One of the most competitive fields of the Australian F3 season will line-up on the grid this weekend at Surfers Paradise for the non-championship event supporting the Nikon Indy 300.
Five nations are represented on the grid for the F3 Challenge, including the leading drivers who did battle for the Australian title over the course of the year, with the drivers looking to follow in the footsteps of current Team Australia IndyCar driver Will Power, who took a pair of wins at Indy in 2002 en-route to second place in the Australian F3 Championship standings.
James Winslow, the 2008 Australian F3 champion, will lead the charge of the 'local' drivers, while his Team BRM team-mate Nathan Caratti, TanderSport's Leanne Tander and Astuti Motorsport driver Mat Sofi will also line up on the grid to continue the battle they fought during the 2008 campaign. Chris Alajajian and Steve Morcombe will also take their place on the grid, while Australian A1GP racer John Martin will make his first Australian F3 start for Piccola Scuderia in an effort to get street-circuit miles under his belt.
Indonesian driver Zahir Ali, a star performer in the All-Japan F3 Championship, has joined Team BRM in a three-car attack at Indy and will hope to continue the kind of form that saw him finish on the podium seven times during his regular season.
In the National Class for 2004-specification cars, a young Columbian will look to challenge 2008 class champ Chris Gilmour on home soil. Carlos Huertas, who drove for Raikkonen Robertson Racing in the European Formula BMW series this year, will drive a Dallara F304 Spiess for R-Tek Motorsport at Indy in what will be his Formula 3 debut. Huertas won't find it easy to topple Gilmour from the top of the National Class pile however, as the Brisbane resident is one of only two drivers on the grid to have raced on the Gold Coast circuit in a Formula 3 car before; Alajajian being the other.
Other notables include Ben Crighton and Jesse Wakeman, while John Mills and Jonathan Grant will make their first Formula 3 starts driving 2001-specification Dallaras.
The Nikon Indy 300 F3 Challenge will be fought over three races, with Thursday featuring one practice, one qualifying and the opening ten-lap race in the afternoon. Friday and Saturday each feature an eight-lap race with the overall winner being the driver who accumulates the most points over the three races. Bonus points will be on offer for pole position and the fastest lap in each race.