Formula Three Championship

With Shell and Motor Sport backing again

Following a successful first year in which Shell and Motor Sport magazine combined to run a British Championship for Formula Three cars it has been decided to continue the association for a second year despite the change of regulations for this popular formula. The new championship was announced by Motor Circuit Developments recently and will be known as the Shell Super Oil British Championship. It will comprise 18 or more events offering prize and overseas travel money of £2,500 per event. In addition there will be another £200 per race going into an end of season prize fund, this being divided in proportion to points earned on a world championship scoring system spread over all the races. The drivers' championship title will be decided on the basis of a competitor's best 12 performances out of 18 or the best 14 if the series is increased to 19-21 rounds. The overall winner will receive the Motor Sport Trophy.

The races will all be of National or International status and will include three Continental rounds—at Zandvoort, Hockenheim and Magny-Cours. The prize money for the heats (most races will be run as two heats and a final) varies with the number of cars. It is of a very generous nature for the winner of the final of each race will claim £250, while minimum money for the chaps who reach the final will be around £30. The dates and venues of what will obviously be a very closely-fought contest are as follows:

March 20th, Brands Hatch (GP); April 3rd, Brands Hatch (GP); April 12th, Mallory Park; May 2nd, Brands Hatch (Club); May 8th, Silverstone; May 16th, Zandvoort; May 31st, OuIton Park; June 5th, Silverstone; July 4th, Hockenheim; July 14th, Magny-Cours; July 17th, Silverstone; August 21st, Oulton Park; September 18th, Oulton Park, or September 19th, Thruxton; September 26th, Mallory Park; October 3rd, Snetterton; October 9th, Castle Combe; October 24th, Brands Hatch (GP).

The competitors

With the formula changing and many of the established Formula Three names moving up into Formula Two or, possibly, the just announced Formula Atlantic who will be the likely chargers for the championship honours? Unlike last season when any one of about ten drivers would be heading for possible victory, there are likely to be fewer cars at the front in 1971. At this stage several drivers have not yet announced their plans but two of them who have are 1969 Grovewood Award winner James Hunt and 1970 premier Grovewood winner Colin Vandervell. Already some great battles between these two "tigers" are expected and both are predicting they will blow each other off with ease!

At 23 years old James Hunt will drive the works March F3 with a Holbay engine. The blond Hunt, who seems somewhat in the fun-loving Mike Hawthorne mould, started racing a Mini in 1967. In 1968 he took to Formula Ford with an Alexis and soon started to attract attention. By 1969 he was one of the Formula Ford front-runners and then mid-season made a very successful transition to Formula Three with a somewhat outdated Brabham, and also deputised on a couple of occasions for Ronnie Peterson in the works "prototype" March.

In 1970 Hunt tied up with Lotus Components and raced a Lotus 59 in F3 backed by Molyslip. Although he failed to win any of the three F3 championships going, he was the most consistently successful driver in F3 and from July onwards he never finished below third place in any International race. He was expected to move up to Formula Two with many of his confederates in 1971 but with the March works F3 drive in the offing and the probability of the occasional F2 race for the Bicester firm as well, he has decided to stay with Formula Three and has set his sights on the Shell Super Oil Championship. His March will be sponsored by the Lincolnshire uni-ball company Rose Bearings.

His main opposition could well come from the 1970 Grovewood Award winner Colin Vandervell, whose brief and meteoric career was traced in last month's "Around and About" article. Vandervell himself was in talks with March about racing the works F3 but after much thought decided to accept a similar offer from Ron Tauranac of the Brabham concern. Over the seasons Brabham's Formula Three cars have been consistently the most successful and Vandervell intends to keep it that way. While Hunt relies on power from the established Holbay company Vandervell is plumping for engines built by an up-and-coming engineer, Denis Rowland, who works out of cramped premises in Wimbledon.

The big query hangs over Gold Leaf-Team Lotus. For the past couple of seasons they have fielded strong Formula Three teams but as yet no announcement has been made regarding 1971. However, they are expected to continue in the class of racing and are at present racing in Brazil with cars for Dave Walker and Tony Trimmer. Trimmer, who won the 1970 Motor Sport/Shell Championship in a private Brabham, is driving for the team for the first time. He had hoped to move up to F2 in 1971 but now it seems possible that he could stay in F3 with Lotus. As such he is as likely to take the winner's rostrum as Vandervell or Hunt.

Latest news from Lotus is that they may well field an extra car other than that run under the Gold Leaf colours. This would be driven by New Zealander David Oxton, who has considerable experience in single-seaters and particularly Formula 5000 recently. His car will be run by Lotus Racing Ltd., who may also field a similar car for Ian Ashley if he doesn't go Formula Atalantic instead. Former Gold Leaf driver Bev Bond may well crop up in the formula again, although his Australian team-mate, Dave Walker, hopes to take part in American Formula A races.

These, then, look the big three, but there will be others to watch. Young Peter Lamplough will drive a works Palliser with a works development BRM-tuned engine, and he draws his experience from Formula Ford. Another former FF drive to move into F3 will be Claude Bourgoignie. The Belgian won a works-backed Lotus as his prize for taking the Johnsons Wax Euro Trophy and he will no doubt be well up, too. Yet another Brazilian is likely to make a sizeable impact. He is wealthy 23-year-old Fritz Jordan, who already has some good late 1970 season F3 performances behind him. He is not the only promising Brazilian, for a chap called Ronald Rossi is expected to go well. Look out also for drivers with a solid year of F3 behind them like former F1,200 Champion Geoff Bremner and David Purley from Bognor Regis, while the controversial Ian Ashley, if he says in F3, will be right up front if he can only learn to keep out of trouble and stay on the track. Third-placed Grovewood Award winner and Clubman's Champion Tim Goss is also turning to F3 and is expected to go well. So, despite a mass exodus from the formula by many of the established names there will be crowds of others waiting to take their place. Finally, it is interesting to note that in our similar article last year we showed photographs of four of 1969's hot shoes. By the end of 1970 all four—Emerson Fittipaldi, Tim Schenken, Reine Wissell and Ronnie Peterson—had shown their talent in Formula One. Such is the quick progress of drivers in motor racing today.

The cars

However, the progress of the design of smaller-engined single-seaters since 1965 has been depressingly slow. The designers have simply been improving on existing designs rather than making any wild innovations. Although the new 1971 rules allow an increase from 1,000 c.c. to 1,600 c.c. such are the restrictions on the new engines that the power at approximately 120 b.h.p. will remain about the same. So expect to see cars very little different from the past season.

Lotus's race car manufacturing division, under manager Mike Warner, has carved a big chunk back into the market with the succcessful Lotus 59. For 1971 there is a development of this model called the 69 and there is no doubt it will be a difficult car to beat.

Brabham can never be underestimated and their successor to the 1969 and 1970 BT28 will be the BT35. The main difference will be inboard rear brakes to reduce unsprung weight and a slightly different body shape.

March, after a somewhat shaky but important fact-finding year in F3 in 1970, look like being major contenders in the coming year both on the track and by taking a good proportion of the market. The young Bicester firm are actually offering two Formula Three designs, a space frame plus a monocoque based on the F2. The space frame is a tidied-up version of their 1970 car clothed in a much prettier and aerodynamic body. The completely new monocoque also wears the same body and is a little more expensive.

Chevron, the Bolton race car builders, are expected to concentrate more on sports cars in the coming year, but no doubt some F3s will still be in contention. Palliser, a firm run by BOAC pilot and racing driver Hugh Dibley, have had a very good year in Formula Ford and expect to make inroads into F3, while Merlyn, also well known for their FFs, hope to make a comeback into F3. Watch out, also, for a new firm by the name of Ensign run by former Gold Leaf F3 driver Morris Nunn.

Engines

The engine front is all very confusing at the moment for the new rules are somewhat complicated. The increase in cubic capacity has been counteracted by a severe restriction. In the old 1,000-c.c. F3 a throttling flange with a 32-mm. diameter hole had to be placed between the carburetter and the inlet manifold. But the engine tuners became so efficient with their carburetter tuning and head design that in effect the restriction perhaps lost only four or five horse-power. The new rules state that a restricting hole of 20-mm. diameter must be placed on the outside of the induction. In effect this means that round your fuel injection (which is now allowed) or carburetters must be affixed an air-tight plenum chamber with the appropriately-sized hole in it.

For those interested in gaining an unfair advantage the increase in power by having a not quite airtight box is far from marginal. So expect quite a few nasty scrutineering wrangles in the early days of the formula at least. Early tests show that the restrictor loses a potential 170-b.h.p. engine some 50 b.h.p. Ford-based engines were supreme in the old formula and it will be interesting to see if the British-based company remain on top under the new rules. The indications are that they will do so. The tuners seem to be plumping for the rather outdated Lotus Ford twin-cam engine as a base and Holbay, Rowland and BRM are all well advanced on their designs. Charles Lucas Engineering, who had a large stake in old-type F3 engine sales, seem to be standing on the sidelines at present. But in Italy Autodelta are developing Alfa Romeo engines. They are claiming great potential and are hoping to woo some British drivers into using their products, meanwhile some BMW-based units are also expected, as are Renault-based units.

The prospects for the Shell Super Oil British F3 Championship, complete with its Motor Sport Trophy for the winner, look bright. A lot of questions still remain to be answered but one can but hope that racing will be as close as in 1970, perhaps with a little more commonsense displayed by the participants.