The series opener of the 2005 Asian Formula 3 Championship was full of excitement as 15 cars lined up on the grid. With drivers from the UK, Ireland, Australia, Japan, Indonesia and some of the best talents from the Philippines competing in the 10-round series which runs in the Philippines, China, and Indonesia.
Indonesian brothers Ananda Mikola (Fastron Racing with Threebond) and Moreno Soeprapto (Denso-Hanjin-Joson F3 Racing) dominated the International and Promotion Classes from qualifying to raceday. They had a delegation of Indonesian fans, more than one hundred strong providing moral support to cheer their countrymen in the exciting race.
In qualifying, Ananda Mikola of Fastron Racing with Threebond set the pace at 1m22.410s to take pole on his 13th qualifying lap, while Christian Jones of Christian Jones Motorsport settled for P2 with a time of 1m22.689s he set early on his third qualifying lap. International Class rookie Dado Peña of Ambi Pur Team Goddard-Minardi Team Asia proved his mettle setting the third best time at 1m23.648s. The rest of the order was John O'Hara (Fujitsu Ten Team Tom's), Tyson Sy (Speedtech Asia), and James Winslow (Shell Helix Kinetic F3 PCSO) who were all within two-tenths of second from Peña's time.
In the Promotion Class, Moreno Soeprapto of Denso-Hanjin-Joson F3 Racing taking the pole and 8th overall grid position at 1m24.920s more than two seconds ahead of closest competitor Greg Murphy of Ambi Pur Team Goddard-Minardi Team Asia who was then followed by Christian Jones Motorsport's John Marcelo (brother of the late Jovy Marcelo), who is taking his first outing in professional motorsport. Having to start at the back of the grid were Enzo Pastor and Renan Morales (open wheel car first timer) due to failed vacuum tests.
It was a clean start for race one as the cars sped away into the first turn which was surprisingly incident free, as it has always been in the first turn where most cars touch and some unfortunate ones get an early retirement. All this except for Tyson Sy, who stalled his start and had to catch up to the International Class drivers who were speeding away corner by corner.
The first lap didn't end there, as the two JP's had a clash into the Casino Filipino double right hand apex. "When I was going into the first apex, JP Cariño spun right in front of me and I simply had nowhere to go. It's good there was no major damage to both our cars," said a disappointed JP Tuason.
It was all Mikola and Jones for the International Class as the two were way ahead of the pack with Mikola leading all 15 laps. Jones gave a good challenge relentlessly chasing the Indonesian lap after lap. It was a relatively quiet and well spaced order behind the leaders with O'Hara in far third, while Peña and Winslow fought hard behind with Peña getting the barely getting the upper hand, Macanese driver Rodolfo Avila figured in sixth, and Marave in seventh. While Tyson Sy who was left way behind, worked his way up the order to ninth position behind Promotion Class leader Moreno Soeprapto.
Soeprapto blew away the competition in the Promotion Class as he led the whole race never looking back with a thirty plus second advantage over Enzo Pastor and Greg Murphy. Greenhorn Renan Morales finished far behind nursing a car which was having gearbox problems which came out halfway through race.
"I really wasn't expecting a win today, I came into the race just wanting to finish in the podium. I am very happy that was able to win the race. This is a very demanding track as it is very bumpy and unpredictable," said a victorious Ananda Mikola.
It was pretty much the same story for race two as Mikola and Jones stayed up front after the start of the race. First lap mayhem got most of the drivers crashing out Dado Peña and John Marcelo who had a very bad crash at the notorious kink going into the last turn. The left side of the Marcelo's car was completely destroyed, he will be running a new chassis for the next race. "There was a pileup going into the braking point, I couldn't find a hole to slot into. Rather than crashing into another car, I elected to avoid them and resulted in my own crash," said Marcelo. JP Cariño retired in the first lap due to car problems.
As if the mayhem was over, in the third lap, John O'Hara and Tyson Sy had a close encounter going into the double right hand apex as O'Hara closed the door on Sy. Sy crashed out while O'Hara rejoined the race working his way up from 7th. This meant a wide open door for James Winslow who had a stroll from the track to the final podium position. Tom's driver Rodolfo Avila spun out on the eighth lap at the exit of the second corner also known as the r-bend which slowed the cars down considerably.
It was again Moreno Soeprapto for the Promotion Class, this time completely securing his win with a 40-plus second advantage. Soeprapto also had an exciting duel with Marave, and was able to get ahead of the veteran driver this time who was having ground clearance problems slowing down towards the end of the race. Soeprapto also finished fifth overall. Pastor managed to finish in far second for another podium as JP Tuason of Tuason Racing School rounded up the podium with a seven-tenth of a second advantage of the Greg Murphy. Meanwhile, Renan Morales who was still having problems with his car, decided to call it quits after 9 laps of racing.
The Asian Formula 3 Series moves to the China in Zhuhai for the 3rd and 4th rounds, scheduled on May 8, which is less than a month away. Teams will certainly have busy weeks ahead to make the necessary adjustments and make new purchases to make it to the next rounds.