Believe it or not, Formula 3 (or at least F3 in its traditional sense) was always an open-chassis formula, accessible to anybody with the ambition and facilities to build a car to a set of parameters and go and compete.
But looking at the roll of honour, it’s hard to remember that fact as the steamroller that is Dallara essentially transformed it into the single-make formula it was never meant to be.
Perhaps that’s no bad thing. Since the mid- 1990s, Dallara has constantly upped the ante with its F3 designs, to the point that other major brands such as March, Reynard, Ralt, Lola and more simply gave up trying to match their Italian rivals.
Giampaolo Dallara began his career working for Ferrari, then moving to Maserati and Lamborghini before becoming involved in racing full-time as part of De Tomaso’s fruitless F1 project in the late ’60s.
But Giampaolo harboured an ambition to make it in the sport on his own, and founded Dallara at Varano de’ Melegari in Emilia- Romagna in 1975. While he initially focused on sports cars, a partnership with oil magnate and racing team owner Walter Wolf led to Dallara’s first F3 project in 1978. The Emiliani won the Italian F3 title in 1980 and sparked the creation of the first true Dallara F3 a year later.
Dallara’s belief in investing in cutting-edge equipment to aid its build and design process meant the firm didn’t take long to make an impact. An early adopter of CFD, simulators, wind tunnels and modern composite materials, Dallara F3s gained a reputation for being stiff and well-balanced, but also aerodynamically efficient to an extent their rivals simply couldn’t match.
The tide turned fully in 1994 when Danish ace Jan Magnussen crushed all comers in the British F3 Championship aboard his Paul Stewart Racing-run Dallara F394, winning 14 of the 18 rounds. A year later, and the updated F395 rammed home the firm’s advantage. Across the major championships in Britain, Germany, France, Italy and Japan, Dallara drivers accounted for 137 of 140 points scorers.
After Magnussen’s dominance, no other brand but Dallara would win a major F3 title – and hardly any other would win a single race. With every rules revolution, Dallara led the way. The F308 introduced additional cockpit safety, higher downforce, lower lap times and multiple suspension configurations. It was also spoiled for choice with 2-litre engines from Mercedes- HWA, Volkswagen, Opel, Renault, Toyota and numerous independent tuners.
The FIA struck traditional F3 a deathblow in 2019 when it revamped GP3 to be the sole professional F3 series – stripping anything below it of the F3 title in the process – and, somewhat unsurprisingly, looked to Dallara to create a spec car for it.
Now, F308s are reasonably cost-effective and offer huge performance for their value. They’re still running in multiple club series.
One for sale
Fully refreshed with only 700km since HWA rebuild.
Dallara F308 statistics
Price new N/A
Price now £40,000-£60,000
Engine 1997cc four-cylinder
Rivals Erm, none really. Mygale and SLC gave it a go, but…
Verdict Back when F3 was proper F3 (with air torpedoes and no DRS) you wanted one of these.