No such thing as a certainty...

When is a U-turn not, officially, a U-turn? Er, when it's practised by FISA, apparently. A few weeks ago, Formula 3000 was in the midst of a sticky patch, its future uncertain after FISA delivered a potentially lethal one-liner back in December. It's too expensive, said the governing body, so we're going to replace it.

After a series of meetings between interested parties, FISA finally hit on the ideal replacement.

Step forward... Formula 3000.

At no point was there official word that December's decision had been revoked. Rather, FISA has just blithely announced that a series of cost-cutting measures is to be introduced to the formula, some with immediate effect, others in 1994 and '95. Eventually, in 1997, the series will probably be rechristened Formula Two.

Most of the impending changes were predictable, having been borne of continual discussions between FISA and the formula's key suppliers (Reynard, Lola, Cosworth and so on). It is reckoned that the new-look F3000 will be around 30 per cent cheaper than the hi-tech version which provided invaluable race training at crippling cost. There will be no more titanium, no more telemetry. Usage of carbon fibre composites is to be limited. Wooden floor sections, a fashion accessory last seen when tartan flares were all the rage, will be re-introduced. The regulations impose severe restrictions upon testing possibilities, not least because teams are limited to 30 sets of tyres per car per season, to cover all usage – testing and racing.

Manufacturers fought long and hard to prevent FISA imposing a one-make formula.

By common consent, none of the participants wanted an overgrown Vauxhall-Lotus. It is ironic, therefore, that the dictates of fashion have led to what will be more or less a one-chassis formula in 1993. Although Lola won the final European race of 1992, and its 192/50 triumphed outright in japan, no European teams had committed to the Huntingdon marque's T93/50 as this was written (though a healthy number have been sold in the Far East). It was entirely possible that the season opener, at Donington on May 3, would be an all-Reynard affair. For all the uncertainty over F3000's future prospects, there was no shortage of teams willing to commit to the formula over the winter. The evidence? Just look at the 40-strong list of registrations that has been lodged with FISA. It's just a pity that there aren't 40 drivers with the requisite number of lire/pounds/dollars/ francs or whatever. Even so, few doubt that there will be any less than 30 cars in the paddock at Donington. It will be a while before the benefits of the cost-cutting measures are fully reaped. Between now and then, harsh economic realities may take their toll on some team/driver relationships. The fact that several drivers are hovering on the fringe with a part-budget adds an element of logistical complexity. All of them want to contest the final few races, rather than the first four or five...

For the most part, however, there is a large yellow orb shimmering brightly on the horizon. Particularly in the Bicester area.

Not all teams will be running the latest Reynard, the 93D, with its sequential gearbox. Indeed, trick transmission apart, the differences between a 92D and its '93 sibling are largely cosmetic, and an update kit is available for those who retain the older model.

Although several gaps in the entry list had still to be filled as Motor Sport closed for press, it looks, on paper, to be an open contest. Proven winners such as Emanuele Naspetti, Andrea Montermini, Luca Badoer and Allan McNish are plying their trade elsewhere. Of the confirmed entries, only Jordi Gene (Bravo) and Antonio Tamburini (returning to F3000, with MIS, after a year's sabbatical) have previously experienced the satisfaction of greeting the chequered flag with a raised fist, leastways at this level of the sport. Even then, they only have one win apiece to their names. Both are with new teams, though Bravo and MIS (running two cars, the second for debutant Klaus Panchyrz) are staffed by experienced personnel. Bravo has emerged from the ashes of the F1 project initiated by the late Jean-François Mosnier; the team is using F3000 as a springboard to what it hopes will be a GP debut in 1994.

There are several other newcomers, too. Mythos has an impressive technical pedigree, having been set up by former II Barone Rampante kingpins Giorgio Breda and Roberto Trevisan. To begin with, it is unlikely that such depth of engineering expertise will be able to compensate for the relative inexperience of Giampiero Simoni, though the Italian did show flashes of promise in '92. Omegaland won last year's British F2 title with Yvan Muller, and the Frenchman stays on board for his first crack at the international series. He will be joined by compatriot Jérôme Policand, who returns to the team with whom he had an encouraging season in Britain's domestic F3000 series two years ago. His graduation to Europe in '92 proved sadly fraught. Omegaland founder Roger Orgee has put together an interesting sponsorship portfolio for his 1992 cars (93Ds may follow, finances permitting), including TV music video channel MTV Europe and ICL. One of Muller's erstwhile F2 rivals, Mark Albon, will likewise be making the step up, at the hub of his own East Essex Racing organisation. Former Pacific Racing engineer Derek Mower has branched out on his own, with Nordic Racing. He is looking for a team-mate to accompany the amiable, and capable, Alessandro Zampedri, but accepts that he may have to run a one-car show. TOM'S GB, one of Mower's Norfolk neighbours, has tackled most things in motor racing, but this will be its first European F3000 campaign, a prelude to a likely F1 assault by parent company Toyota at a later stage. Driver Hideki Noda had a complete nightmare last season, his confidence hammered by a string of unfortunate accidents. TOM'S director Dave 'Beaky' Sims is confident that they can put the cheerful Japanese driver's career back on the right track. PTM, formerly a Formula Vauxhall-Lotus stalwart, has come up with a colour scheme louder than the average Cosworth DFV for the Reynard of Brazilian Constantino Jnr, who made his mark in the SudAm F3 series last season. Like many others, PTM has a second entry, but had no second driver as we closed for press.

Of the other new boys, ACE (Automotive Consultancy & Engineering), Morello International and European Technique were all similarly caught up in the 'find a driver' frenzy.

And so to The Establishment. Like the aforementioned Bravo, Pacific had intended to race in Grands Prix this year, and the first Pacific F1 chassis, the PR01, was close to completion by the time financial considerations led Keith Wiggins to postpone his F1 aspirations until 1994. Despite his late decision to stick with F3000, he has garnered a strong driver line-up in the shape of David Coulthard and Michael Bartels. Coulthard took a few races getting to grips with F3000 last year, but finished the season particularly strongly. Bartels partnered eventual champion Luca Badoer at Crypton, and proved to be a useful foil, taking a trio of second places.

Crypton's hopes of retaining the title (no team has ever won the crown twice, incidentally) rest on the 21 (just, he was born in March 1972) year-old shoulders of Portuguese sensation Pedro Lamy. European Vauxhall-Lotus champion in 1991 and German F3 victor last year, much is expected of him. The last two champions, Christian Fittipaldi and Badoer, were 20 and 21 respectively when they took the title, so youth should be no handicap. Lamy's team-mate Guido Knycz (Italian, despite the unlikely surname) is included more for his bank balance than his speed.

Forti ran Crypton close for much of last year, and in Olivier Beretta the Italian team has a driver who should benefit from last season's experience with Piquet Racing, when he proved to be quick but, occasionally, accident-prone. The friendly Monégasque is partnered by Brazilian Pedro Diniz, an occasional points-scorer in British F3.

While Italy's teams had the edge last season, there is every sign that the French are on the point of a major revival. DAMS, champion with Erik Comas back in 1990, has swapped from Lola to Reynard and adopted its original (1989) livery following the enforced loss of tobacco sponsorship. With Olivier Panis and French F3 champion Franck Lagorce, its prospects look good on paper. The same is true of Dominique Delestre's Apomatox, which came on in Carl Lewis-sized leaps and bounds last year. Apomatox retains the excellent Emmanuel Collard, and has secured the services of Jean-Christophe 'Jules' Boullion, one of the great natural talents to have emerged across the Channel in recent years. Following Marlboro's withdrawal, all four French hopes are being heavily supported by national fuel giant Elf.

The third current F3 champion in the field, alongside Lamy and Lagorce, will be Gil de Ferran, the sensible, and likable, 25 year-old Brazilian who mopped up in Britain last season. De Ferran remains with Paul Stewart Racing, where he partners the man from whom the team gets its name. Paul made encouraging progress last year, and needs to build on that in his third season of F3000.

The chances of Italian F3 champion Max Angelelli competing seem remote, and his limited finances are more likely to steer him towards British F2.

Following the aforementioned defection of its key engineers, II Barone Rampante's chances of competing were thought to be slim, despite the fact that boisterous team principal Giuseppe Cipriani had lodged three entries. After a winter out of the public eye, Cipriani calmly breezed into the Reynard factory in early spring, and paid for a new Reynard there and then. He ordered a second while he was at it. The team will be engineered this year by Luciano Pavesi, and there was talk that F1 refugee Pier-Luigi Martini, who won F3000 races for Pavesi back in the mid-1980s, might be persuaded to return. Instead, IBR has secured the services of veteran Dutchman Jan Lammers, embarking upon his first European F3000 season at the age of 36, after the collapse of his F1 plans with March. Lammers will be partnered by French F3 graduate Eric Angélvy.

The field is completed by three other teams: the happy-go-lucky Vortex Motorsport, whose enduring sense of humour was severely tested by its charges' persistent habit of driving into things (usually quite hard) throughout 1992; Cobra Motorsport; and 3001 International. Vortex is hoping for a common-sense approach from new recruits Max Papis and Paolo delle Piane, while Cobra and 3001 have still to finalise their deals. Indeed, experienced 3001 patron Mike Earle, who has expanding interests in the USA, says he won't run if all that's available is a shoestring operation.

In terms of equipment, the various Reynards will be powered by Zytek-Judds KVs, Cosworth DFVs/DFYs, Cosworth ACs and, possibly, Mugens. A lot is expected of the new AC, which Cosworth said it would not have released had it not felt that there was a significant performance gain over the trusty DFV (into its 26th season, and thus older than most of the drivers!). Recent testing times (which, admittedly, are usually fairly meaningless) suggest that there is still plenty of useful life left in the older alternatives.

Forecasts?

Forget it.

Formula 3000 has been many things (oversubscribed and under-promoted spring to mind), but it has never, ever been predictable. S A