Stefano Modena, the 24-year-old Italian who stamped his authority so clearly on the Birmingham Superprix at the end of August, was confirmed as this year’s International Formula 3000 Champion at the final round of the eleven-race series in Spain on October 11.
His title looked secure following his third victory of the season at Imola just two weeks after Birmingham, but Spaniard Luis Sala’s triumph at the Le Mans Bugatti circuit in the penultimate round kept him within reach of Modena’s points tally.
Both title contenders were caught out by rain in qualifying for the deciding event at Jarama, and started well down the grid. When Sala’s Lola, which needed to win to have any chance of overhauling Modena, pitted to swap “wets” for slick tyres on the warm-up lap and was forced to start from the pit-lane, chances of a race-long showdown evaporated. Sala finished fifth, one place ahead of Modena, but it was not enough.
The race went to Frenchman Yannick Dalmas, a week before he joined the Larrousse-Calmels Lola team for the Mexican Grand Prix. Andy Wallace had led comfortably in the early laps after shrewdly opting for slicks despite adverse weather forecasts, but spun after Dalmas passed him — as message there had been four Britons in the top six, a sign of this country’s growing strength in F3000.
Littlehampton-based Onyx Race Engineering, the works March team which has run Modena all season, is now contemplating a move into Formula One for 1988. Its newly-crowned F3000 Champion is understandably the hot tip to drive such a car.