Formula 3000: review

Stepping stone

Few international racing series are so competitive as to produce five different winners in as many races — and in three different chassis. But that was the proud boast of Formula One’s baby brother, Formula 3000, after its Donington round on June 28.

The race was perhaps lost by the driving and mechanical errors of other contenders under pressure, as much as it was won by Spaniard Luis Sala’s Lola, but none of the three race leaders was ever out of sight of the pack, and the result was in doubt until the last of the 50 laps.

F3000 was inaugurated in 1985 for largely negative reasons (to find a new home for the redundant 3-litre Cosworth DFV and to replace the stagnating Formula Two category) and, to judge from the size of attendances, FISA’s promotional guru Bernie Ecclestone has work still to do. But the raw materials are there: Nigel Mansell’s pole position margin in the Detroit GP (1.34 sec) would have embraced the fastest twelve qualifiers at Donington! Furthermore, 34 drivers were entered for the Derbyshire event, and all but six of the 26 permitted to start were classified as finishers.

The formula for success is simple. Engines are readily available, and the regulation 9000 rpm limiter, flat bottoms, restricted wing sizes and standard specification tyres prevent competitive gaps of the kind F1 suffers. With March, Lola and Ralt chassis evenly matched, and the Cosworth unit challenged only by the Honda engine in the works Ralts, F3000 is over much a driver’s formula, making it a surer stepping stone to F1 than was F2 in its twilight years.

Seven current Grand Prix drivers graduated directly, including F3000’s two champions to date, Christian Danner and Ivan Capelli. Naturally, the coming men who have proved themselves in national F3 championships are queueing to follow their lead, six British hopefuls among them.

The circus returns to Britain this month for rounds at Brands Hatch and Birmingham, where the Bank Holiday SuperPrix will bring colourful street-racing and big crowds to the Midlands. GT