John Martin has taken his first Formula 3 win on home soil after securing victory in the first race of the Nikon Indy 300 F3 Challenge at Surfers Paradise.
The Team Australia A1GP driver was competing in his first F3 event in his home country and celebrated in style as, having taken pole position for the race, he then stormed to victory,
“It wasn't the best start for sure, but we were able to make up for it and get the win,” he said. “I didn't actually know it was the last lap! I was thinking 'this is the right kind of pace' and the flag came out, so it was all over pretty quickly.”
Martin first led practice in his Piccola Scuderia Corse Dallara F307 Mercedes Benz, then took pole position in qualifying, and was odd-on favourite to win the race until the moment the lights went out.
New Kumho Tyres Australian Formula 3 Champion James Winslow rocketed away off the line to get the run on Martin into the first corner and make things look like there could be an upset on the books.
A safety car briefly came out when Mat Sofi's Astuti Motorsport Dallara F307 hit trouble around the back of the circuit on the second lap, leaving Winslow in the lead, Martin second and Chris Alajajian in third.
When racing resumed shortly afterwards Winslow kept the lead, but it was short-lived, with Martin lunging past him.
“I knew I was strong though the chicane at the back of the track and that's where I lined James up and put some pressure on,” Martin said. “He must have made a mistake under brakes for the next left-hander, ran wide, and I got though.”
After that positions remained the same for the remainder of the ten-lap race, with Martin taking the win, Winslow second, and Alajajian third.
Further back 2008 runner-up Leanne Tander spent most of the race harrying Alajajian but finished fourth in her TanderSport entry, and Nathan Caratti finished fifth for Team BRM.
Although the round is not being run for championship points, Martin's pole position could prove vital – not just for the valuable track position, but the extra point that it holds towards taking the Nikon Indy 300 F3 Challenge crown this weekend. Afterwards he also took the fastest lap – breaking the lap record in the process – to take another extra point.
“It was good to get the lap record but there is more time to come. The track will get better and I think Saturday will be the day!” he said. “The safety car helped us a little bit because our car didn't come in very strong in the opening laps. Towards the end of the race it was great but it took a while to come on so that's something that we're going to have to work on for tomorrow.”