Roberto the racehorse had a successful career, capped by a 1972 Derby success with assistance from Lester Piggott. For Roberto the racing driver, life has yet to scale such happy peaks, even though — by rights — it ought to have done a long time ago.
The Roberto in question was born into the Moreno family 28 years ago, and was offered a Formula One chance by Lotus as long ago as 1982, when an injury ruled Nigel Mansell out of the Dutch GP. At the time, Colin Chapman’s team was not at its most competitive ebb and Moreno had no prior relevant experience; he failed to qualify, and the episode did his career little but harm.
When he climbed into the AGS at the end of last season, he was perhaps taking a greater risk, the outmoded JH22 chassis having previously shown itself to be truly forgettable. Undaunted, he qualified the unwieldy mass at both Suzuka and Adelaide and — to the delight of many — scored a World Championship point in Australia. After also winning two F3000 races in 1987, surely he would get a full-time F1 chance this year?
Not a bit of it. In this business, people take notice of your ability, but remain more interested in your money. Moreno has stacks of the former, and none of the latter. And so, incredibly, he went into 1989 without a Grand Prix drive — in fact, with nothing at all.
Fortunately, there are still some Samaritans in the sport, two such being Graham Warren and Ron Salt of Bromley Motorsport. Although he had no major backing, Bromley agreed to run Roberto in a full International Formula 3000 Championship season, at the wheel of one of Adrian Reynard’s promising new 88D chassis. But for appalling luck, Moreno would have won the F3000 title last year, so in spite of the competitive nature of the multi-national three-litre category, Bromley’s directors were fully confident that the Brazilian would produce the goods.
Early-season evidence suggests their money is well spent. In the third and fourth rounds of the F3000 series, at Pau and Silverstone, there has been nobody to hold a candle to Moreno.
On the French street circuit, he dominated from pole position, winning by over 20 seconds. In the 40th running of Silverstone’s International Trophy he gave a repeat performance, qualifying on the front row by dint of being fastest in his half of the draw during the customary divided qualifying sessions, taking the lead on lap three, and pulverising the opposition thereafter.
Coupled with a fourth place at Vallelunga, his two wins have given him a healthy nine-point championship lead, and one wonders whether anybody will be able to hold him back on present form. Bromley may be a small team, but engineer Gary Anderson is a respected talent, and has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with his present charge in both Britain and the USA.
So why did it take Moreno three races to start winning? “We simply hadn’t tested enough at the start of the season,” he explains. “We did a late deal, and it wasn’t until we got to Pau that we had caught up with some of the other teams.”
As ever, the overall F3000 standard is very high. There are, for example, nine former Formula Three champions in the running. Reigning British champion Johnny Herbert is one such. At the wheel of his Camel-backed Reynard, run by Eddie Jordan Racing, Herbert won the opening race at Jerez, and would now be much closer to Moreno in the points had he achieved the high finishes he deserved at Vallelunga and Silverstone.
In Italy, Herbert was punted off the track as he challenged Swiss Gregor Foitek’s BA Lola for second place. His helmet hit the armco in the ensuing accident, and several crushed nerves were diagnosed in his forehead. On medical advice he withdrew from Pau, but returned with a vengeance at Silverstone, challenging for third place until an electrical misfire dropped him to seventh.
Having not added to his maximum score at Jerez, the Romford man has slipped to fourth in the championship, twelve points behind Moreno. Had he not collided with Foitek, he would undoubtedly have collected his second consecutive victory, as leader Michel Trollé was forced to pit his Lola for a late wheel-change after a tyre slipped on the rim.
Trollé’s misfortune handed the Jerez laurels to Foitek, who was unhappy to win in such circumstances. Such is the up-and-down nature of the formula that Gregor promptly failed to qualify for Pau (where only 22 of the 36 arrivals could start), in the wake of an accident and gearbox problems. He remains in the title hunt however, fourth spot at Silverstone putting him joint-second in the championship vvith Belgian Bertrand Gachot.
Runner-up to Herbert in last year’s British F3 series, Gachot is another who has reason to curse his ill-luck to date this year. He lost third at Jerez thanks to an electrical failure, and was the unwitting victim of a startline accident at Pau. In between times, the Spirit Reynard driver has bagged a brace of second places, with the additional satisfaction of taking pole and leading the early laps at Silverstone.
Herbert is by no means Britain’s only hope of outright F3000 success this year. Mark Blundell’s limited, and grossly underfinanced, 1987 programme earned him a plum works drive with Lola, and the young Englishman has responded magnificently with second at Jerez and fifth at Vallelunga. Handling troubles have kept the team out of the points since, but he has shown that a maiden F3000 success cannot be far off.
Russell Spence can also draw encouragement from his pace at Pau and Silverstone. Having started the year with the works Ralt team, Spence transferred to Madgwick Motorsport to drive a Reynard, after Ron Tauranac’s team had trouble developing its RT22 (powered by the Honda-based Judd V8) to a competitive pitch. The Yorkshireman ran strongly in the top six at Silverstone, until rear suspension failure pitched him off the road and into retirement.
The works Ralts are not the only ones to have struggled (although Frenchman Eric Bernard gave the team heart with a superb third at Pau), GEM Motorsport having had a similarly torrid time with its Cosworth-powered cars. Former British F3 champion Andy Wallace’s acknowledged talents have rather gone to waste this year , and team patron Gary Evans failed to qualify for the first three races. GEM has ordered new Reynards in an attempt to stop the rot.
Reynard has stolen a clear advantage on the chassis front, with three wins from the first four races to Lola’s one. Ralt, Bernard’s works car apart, has yet to feature, and reigning champion Onyx Race Engineering has been having a desperate time with the works March 88B, failing to qualify either of its cars at Pau and never running better than the midfield anywhere else. Team leader Volker Weidler remains optimistic however, that the team’s vast resources of experience will help it to become fully competitive during the course of the year. Following Spaniard Alfonso Garcia de Vinuesa’s decision to quit the team after Pau, Weidler is at present Onyx’s sole representative on the track.
Best of the Marches thus far have been the Judd-engined examples of First Racing, for whom both Pier-Luigi Martini and Marco Apicella have excelled — particularly in Pau, where driver bravery can compensate for chassis deficiencies.
In the meantime, both March and Ralt have lost business. The former saw the Oreca team switch to Reynard in time for Pau, while Cobra dropped its 88B in favour of a 1987 Lola after the first race. Ralt has now lost GEM, leaving Reynard and Lola to make the lion’s share of the field their customers.
Oreca’s switch has paid handsome dividends, Jean Alesi and Pierre-Henri Raphanel both scoring points in each of the races they have contested since the move. Hugues de Chaunac’s outfit is duelling with GDBA Motorsport for the honour of being the top French team, and is currently on top. GDBA Lola twins Michel Trollé and Olivier Grouillard (both due to escort the team into Formula One in 1989) started the year brightly enough, Trollé being desperately unlucky not to win Vallelunga. But they collided with each other in Pau, before enduring a miserable Silverstone weekend.
Lola’s cause is assisted by the arrival of Belgium’s bright new Sport Auto Racing/Michel Vaillant team, for whom Fabien Giroix has excelled, taking fourth at Jerez. The Huntingdon manufacturer also has the enormous combined experience of Mike Collier and Dave Luff, looking after Colt Racing and GA Motorsport between them. Foitek won at Vallelunga under Luff’s guidance, and has a useful partner in Claudio Langes. At Colt, Italian lady Giovanna Amati impressed in the first two races, while Finn Jari Nurminen was unlucky at Silverstone, setting fastest time during unofficial practice but failing to qualify after making an incorrect tyre choice during the afternoon’s intermittently sodden conditions.
Finally, spare a thought for reigning Italian Formula Three champion — and this year’s Monaco F3 victor — Enrico Bertaggia. The talented Enrico is struggling with one of last year’s Dallaras, which simply was not competitive when new. With the progress everybody else has made over the winter, he does not stand a chance.
That is the luck of the F3000 draw. With 26 starters usually covered by less than two seconds on the grid, only the ultra-competitive have a prayer. The category is as strong now as it has been at any time in its four seasons of existence, and Moreno will be made to fight every inch of the way if he is to maintain his present dominance. SA
INTERNATIONAL FORMULA 3000 CHAMPIONSHIP
Round 1, Jerez (47 laps), April 17
1st Johnny Herbert . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 1hr 17m 20.02s
2nd Mark Blundell . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 17m 29.33s
3rd Michel Trollé . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 17m 52.04s
4th Fabien Giroix . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 18m 28.83s
5th Olivier Grouillard . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 18m 30.93s
6th Eric Bernard . . . Ralt-Judd RT22 . . . 1hr 18m 37.89s
7th Claudio Langes . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 18m 47.95s
8th Pier-Luigi Martini . . . March-Judd 88B . . . 1hr 18m 52.37s
9th Jean-Denis Deletraz . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 18m 53.54s
10th Giovanna Amati . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 18m 53.13s
Winner’s Average Speed: 95.57mph (153.77kph)
Fastest Lap: Trollé 1m 37.09s; 97.18mph (156.36kph)
Round 2, Vallelunga (63 laps), May 8
1st Gregor Foitek . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 13m 49.83s
2nd Bertrand Gachot . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 1hr 13m 56.02s
3rd Olivier Grouillard . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 13m 58.41s
4th Roberto Moreno . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 1hr 13m 58.61s
5th Mark Blundell . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 13m 59.04s
6th Michel Trollé . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 1hr 14m 26.60s
7th Marco Apicella . . . March-Judd 88B . . . 1hr 14m 36.29s
8th Cor Euser . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 1hr 14m 41.75s
9th Jean Alesi . . . March-Cosworth 87B . . . 1hr 14m 51.56s
10th Eric Bernard . . . Ralt-Judd RT22 . . . 1hr 14m 54.68s
Winner’s Average Speed: 101.80mph (163.79kph)
Fastest Lap: Trollé 1m 08.26s; 104.88mph (168.75kph)
Round 3, Pau (72 laps), May 22
1st Roberto Moreno . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 1hr 29m 01.76s
2nd Jean Alesi . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 1hr 29m 23.79s
3rd Pier-Luigi Martini . . . March-Judd 88B . . . 1hr 29m 24.71s
4th Eric Bernard . . . Ralt-Judd RT22 . . . 1hr 29m 25.22s
5th Marco Apicella . . . March-Judd 88B . . . 1hr 29m 26.30s
6th Pierre-Henri Raphanel . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 1hr 29m 54.24s
7th Mike Thackwell . . . Ralt-Judd RT22. . . 1hr 30m 02.45s
8th Fabien Giroix . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 71 laps
9th Cor Euser . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 71 laps
10th Claudio Langes . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 71 laps
Winner’s Average Speed: 83.22mph (133.90kph)
Fastest Lap: Apicella 1m 12.72s; 84.90mph (136.60kph)
Round 4, Silverstone (42 laps), June 5
1st Roberto Moreno . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 55m33.83s
2nd Bertrand Gachot . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 56m55.62s
3rd Pierre-Henri Raphanel . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 57m04.42s
4th Gregor Foitek . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 57m13.53s
5th Jean Alesi . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 57m16.59s
6th Marco Apicella . . . March-Judd 88B . . . 57m16.85s
7th Johnny Herbert . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 57m17.62s
8th Thomas Danielsson . . . Reynard-Cosworth 88D . . . 57m24.36s
9th Mark Blundell . . . Lola-Cosworth T88/50 . . . 57m31.47s
10th Pier-Luigi Martini . . . March-Judd 88B . . . 57m34.98s
Winner’s Average Speed: 132.27mph (212.82kph)
Fastest Lap: Moreno 1m19.70s; 134.110mph (215.78kph)
Drivers’ Championship: 1. Moreno 21; 2 = Gachot and Foitek 12; 4 Herbert 9; 5 = Blundell and Alesi 8; 7 Grouillard 6; 8 = Trollé and Raphanel 5; 10 = Martini and Bernard 4; 12 = Giroix and Apicella 3.