time of the day at 50.8229secs. Tander was third, still just two-tenths from the top spot.
“We worked on a lot of things today,” Winslow said, ”It was a good day because my engineer and I learnt a lot about the car and how it reacts to set-up changes. It's been a good day.”
Cold and blustery – but, importantly, dry – conditions greeted competitors at Symmons Plains today as two classes come down to the wire after one of the most competitive seasons on record. While the three drivers fighting for the title locked out the top spots in each session, Astuti Motorsport's Mat Sofi was fourth fastest each time.
In the National Class, 2007 Australian Drivers champion Tim Macrow was comfortably quickest, at least by Symmons Plains standards, banking a practice one time that was less than a second away from the fastest overall time of the day.
”Not bad for the old girl,” Macrow said of his F301-spec Dallara, “We were on really old rubber so, with new tyres, we should be able to find about half to six-tenths in qualifying tomorrow. Having said that, a 50.7 is one of the better times I've done around here in that car.”
Famous for producing tight timesheets, the 2.41km Symmons Plains layout didn't disappoint today with the top ten covered by less than 1.8secs in practice two, with the gap expected to shrink tomorrow should the circuit stay dry.
The perceived advantage held by the 'new-for-2008' 2007-spec chassis has not been so apparent in Tasmania and, given that last year's pole time of 50.6secs was set in an F304, there is every chance of the National Class runners nipping at the heels of the latest cars.
Saturday will see two 20-minute qualifying sessions to set the grid for Sunday's races, the first for the 22-lap opener, with the second setting the grid for the season-ending Country Club Tasmania F3 SuperPrix.