Paul Stewart Racing’s monopoly on the British F3 title continued last season, as Jan Magnussen racked up a record tally of seasonal victories
There was one moment in the 1994 British Formula Three Championship when Jan Magnussen looked vulnerable: March 26, 12 noon. He had just stuffed his pristine Paul Stewart Racing Dallara F394-Mugen into the unforgiving Copse wall in the very first qualifying session of the year. It allowed team-mate Dario Franchitti to steal a brief march on him.
Only third in that opening race, the Dane went on to win eight of the next nine. And after a two-race blank in mid-season, he concluded the season with six consecutive triumphs.
Comparisons with the late Ayrton Senna, previous holder of the record number of victories in a British F3 season, were inevitable. Deep down, you get the feeling that Magnussen knows just how good he is.
His racing performances have not been visually startling. He proved, at Macau, that he knows how to overtake when the need arises, but generally he has simply done exactly what was necessary, especially in qualifying. He claimed 12 poles, four of which were the product of victories in part one of double-header race meetings, and he was always able to raise his game to stay that one step ahead of the rest.
True he was driving for the team of the moment, Paul Stewart Racing – which has now claimed the last three British F3 titles – but after a year of watching him in action you would be stupid to assign Jan’s success solely to the Milton Keynes team. F3 nowadays is pretty much a one-chassis formula (albeit with different engines), and wringing those extra few mph from the monopolising Dallara required an extra splash of talent.
His immediate future was assured when he was snapped up by McLaren in June, although F1 isn’t on the cards for 1995. F3000, or even a Mercedes DTM ride, will keep him busy until F1 beckons.
Faced with an opponent like Magnussen, it was difficult for others to stamp their mark on the championship.
Vincent Radermecker won two of the races which eluded Magnussen. Briefly, it looked as though the West Surrey Racing man might be able to sustain a season-long title challenge. The Belgian was always quick, and in the GP support race he was untouchable. The bottom line is that he could, and should, have won more races, Pembrey being a case in point. As it was, Magnussen left the Welsh circuit with two more wins under his belt and the title was virtually settled. In his first, and possibly only, season of F3. Radermecker gained a bit of a reputation early on for being a trifle overambitious, but by the end of the season he had developed into one of the favourites for the ’95 title if he chooses to stay on.
Gareth Rees started 1994 as one of the favourites, and his season certainly had its high points. Most notable was Zandvoort. When he won the prestigious Marlboro Masters crown against the best the rest of Europe could offer. That was Gareth’s only victory of the season: in Britain, he was ever the bridesmaid. It took Alan Docking Racing a few races to get going, but four second Places and four thirds bore testimony to consistent front-running, which hoisted Rees to third in the points.
Dario Franchitti’s season went downhill after the first race. The Scot’s championship challenge faltered disastrously at the first two double headers, when he scored two points from four races. His confidence took a bit of a battering, especially when he would be quicker in the FOTA test before a meeting and then end up qualifying behind the Dane, but at times he was the next best thing to his colleague. If he should remain in PSR’s F3 line-up, his experience, and pace, will give him a real chance of bringing the team a fourth consecutive championship title.
Ricardo Rosset missed the chance to overhaul Franchitti for fourth when he spun in the last race at Silverstone. Had F3 newcomer Team AJS not been so rushed at the start of the season, then maybe he could have posed a threat more often. He had been quick in 1993 with Alan Docking and a win always looked on the cards. It was no surprise to see him triumph at Snetterton, his favourite circuit. Thereafter, he was second only to Magnussen in terms of speed and consistency.
The first non-Mugen engined Dallara, the Vauxhall-powered Edenbridge F394 of Marcos Gueiros, was a disappointing sixth overall. The Brazilian’s form at home had promised more. Team-mate Luiz Garcia’s second in round two was easily the high point of his season; it was only when Oliver Gavin returned to the team for the non-championship Donington International race that it looked truly capable of winning.
Frenchman Jeremie Dufour was as quick as he was erratic: he bagged six fastest laps, and nobody else, Magnussen included, recorded more than two. He gave Fortec Motorsport a welcome victory in the Avon Supersprint at Donington and second in the GP support race, but there were times when he would have benefited from greater circumspection.
Scott Lakin showed great promise, and despite limited funds – which stunted his season after a startline prang at Donington – he was still classified eighth. By that stage, he had a pole position and two second places to his credit.
Dino Morelli (P1 Lotus Dallara-Fiat) and Gualter Salles (WSR Dallara-Mugen) completed the top 10 in a generally competitive season (Magnussen aside).
The introduction of double headers and a new scoring system definitely spiced up the championship up and grids, dominated by Class A, were healthy all year.
Class B was poorly supported, Duncan Vercoe winning at a canter for DAW. The introduction of a stepped floor for 1995 should make the cars a little less Scalextric-like, and hopefully a bit more exciting to watch, even if they are all, once again, Dallaras.