The harsh and unusual demands of street racing lie ahead for the young stars of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series, for next weekend (12/13 May) the south-west France city of Pau will play host to the championship for the 68th running of the world-famous Grand Prix de Pau.
The UK-based runners will be joined at Pau by competitors from the FIA European Formula 3 Championship; a field of around 25 cars is expected at the event, which will feature two live-televised races.
Only two of the British championship field raced at Pau last year - Carlin’s Malaysian driver Jazeman Jaafar and Fortec’s Brazilian Pipo Derani. Eighteen-year-old Pipo knows only too well that passing will be hard and a good grid position vital: “Overtaking at Pau is almost impossible so you have to qualify well; if you are not on pole or on the first row then it’s tough.”
He is pleased to have last year’s experience - he finished sixth for the Double R team - under his belt. “It was my first street race and it was nice; I was expecting to be a lot slower. I adapted myself really fast to the street circuit and I finished sixth. It was quite a good result for my first time and of course it was really good to get the experience because this year we will be there again. I hope it will be an advantage for me.”
Derani is fifth in the championship for Fortec, having claimed his maiden British Formula 3 win at Oulton Park last month and a second-place finish at Monza in Italy. “It has been a good beginning to the year for me. It’s really good; it gives me more motivation to push and to get more good results. It was really nice to get my first victory in British Formula 3; now I can say that I am a race winner. For my confidence it is really good.”
Derani is one of a four-car Fortec squad for Pau, where he will be joined by Puerto Rico’s double race winner Felix Serralles, reigning Formula Renault UK Champion Alex Lynn and Dutchman Hannes van Asseldonk. Essex-based Lynn is one of two drivers out to gain some track knowledge this weekend (5/6 May) by taking part in the Grand Prix de Pau Historique - Alex will race a 1981 Van Diemen Formula Ford and Harry Tincknell a 1962 Lotus 20 Formula Junior chassis.
Leading the championship to Pau, and for what to him is almost a home race, is Spain’s CarlosSainz Jnr. The 17-year-old from Madrid claimed his first British F3 wins for the Carlin team at Monza, twice triumphing in the wet to pull eight points clear of Serralles in the title fight.
Carlin’s team in France will also feature Devonian Tincknell, Jaafar, Brazil’s Pietro Fantin and Jack Harvey, the Lincolnshire-based Racing Steps Foundation driver who led the series following the Oulton Park rounds.
The Double R team is expected to field its regular International class duo, Australian Geoff Uhrhane and Malaysian Fahmi Ilyas, as well as a National class car for Aussie Duvashen Padayachee, who may well have the class to himself next weekend as his T-Sport rival, Spike Goddard, struggles to recover from illness. Australian Goddard was struck down by appendicitis last month and, while recovering well from surgery, does not expect to be fit to race: “My recovery is going OK,” said Spike, “a bit slow but I’m getting there. I’m pretty sure I will have to give driving a miss for Pau, but I am hoping I can attend the meeting and go for the track walk and be a part of the team.”
T-Sport’s Nick McBride will be in action in his International class Dallara to complete the UK field, with 11 additions expected from Mucke Motorsport, Jo Zeller Racing, ma-con Motorsport, Angola Racing and Prema Powerteam to contest the FIA series. Drivers entered include current FIA points leader Daniel Juncadella and British drivers Emil Bernstorff and Tom Blomqvist.
The Pau Grand Prix was first run in 1900 and the winners on its roll of honour include such as Tazio Nuvolari, Juan Fangio, Alberto Ascari, Jean Behra, Jim Clark, Jackie Stewart, Jochen Rindt, Rene Arnoux, Jean Alesi, Juan Pablo Montoya and Lewis Hamilton. It last formed part of British Formula 3 in 2006, when Romain Grosjean won both races.
In addition to the regular Channel 4 UK and Motors TV post-produced TV coverage, both Saturday’s and Sunday’s Pau races will be screened live across Europe on Motors TV.
Provisional championship standings after Round 61 Carlos Sainz (ESP/Carlin) 74 points; 2 Felix Serralles (PUR/Fortec) 66; 3 Jazeman Jaafar (MAS/Carlin) 65; 4 Jack Harvey (GBR/Carlin) 63; 5 Pipo Derani (BRA/Fortec) 48; 6= Pietro Fantin (BRA/Carlin) & Harry Tincknell (GBR/Carlin) 40 etcNational class: 1 Spike Goddard (AUS/T-Sport) 104; 2 Duvashen Padayachee (AUS/Double R) 82.
Pau timetable (all times CET)Fri 11 May 1040-1125 & 1530-1615 free practiceSat 12 May 0925-1000 qualifying; 1425 Race 1 (30 mins)Sun 13 May 1400 Grand Prix de Pau (40 mins)