Too Close to Call at Croft

British F3 International Series: Rounds 3 & 4 (Croft) PreviewRounds 3 & 4 - Croft - 26/27 April 2008

British Formula 3 has always been a championship that can throw a few surprises and the opening rounds at Oulton Park on Easter Monday certainly didn’t disappoint.  Ask anyone to name their favourite for the 2008 title and you will probably get one of ten different names.  With the top young drivers from across the globe the battle for this year’s British F3 title is expected to be the closest for many years and fireworks are expected at Croft on Sunday 27 April for Rounds 3 and 4 of the 2008 British F3 International Series. 

Red Bull driver Jaime Alguersuari (#4 Carlin Motorsport) celebrated his 18th birthday on Easter Sunday and gave himself a present by taking a double pole, a win in Round 2 and left Cheshire as the joint leader in the 2008 championship.  The Spaniard might have been in the overall lead but for an unfortunate racing incident with his Red Bull and Carlin Motorsport teammate Brendon Hartley - but that’s motor racing!

Alguersuari is tied on points with Swedish sensation Marcus Ericsson (#8 Fortec Motorsport), the 17-year-old Formula BMW Champion, who is managed by former Indy Racing League Champion Kenny Brack,  scored a 6th and 2nd place finishes at Oulton Park to get his first season in British F3 to a solid start. 

Oliver Turvey (#17 Carlin Motorsport) got his 2008 season off to a dream start, taking victory in the opening race, however a lowly grid position and a broken damper meant no points for the Racing Steps Foundation driver in race 2.  However expect the 2006 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner to bounce back at Croft.

Atte Mustonen (#26 Double R Racing) is one of two race winners from last season and the 19-year-old Finn is one of the pre season favourites for the title.  A man of few words, he lets his racing do the talking for him and he will be looking to add more points to his Oulton Park tally this weekend.

Max Chilton (#1 Hitech Racing) made British F3 history by becoming the youngest driver to start a championship race, one day after his 16th birthday.  2007 was a learning year for the younger brother of BTCC racer Tom, and that experience has already paid dividends.  A move to reigning British F3 champions Hitech saw Chilton set some pretty impressive times in pre season testing.  This was backed up with a second place finish in the opening round. So expect to see Max Chilton at the sharp end of the grid in the next two races.

Equal on points with Chilton is Sebastian Hohenthal (#7 Fortec Motorsport), the second of our race winners from the 2007 season to return to British F3. The 2006 Formula Renault Champion is already making his presence felt with two points scoring finishes at Oulton Park, including a podium in Round 2 behind his fellow Swede and Fortec teammate Marcus Ericsson.   

Next up is the Ultimate Motorsport pairing of Esteban Guerrieri and Michael Devaney.  Both drivers narrowly missed scoring the first podium for the Mygale chassis at Oulton Park and with the work the team have been putting in the recent weeks a podium finish at Croft shouldn’t be discounted.

Brendon Hartley (#3 Carlin Motorsport) is the second of the two Red Bull drivers and the rapid New Zealander is expected to make his presence felt at Croft after a disappointing first couple of rounds that netted him a 4th place in Round 2.  Hartley recently became the latest British F3 driver to test a Formula One car when he stepped into the Scuderia Toro Rosso STR3 a few weeks ago.

Further down the championship table there are drivers who will be looking to make their mark at Croft.  Hitech Racing’s Walter Grubmuller (#2 Hitech Racing) started both of the Oulton Park races from 3rd place, underlining his pre season testing pace.  Gearbox problems in race 1 denied the Austrian any points but a points scoring finish in race 2 got his season off to a solid start.  Reigning British F3 National Class champion Sergio Perez (#9 T Sport) is the only International Class driver using the Mugen Honda engine, the others opting for Mercedes Benz power.  Croft is a favourite with the Mexican after he claimed the National Class title at the track last season, so expect him to be challenging for the podium. 

Other drivers to look out for are Australian John Martin (#24 Double R Racing) who took the point for the fastest lap in Round One; Nick Tandy in the JTR Mygale and Viktor Jensen, the National Class race winner is making his International Class debut with Nexa Racing this weekend.

The National Class is run for last generation of Formula 3 chassis and all use the same Mugen Honda 2-litre engine.  The class is a cost effective way of gaining important experience in Formula 3 before stepping up into the International Class limelight. 

Manchester’s Andy Meyrick (#56 Carlin Motorsport) was the class act at Oulton Park, taking 41 out of a maximum of 42 points from the weekend to open up an impressive 15 point lead over his nearest rival Jay Bridger (#50 Fluid Motorsport).   Niall Quinn (#58 Team Loctite), Hywel Lloyd (#52 CF Racing) and Salman Al Khalifa (#57 T Sport) all scored podium finishes to get their seasons off to a good start but they will all know that they need to do well at Croft to keep Meyrick in their sights for the Championship lead.

Sheffield’s Stefan Wilson (#51 Fluid Motorsport) didn’t get the best of starts to his British F3 career but the reigning McLaren Autosport BRDC Young Driver of the Year Award winner will be looking to get back on track at Croft.