The Asian Formula 3 Series finally made its kick-off at the Subic International Raceway with 7 cars running in both the International and Promotional classes. Due to SARS fears, foreign drivers from Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan were not able to participate in the race. Local drivers were led by last season's champion Mark Goddard, top Filipino driver Richard Joson, Pepon Marave, Jojo Silverio, Mike Potenciano, Roland Hermoso, and JP Tuason. Although set to run in the opening rounds, Enzo Pastor blew his engine in the practice round and failed to join the grid.
In the qualifying session, it was initially Jojo Silverio of Castrol Ambi Pur Team Goddard who set the fastest laptime on his 3rd lap with 1:13.655. But Pepon Marave of Shell Casino Filipino Racing Team made a late charge setting a 1:13.534 on his 17th lap taking pole position away from Silverio. Mark Goddard only mustered a 1:13.744, enough for a 3rd grid position which he set on his 18th lap. Starting behind the top three will be Mike Pontenciano (Shell Casino Filipino Racing Team), JP Tuason (Speedtech Asia), Richard Joson (Denso-JF3 Racing), and Roland Hermoso (Speedtech Asia) respectively.
In a dramatic race, Pepon Marave blasted through the grid from pole leading the closely followed by Silverio and the rest of the grid. Silverio would manage to get close enough taking Marave on the first turn in lap 3. Marave made a late braking maneuver on Silverio going to the hairpin in lap 4 causing his front wing to touch Silverio's rear tire. The contact caused a broken front wing for Marave, Silverio suffered a punctured tire meaning the end of his race. Marave continued on the race with a broken wing as Goddard followed closely. Goddard managed to dispatch Marave quite easily with his blistering pace.
Without notice, Goddard suddenly stalled with a blown engine on lap 12 leaving a wide open door for Marave to take the lead. Marave continued to surge on with a broken front wing. Teammate Potenciano continued on behind him with a relaxed pace. "I started to ease off a little bit when I saw Jojo (Silverio) retire from the race," said Potenciano with his trademark smile after the race.
Plagued for the whole race weekend by overheating problems Richard Joson of Denso-JF3 Racing and ran with a marginally older car and engine (an F398 and a 6-year old Mugen engine) compared to his fellow International division drivers who were both driving F301 cars with newer engines. Joson struggled for the whole race pitting in on lap 6 due to uncontrollable overheating problems. Almost deciding to retire from the race, he decided to rejoin the race after Goddard retired. But alas, his 10 laps were decided not to be enough to gain points as declared by the FIA stewards.
The race ended as Marave took the checkered flag, followed by teammate Potenciano. Roland Hermoso of Speedtech Asia followed 8-seconds after with Richard Joson behind him, then followed JP Tuason.
The results after the stewards decision were, International Class: Pepon Marave (1st), Promotional Class: Mike Potenciano (1st), Roland Hermoso (2nd), JP Tuason (3rd).
A different turn of events for the afternoon race, as both Castrol Ambi Pur Team Goddard drivers had to start at the back of the grid because of their DNFs. Goddard is now poised to finish the race on podium with a spare engine. This meant that Goddard and Silverio had to push harder to rejoin the front row. Last minute drama in the pitlane as polesitter Pepon Marave failed to get his engine starting and was forced to start from pitlane.
As the green light went on, it was Potenciano leading the way with Hermoso following behind him. With a good start, Silverio primed himself up for a good climb up running behind Potenciano a few laps later. Also making a good start was Joson who found himself battling it out with Hermoso and Goddard for a few laps before going back out again due to his persistent overheating problem on the 6th lap.
Silverio would continually hound Potenciano trying to dive at each opportunity he would get but was denied any point of entry by Potenciano at every last fraction of a second. While the two front runners found themselves busy battling it out, defending champion Mark Goddard weeded his way up the order running behind Silverio at a distance.
Finally, running too hot on the tail of Potenciano, Silverio found himself spinning on the way to the hairpin letting Goddard and Marave through. It was now Goddard's turn to hound Potenciano, whom he dispatched with little hesitation as if let through.
But Silverio would not be denied of his charge as he continued to surge forward later dispatching Marave and setting his sight after Potenciano once again. But alas, there was too little time left in the race as 2 laps remained. Silverio's efforts would not go to waste as he is now the record holder of the fastest laptime at the Subic International Raceway at a blazingly fast 1:12.541.
A full turn of the table for Mark Goddard of Castrol Ambi-Pur Team Goddard as he takes the win for the International Class ahead of Pepon Marave of Team Shell-Casino Filipino-KineticF3. DENSO-JF3 driver Richard Joson's 8 lap effort was decided by the Stewards to be a DNF due to the 75%-rule.
A brilliant back-to-back Promotional Class victory for Mike Potenciano with the biggest smile of them all in his debut Asian Formula 3 race with Team Shell-Casino Filipino-KineticF3. Jojo Silverio claimed second place after a very tight battle for position with Potenciano in one of the most exciting battles in Asian Formula 3 racing. Finishing third rounding up the Promotional Class podium was JP Tuason of Speedtech Asia.