Tsukakoshi takes podium for Manor

Honda racing backed Japanese star Koudai Tsukakoshi produced a superb performance during round three of the 2008 Formula 3 Euroseries at Mugello in Italy over the weekend, 3rd/4th May, to secure Dinnington based Manor Motorsport’s first podium of the year.The 21-year-old qualified on the front row of the grid for the Saturday race with a time of 1m 41.609 seconds and he shadowed eventual race winner Nico Hulkenberg all the way to the flag, setting the second fastest race lap in the process of 1m 43.115 seconds.“It was a hard race but the balance of my car has been great throughout the weekend so I must thank the team”, said Tsukakoshi, “I am really happy with my maiden podium in the Formula 3 Euro Series.”In Sunday’s round four, Irishman Niall Breen secured his first points finish of the season with sixth place. As the top Manor driver on the day, Breen has taken a lot of encouragement from the result as he gets more and more adjusted to the differences between British F3 – where he raced in 2007 – and the F3 Euroseries.Duelling with team-mate Tsukakoshi for the final point, he made his move on lap 10 and then pressurised Nico Hulkenberg. Breen wasn’t able to find a way through but he did post the second fastest race lap of any driver with a time of 1m 42.982 seconds – along with race winner Mika Maki he was the only racer to lap under the 1m 43 second barrier.At the finish of round four, a blanket could literally have covered Manor team-mates Breen, Tsukakoshi and Sam Bird in sixth, seventh and eighth positions. With the Japanese racer just half a second shy of Breen, Bird was even closer to the tail of Tsukakoshi over the line. Bird’s drive from 14th on the grid was particularly impressive.Toyota Development Programme member Kazuya Oshima, who celebrated his 21st birthday last Wednesday, ended the second encounter in 18th position having started down in 26th place on the grid.Other than Tsukakoshi’s superb round three podium result, Breen finished in ninth place, tantalisingly just 1.7 seconds shy of the points, and therefore just missed out too on a reverse grid pole position start for Sunday’s race.Bird ended round three in 14th place, having started in 17th, while Oshima was classified five laps down after having problems with a broken exhaust.Speaking on the weekend’s action at Mugello, Manor Motorsport owner John Booth said: “We’re delighted Koudai got onto the podium during the first race, we know we’re capable of that kind of performance and hopefully more results like that will follow during the remainder of the season.“All in all it wasn’t a bad weekend, qualifying could have gone better but all four of our lads showed good pace in race trim and didn’t do a bad job at all. The street circuit at Pau in France is the next race a month from now, qualifying well there will be absolutely crucial so hopefully it’ll go well for us.”The next F3 Euroseries races at Pau in France will take place a month from now on the weekend of 31st May/1st June.