The 2004 Asian Formula 3 Series held its season opener at the Batangas Racing Circuit with a 13-car grid. The supposed 14-car grid fell a car short due to mechanical problems, sidelining Autoplus Racing driver Carlos Anton. This year's series saw the participation of foreign drivers from Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, and Japan.
Christian Jones of Christian Jones Motorsport dominated the International class in the opening rounds of the Asian Formula 3 Series, whilst sixteen year-old Tyson Sy of Minardi Team Asia lorded over the Promotional Class with a spectacular maiden race season opener.
In qualifying, it was Irish driver John O'Hara of Shell-Kinetic F3 Racing who grabbed pole position away from Christian Jones who set the pace early on in the session. O'Hara made a late dash setting a 1:25.261 laptime and besting his own time in the next lap with a 1:25.135 laptime. Third on the grid was Mark Goddard of Castrol Ambi-Pur Team Goddard with a time 1:25.761, followed by Tyson Sy who clocked in at 1:26.860 which was almost a second faster than the other Promotional Class runners.
It was a dramatic start as two cars failed to get away for the warm up lap as the other cars sped away entering the first turn. DENSO-Hanjin-JF3 Racing's Richard Joson was the early retiree due to a broken driveshaft. "It happens, we'll just catch up in the second round," exclaimed a disappointed Joson. Dado Peña of Christian Jones Motorsport meanwhile stalled on the start and his crew was able to get his car restarted at pitlane where he was able to rejoin the race.
At the official start, it was polesitter O'Hara who pulled ahead into the first turn followed by Jones. Goddard had to unfortunately drop down to fourth behind teammate Tyson Sy after the former made an attempt at the lead in the first turn. More action took place at the Yamaha downhill left-hand hairpin where Marave spun-out after a brief encounter with Team TOM'S Asia driver Enzo Pastor. But the drama was not yet over as the first lap sideline another driver, Japanese competitor Kenkou Miura joined his teammate Richard Joson in the sidelines as he spun his car out in the last turn after an overtake attempt on Roland Hermoso of Petron-Speedtech Asia.
The top three race order went on with O'Hara, Jones and Sy for several laps. Goddard was racing hard to keep up with the young Sy who literally covered himself from any overtake attempts. Team Speedtech Asia's Jojo Silverio stayed in a comfortable fifth. Making his way from the back of the order was Peña who managed to get into the middle of the order.
Midway through race, hard charging Jones would get his chance to take O'Hara as the latter lost time on the first turn handing over the lead to Jones. A dramatic turn behind the leaders as Sy spins out apparently due to fatigue from defending against a tenacious Goddard who just wouldn't want to be beaten by a sixteen year-old. Sy dropped down two positions down to 5th as Silverio managed to pass him on his spin.
The race ended with Jones taking the win over O'Hara by a mere four-tenths of a second. Goddard followed ten seconds behind to finish in the podium. For the Promotional Class, Sy bagged the win almost thirty seconds ahead of Hermoso who was followed by Peña three seconds after.
In Round 2, it was a first turn mayhem at the opening lap with cars literally all over the track. And as if things weren't bad enough, Shell-Kinetic F3 Racing's Pepon Marave would again retire after spinning into the gravel pits. Team TOM's Asia's Don Pastor, recovered safely from his spin to rejoin the race. Lucky to avoid the early action were Hermoso and Mike Tuason of Autoplus Racing who were literally inches away from the spinning cars.
As the dust settled, it was still Jones at the lead with O'Hara right behind his tail. Running behind them was Goddard and Silverio who both had an exciting duel throughout the race. Enzo Pastor who managed to avoid hitting his brother and teammate Don, at the first turn took a holeshot ahead of Joson. Determined Tyson Sy, who was marginally behind Joson, slowly inched his way ahead to take Joson on the 5th lap.
Managing to maintain the pace were Hermoso and Miura who sealed their Promotions Class Podium finishes with equally consistent laptimes. Behind them was intense action as Peña makes a slow climb up the order from the back of the field taking, which however was still not able to get him past Don Pastor for fourth in the Promotions Class.
The final podium order was basically a replay of the order with Jones in 1st, O'Hara in 2nd, and Goddard in 3rd for the International Class. The Promotions Class saw a little change with Sy in 1st, Hermoso in 2nd and Miura in 3rd.
The Asian Formula 3 Series moves to the Subic International Raceway for the 3rd and 4th rounds, scheduled on May 29-30, which is a month away. Teams will certainly have a busy month to make the necessary adjustments or changes to their cars in preparation for Subic.