F3 Asia 2005

Driver Profiles

05 April 2005
Formula 3 Asia
Press Release Asian F3

Asian Formula Three set for competitive season

The expanded 16 car grid for the first event at BRC on April 10th is undoubtedly the most competitive field to date. Don Tacos gives his predictions on who will be winning this year.

John O’Hara swaps teams from Kinetic to TOM’S and will race their Dallara 304. Testing has not gone well, O’Hara driving the chassis used by Enzo Pastor last year. The team and driver believe there is a chassis problem and TOM’S Japan have sent one of their cars as a replacement. We will not know until race week testing has got under way if the new car will get O’Hara on the pace. It will be a major surprise if he is not winning races this year. He has to win, if not his racing career will be in danger of stalling.

Christian Jones returns with the same car and team, his own CJM Dallara 301 Neil Brown Honda. The team also have a new Dallara 304 but supposedly no engine to fit it with. Which car Jones will drive we only know once the first event has started. The first race will also answer one of the big questions of the year, what is faster the 304 or 301 model. O’Hara reckons initially it will be 301 but that long term it will be the 304. He has a point, the 301’s are 10kg lighter and the teams know the car very well. The real advantage of the 304 is it’s six speed sequential gearbox, six speeds are always going to be better than the five of the 301. Back to Jones, like O’Hara he has to win to keep his career on track. Certainly he will find it harder this year and it would be a surprise to see any driver win the first four races in a row, a feat Jones achieved in 2004. His smooth yet deceptively fast style reaps rewards when the going is good, whether this is good enough to beat the feisty style of O’Hara only time and circumstance will tell.

Ananda Mikola returns to the series with a new team, Pertamina Fastron Racing, and a new car, a Dallara 304 Nissan. This is the first time a Nissan engine has been seen in the Series. The car comes from Three Bond Racing and will be engineered by Adachi San who has defected from Kinetic to run Mikola. Adachi proved with O’Hara and Mikola last year that he is a great engineer and he will give Mikola a car capable of winning. He has set the fastest testing time to date at BRC, 1m 23.29 and will certainly go faster when Nissan send their ECU tuner for race week. Mikola is another driver who has to win and I believe he starts with a slight edge over Jones and O’Hara.

2004 Promotion Class winner, Tyson Sy, surprised many by moving from Team Goddard-Minardi Team Asia to Speedtech Asia. He has shone promise in testing so far but he still needs to move up a notch if he is going to win races outright this year. His fitness is also a little suspect so he may struggle to keep up the pace for a race distance. If Sy is to have any chance of fulfilling his dream of racing in F1 he has to win races this year. Will he rise to the challenge? This is one of the more interesting questions of the year.

Dado Pena has moved to Ambi Pur Team Goddard-Minardi Team Asia to lead the team in their Dallara 301 TOM’S. He has all but equaled Ananda Mikola’s best in testing and put himself right in the frame this year. Like Sy, Pena has driven for Minardi Team Asia in Formula BMW Asia for the past two seasons. The team know that Pena has the speed and extremely good technique. His major fault has been allowing slight problems to get to him but Pena himself says he understands this and that he will not allow it to happen this year. The team were extremely impressed with him in testing at BRC and they truly believe they have a good chance of winning races. Pena has remained part of the Minardi ladder to the top and he knows if he does well doors will open to help him on his way to F1. Sy and Pena have been arch rivals since their karting days and both are desperate to beat the other. Who comes out on top is one of the talking points of the season.

Katsuhiro Konno joins JF3 but is difficult to predict how he will fare. His experience is relatively little and it is doubtful if he can hack it with Jones, O’Hara, Mikola, Pena and Sy. However he may be the next Sato but we will not know until the first race.

Rodolfo Avila is an Asian Formula Renault Champion but this is a big jump for the young Macanese. He has done more testing miles than any other driver and as yet has not set the world alight. However his testing has been done in the ex Enzo Pastor 304, a car with which John O’Hara struggled to get within two seconds of Mikola on the same day. Avila tests his own car, a Dallara 304 freshly delivered from Japan, on race week. Expect him to improve as the year goes on but this year it will a real surprise to see him on the podium too many times. However he has good backing an he obviously does possess some talent. Expect him to use this year as a springboard to a real championship campaign in 2006.

Pepon Marave returns for Shell Kinetic PCSO in his 301 TORRI engined car. Last year was not a good year for the 2003 Champion, he spent most of the year looking like he would have preferred to be on the golf course rather than behind the wheel! Can he regain his former glory days? He has the talent but does he still possess the will to win?

James Winslow joins Kinetic also in a 301 TORRI. He will be competitive, he finished second in the ARP British F3 Series last year. Can he win races? Probably. Kinetic are tight fisted with any information so we really do not know how he has fared in testing.

The fate of O’Hara, Avila, Konno, Sy and Pena is partly in the hands of TOM’S. Their rival Toyota tuning company, TORRI, probably had a slight advantage last year as their ECU man had only two cars to deal with and he was possibly able to sail closer to the wind when mapping the ECU. Jones’s ECU was mapped through e mail by Neil Brown, not as good an arrangement as TORRI but they were able to concentrate on one engine only. TOM’S on the other hand were mapping for almost the entire field and were also possibly a little too conservative on occasions. So all the TOM’S drivers hope for a real effort to match TORRI this year. Some are afraid that the effort will be directed at the “works’ driver, O’Hara, to the detriment of the remaining TOM’S runners. Add in Nissan with just one engine and TOM’S really have a point to prove this year.

The Don Tacos prediction of who will do the winning this year? If TOM’S really push all their drivers the top three will be O’Hara, Pena and Mikola with Jones, Winslow and Sy pretty close. If O’Hara turns out to the favorite son then O’Hara, Mikola and Jones will make up the top three. If TOM’S lag behind then expect Mikola, Jones and Winslow to fill the top three. The champion could be any one of six drivers and that really reflects the growing stature of Asian Formula Three.



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