New Zealand open-wheel racing star-in-the-making Richie Stanaway has proved that his recent good form is still no flash in the pan. At round six of the German F3 series, Stanaway made a clean sweep of the weekend, taking his race-win tally to nine from 12.
He now leads the championship on 112 points, 25 ahead of Marco Sorensen and a further 39 points up on joint third-placed drivers Klaus Bachler and fellow Kiwi Tom Blomqvist.
In 2007, Stanaway won the SpeedSport Scholarship and Rookie of the Year award and went on to win at Formula First New Zealand's annual one-hour race at Manfeild.
He then moved up from karts into the Formula Ford championship for the 2008-09 season, racing a Mygale chassis in New Zealand for the first time. He clinched the title, and the Ron Frost Memorial Trophy, with one race to spare at the last round of the championship at Pukekohe.
Other than Shane van Gisbergen, Stanaway is the only other driver to win the series in his rookie year. Last year, in his first foray into Europe, Stanaway cleaned up in Germany, winning the ADAC Formula Masters series at the Nurburgring with a round to go. After winning 12 of the 18 races, and not contesting the final round, the then-18-year-old amassed 315 points - 60 more than his nearest rival, Patrick Schranner.
Driven caught up with the flying Kiwi before his next F3 round at the EuroSpeedway in Lausitz, Germany, on September 3-4.
What have you put your good form down to this season?
The team is doing a really good job with the car. The engineers and the mechanics have pretty much nailed it each race weekend so far with the car, and the set-up's great. I've been working very, very hard obviously to try and keep winning and it's nice to be able to provide them all with the good results.
Some of the opposition must be scratching their heads wondering what they can do to rein you in ...
Yeah, that's true. Everyone must be getting a bit frustrated by now. It's got to be hard for them.
Have you raced on most, if not all, the circuits in the championship before or are some of them new to you?
Most of them I raced on last year because the calendar's much the same this year. There are a few, like Spa-Francorchamps and last weekend's Red Bull Ring, I haven't been to before and which was also a new one for the team ... The next race at Lausitz is a configuration I've never raced on before.
That makes it even more interesting - that on tracks you've been to before you're still very quick.
We did do one test day at Red Bull Ring a couple of months ago and got quite a few laps in during free practice. But to be honest, it doesn't take that long to get to know a circuit, maybe a handful of laps only to work out which way it goes. It takes a lot more time to really get to know the small bits of a track so that you can get the extra tenths or so ... Even turning up to tracks I know there's still some work to do because I'm in a different car with different down force, grip characteristics and power.
The cars appear to be the same in configuration and speed, so qualifying must be quite important.
In Formula Three, qualifying is everything. The drivers are all close together and once everyone makes it through the first corner, it's hard to overtake and you have to be significantly faster than those in front to get past. If you can qualify at the front and get the hole-shot into turn one, it's basically your race to lose. All our focus is on perfecting the qualifying lap and me delivering it during the peak of the tyre grip.
With three rounds to go and a 25-point lead in the championship, are you going to change the game plan and drive a bit more defensively?
If anything I think I'm going to try and get my game up a bit more. I need to keep pushing and keep winning this year and hopefully be put in a higher category next year. If I'm not prepared at the end of this year I won't be prepared for next year. I'm treating every race as if it's GP3 or Renault 3.5-litre race weekend. I've got to make sure I don't relax at all.
Stanaway has just announced he will race in the GP3 series at Spa-Francorchamps this weekend and in Monza, Italy from September 10-11. He will make his GP3 debut with the Lotus Cars-backed ART squad in the season's final two races in support of the Belgian and Italian grands prix.
Richie's big wins
ADAC Formula Masters Champion with 12 wins in 18 races
1st Dan Higgins Memorial Trophy - Toyota Racing Series
2nd ADAC Formula Masters Oschersleben
Steel Trophy for top junior (under-21) driver in New Zealand
Ron Frost Memorial Trophy
1st Hamilton 400 - Toyota Racing Series
New Zealand Formula Ford Champion - 14 race wins
Ron Frost Memorial Trophy
New Zealand SpeedSport Scholarship Winner
1st Rookie of the year - Formula First
1st Rotax Max Bay of Plenty Karting Championship
1st Formula First One Hour Grand Prix.