With just four more rounds left on the calendar, the 2002 Asian Formula Challenge, which is organized by the Malaysian Motor Sports Club in cooperation with the Asian Formula 3 Corp. and Formula Racing Development, moves into what could be the most critical phase of the 14-round series as Asia's top Formula 3 and Formula Renault drivers gird for battle at the Pasir Gudang Circuit in Johor, Malaysia on Sunday, September 29.
A maximum of 40 championship points await whoever will win the two races on the 3.86 kilometer long circuit. The frontrunners are eager to carry as much of an advantage as possible into next month's final leg at Subic Bay, Philippines. Thus, scoring points-even winning outright-will be extremely important to them, while those who fail to finish in the Johor rounds can kiss their title ambitions goodbye.
Leading the list of entries in the Asian Formula 3 series is Briton and Castrol Team driver Mark Goddard, who is carrying 139 points going into rounds 11 and 12. Goddard has won five out of the ten races held so far and is the favorite to take the Asian Formula 3 title. Closely pursuing Goddard is FRD Harbour View's Philippe Descombes of France, who has 122 points to his name. Occupying third in the AF3 drivers' standings is Hong Kong resident and Vertex Motorsports team leader Paul Chan, who has accumulated 89 points.
Although they are out of the running in the championship, Hong Kong's Marchy Lee of Vertex Motorsports and Casino Filipino Team Tom's Zed ace Jojo Silverio of the Philippines are still capable of pulling off wins and upsetting the placing of the leaders. Also expected to display their race savvy at Johor AF3 races are Korean and E-Rain driver Dong Wook Lee, Denso JF3 Racing's Richard Joson of the Philippines, the FRD Motorsports duo of American David Louie and Hong Kong resident Stephen Chau, American and Vertex Motorsports young gun Jonathan Chan and Shell Racing Team mainstay Pepon Marave of the Philippines.
The stage is also set for an upheaval in the Asian Formula Renault series. Still leading in the standings with 214 points is China's boy wonder, Franky Cheng, who was absent from the last two rounds in Sepang. Rumors have it that he may also skip Johor, which means that his arch nemesis, Filipino Enzo Pastor of Team T.E.C., will have a chance to take
the series lead if he manages to finish higher than fourth place in rounds 11 and 12.That may be easier said than done considering that Hong Kong's Henry Lee, Jr. is enjoying a winning streak, which has remained unbroken in four races.
Japan's Jun Harata, who has also made it to the podium in his last four outings can also spoil Pastor's campaign by taking away valuable points. Meanwhile, Dutchman Francis Tjia, who is lying third in the series, is ready to pounce on any opportunity that may come his way, most especially if the leaders run afoul of each other on the track.
Just as in the AF3 series, finishing and scoring points in the Asian Formula Renault series at Johor is of utmost importance to the title contenders.