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For many years this was the final hurdle before reaching racing’s peak

The FIA introduced Formula 2 in 1948 but it was Easter 1967 before it organised a European Championship – 50 years ago this month. It remained as the final stepping stone to Grand Prix racing until 1984, when dwindling grids led to it being replaced by the new Formula 3000.

The European F2 Championship originally pitted up-and-coming talent against the established ‘graded’ Formula 1 stars of the day who were ineligible to score points. Jochen Rindt was the undoubted star of those early years. The Austrian counted the opening three races of the inaugural 1967 series among his record 12 victories in the category.

Emerging Belgian talent Jacky Ickx became the first European champion and future F1 stars such as Clay Regazzoni, Ronnie Peterson, Patrick Depailler and Jacques Laffite all won the title in the 1970s. However, no F2 champion ever went on to win the F1 world title. Matra supplied the title-winning chassis for the first three seasons and Elf sponsorship led French drivers to dominate in the mid-1970s. Bruno Giacomelli enjoyed a record-breaking 1978 campaign for March and BMW, respectively the category’s record holders for chassis and engine victories. Ralt-Honda took over as the class of the field from 1981 with Mike Thackwell becoming F2’s final champion three years later.

The original FIA F2 series (the title was reintroduced from 2009-12) also had its share of journeyman drivers with Sanremo Racing owner/driver Alberto Colombo having started more races than anyone else (74).