James Winslow defied the problems that have threatened to sideline him all season to claim his third international title in as many years after coming out on top of a tense Kumho Tyres Australian F3 Championship at Symmons Plain.

The Briton ensured that the CAMS Australian Drivers' Championship and the Gold Star will return to the United Kingdom for just the second time in 52 years after winning the opening race of the Tasmanian finale.

Title rival Leanne Tander was denied a challenge after her engine failed after 13 laps into race one, but bounced back to win the 30-lap Country Club Tasmania F3 SuperPrix to end her year on a high note.

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In one of the most dramatic and unpredictable season finales in all of Australian motorsport, Winslow won the championship on the final lap of race one after a rain shower made the 2.4km Symmons Plains circuit slippery - and cost leader Stuart Kostera the win.

Polesitter Mathew Radisich led early, but slipped back to allow Winslow and Tander to dispute out the lead before Tander's engine went off song and ended her hopes of a race win.

A fast-closing Kostera then diced with Winslow and took the lead, only for the damp track to catch many cars out on the final lap and give sure-footed Winslow the chance to slip by and take the win.

Kostera recovered for second, ahead of outgoing champion Tim Macrow, driving his old F301 Dallara.

Amid the carnage, Mat Sofi took fourth, despite a last-lap off-track excursion at turn one when the rain hit, and South Australian youngster Jesse Wakeman a stunning fifth.

Winslow - now $80,000 richer due to the prize on offer for the champion - was cautious about celebrating immediately after the race but, once official results were confirmed, his elation was clear to see.

"It is just unbelievable," he enthused, "After the year I have had, I don't know quite what to feel. It hasn't sunk in yet.

"I knew that Leanne was out of the race, but I was so determined to win the championship in race one that I pressed on as hard as I could. That's why I challenged Kostera when he passed me - because I wanted to win to make sure of it.

"It's just fantastic. Amazing. The team has done a great job and thanks have to go to them and everyone that has been supporting me. After last season, I was so determined to come back this year and win the series, so I am just relieved and happy.

"It has been an amazing championship - and very, very competitive. It's obviously disappointing for Leanne to have an engine go, but she has been a great rival this year."

Winslow won five races in 2008, finished on the podium nine times in ten races, scored three pole positions and three fastest race laps.

He follows Ben Clucas as the only Englishmen to win the Gold Star, while the title also brought Team BRM a record fourth championship title after successes in 2002, 2004 and 2006. His season, however, remained on a knife-edge after the collapse of sponsor Opes Prime left him scrabbling to raise the finances to compete from round-to round.

Later in the afternoon, Tander jumped to an early advantage at the start of the 30-lap SuperPrix as a five-car freight train set about battling for the lead.

Winslow swapped the lead multiple times in the first ten laps, but the Team BRM car eventually began to slip back, and ultimately retired after 15 laps with clutch problems.

BRM team-mate Nathan Caratti then took up the challenge and pursued Tander aggressively, eventually closing to within a few tenths and engaging in a dice with a leader for the final few laps.

Tander withstood the challenge, however, and a final push to the line saw her ahead as the pair were split by just 0.06secs in the closest finish of the 2008 season. The win also earned her the second ever John Bowe Trophy.

After the disappointment of having the championship taken from her grasp in race one, Tander said that the SuperPrix win went some ways to making up.

"The team did an awesome job, I can't thank them enough for getting the car back together and changing the engine between races," she said of her TanderSport operation.

"Obviously it's disappointing to not have been able to win the championship as that is what we came here for, but that was a great race and a great dice with Nathan.

"It has been a challenging season and we came from a long way behind to challenge for it this weekend. My team is the best team in the business and just fantastic. I didn't win the championship, but this win is a good one."

The championship was decided by four points, Winslow winning 198-194 after 15 races, 230 laps and over 780 competitive kilometres.

Caratti finished third in the standings after enduring another tough weekend, but once again showing the massive speed that should make him a favourite if he returns in 2009.

The Team BRM youngster was involved in a high-speed incident with Radisich in race one that ended his hopes of a podium finish, but rebounded brilliantly in the second to come within a nose of winning the John Bowe Trophy and the SuperPrix race.

Sofi's results in the second half of the season boosted him to fourth in the championship with 136 points.

In the National Class, Chris Gilmour wrapped up his long-awaited title and the $40,000 prize after a cautious pair of fourth-place finishes.

Macrow's near-perfect score lifted him to third in the class, behind Lee Farrell and ahead of Radisich and Ben Crighton.