The recently-announced 2009 Australian Drivers Championship schedule has been well received by competitors as a strong foundation to continue the growth the national F3 series has shown in the past two seasons, despite uncertain financial times worldwide.

The eight-round calendar features racing in four states, although the majority of the rounds are scheduled for either New South Wales or Victoria, with the two states making up six of the eight events and the Clipsal 500 in Adelaide and the third Tasmanian F3 SuperPrix at Symmons Plains the other two.

With a vast majority of professional F3 teams and independent owner-driver or family-run operations running from the eastern seaboard, the geographically-compacted schedule looks set to help reduce transport costs, and maintain consistently strong grids throughout the season.

The shift to a predominantly eastern-seaboard based schedule means Mallala Raceway will not host an F3 round for the first time in the series' ten-year history, while Winton, Wakefield Park and Sandown all return to the schedule to give New South Wales and Victoria three rounds each.

"We needed to make a decision based on the competitor base and ensure that we maintained a strong, competitive field at all rounds next season, in a time when people are tightening their grip on their wallets," category manager Rowan Harman said, "F3 Australia worked with the Shannons Nationals to create a schedule that was more evenly-spaced and ended later in the season.

"With Clipsal opening the year, the decision was taken - and it wasn't an easy one - to replace Mallala with a round in either Victoria or New South Wales to try to lower the costs for a good majority of our competitors. Sadly, the bottom line is that it costs our teams several thousands of dollars to come to Adelaide from Sydney, Queensland or even Melbourne.

"As much as we'd love to be at Mallala, this way, in the end, we feel what we have is still a win-win. South Australia still gets a round of the Gold Star and our teams save thousands of dollars each in travel expenses.

"I know the Clipsal 500 will be a fantastic start to the Australian Drivers' Championship and continue the great traditions of top-level 'wings and slicks' racing in South Australia. Mallala has been a key part to our championship for many years and we will look at ways of supporting the event in ways other than competing there."

Two major outfits - four-time champion Team BRM and the Ian Richards-led R-Tek Motorsport - are Adelaide-based and, as a result, will now only have the Clipsal 500 as a 'home' event, but both have supported the change to the schedule designed to lower costs across the board.

"It is disappointing that we won't be at Mallala in 2009, given that we have raced there in each of F3 Australia's ten years, but, for the immediate future of F3 in Australia, I think it is a good decision," BRM owner Bronte Rundle admitted.

"We love having a round at Mallala, given it is our home circuit and the place where we do a lot of testing but, with a majority of the F3 cars in the country based in Sydney or Melbourne - and a number in Queensland as well - it made sense to focus a good number of our events over there to help keep our numbers up.

"Everyone is feeling the pinch, financially, at the moment, so anything the series can do to maintain the solid growth in numbers throughout the championship is worthwhile.

"It has been interesting to note the response from the South Australian media and fans, however, who have contacted us to ask why there isn't going to be a round at Mallala. It is great to have their support and that kind of interest shows the support that open-wheel racing continues to have in Adelaide. As a team, we hope that they all get out to the Clipsal 500 in March to see the opening round of the 2009 championship and, hopefully, we can also be back at Mallala soon."



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