The awesome Spa-Francorchamps circuit provides a fitting challenge for the next generation of Formula One drivers as twenty-six young drivers from sixteen different nations battle it out to become the next British F3 International Series Champion. Last year the famous Spa weather played its part with the Friday race providing a great racing spectacle with Britain’s Sam Bird taking the win. It was a British double as Jonathan Kennard took his long awaited first British F3 victory in a race dominated by torrential win and a protracted safety car period.
British F3 is the world’s leading Formula 3 championship and many of the top drivers from across the globe have tasted the victory champagne in British F3 before moving onto greater glory. In fact since 1964 drivers who have graduated from the series have gone on to win almost every major motor racing title across the world. Past champions include Ayrton Senna, Mika Hakkinen, Nelson Piquet, Emerson Fittipaldi and Sir Jackie Stewart; however the link to Formula One is still strong today. 2004 Champion Nelson Piquet Jnr is currently racing with Renault F1; 2006 Champion Mike Conway is a test driver at Honda and reigning Champion Marko Asmer is performing testing duties at BMW Sauber. 2005 British F3 Champion Alvaro Parente won the World Series by Renault title in 2007 and has tested a Renault F1 as part of his prize.
2008 is already proving to be a classic British F3 season, with eight different race winners in the first fourteen races of the year. Mexico’s Sergio Perez has led the way for most of the year after a double win at Monza in May and victory in the last race at Brands Hatch, but he has been unable to shake off the attentions of the other leading contenders for the title led by Spain’s Jaime Alguersuari. The Red Bull Junior driver has been a regular podium finisher this season, including one win at Oulton Park in April and another at Brands Hatch last time out, proving that consistency is the key to a successful title challenge.
Oliver Turvey is the leading British driver. In his debut British F3 season Turvey has already won one race and like his Carlin Motorsport teammate Jaime Alguersuari, he has been a regular visitor to the podium.
New Zealand’s Brendon Hartley is the second Red Bull Junior driver and was in danger of being overshadowed by Alguersuari. However a double win at Thruxton in June put the reigning Formula Renault EuroCup Champion back in the title hunt.
Sweden’s Sebastian Hohenthal and Finland’s Atte Mustonen are both in their second full season of British F3 and were both race winners last year, making them the favourites for the 2008 crown. Hohenthal struggled to find a setup for his Dallara F308 to his liking but now the 2006 UK Formula Renault is back on form and won his first race of the year at Rockingham. Mustonen was also victorious at Rockingham last May and will be looking to do well at Spa where race experience can make the difference.
While the Dallara has been the Formula 3 chassis of choice for many years, French manufacturer Mygale is looking to break the Italian domination. Ultimate Motorsport worked hard in the first season and this has now paid dividends in 2008 with Ireland’s Michael Devaney posting the first win at Snetterton in June quickly followed by a second later the same day.
2007 UK Formula BMW Champion Marcus Ericsson has adapted well to Formula 3 and the 17-year-old Swede has already secured a podium finish and pole position but a clash with Sergio Perez in the last race put a dent his championship challenge. Expect the rapid Fortec driver to be at the sharp end of the grid in Belgium.
While the International Class drivers fight for overall honours, the National Class is no less of a competitive environment for aspiring drivers. Running the last generation of F3 chassis and powered by a standard Mugen-Honda engine, the National Class teams and drivers provide some exciting racing while having the potential to mix it with the more powerful International cars.
Andy Meyrick has set the standard this season, scoring seven wins in the first twelve races but a disappointing weekend at Monza and a non finish at Snetterton has allowed Jay Bridger to close the gap. However illness forced Meyrick to miss the last two races and is now confirmed as absent for the races at Spa as well. Double race winner Bridger has been a consistent visitor to the podium and is now at the head of the championship table. The driver from Kent is certainly looking forward to his first visit to Spa.
Hywel Lloyd, from North Wales, is enjoying his first season of British F3 with his CF Racing team and the reigning BARC Formula Renault Champion took his first British F3 victory at the home of the Italian Grand Prix, Monza. Columbian Steven Guerrero is another driver who has adapted quickly to Formula 3, taking his first win at Thruxton after a race long battle with Jay Bridger for the lead and following this up with victory at Brands Hatch.
Two additional drivers will be lining up on the Spa grid in the Invitation Class. Lebanese driver Basil Shaaban makes a welcome return to the British F3 International Series having raced in the 2006 championship. He is joined at the HBR Motorsport team by Spain’s Daniel Campos Hull, with both drivers driving International Class Dallara F308’s powered by Mercedes HWA engines.
Round 15 of the 2008 British F3 International Series is due to start at 15:55 on Friday 01 August with Round 16 taking place on Saturday 02 August at 13:00, the last support race before the start of the FIA GT Spa 24-Hours.
With twenty nine of the world’s leading young drivers racing on one of Europe’s best circuits, sit back and enjoy the spectacle that is the British F3 International Series.