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Formula Three

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Formula Three, also called Formula 3 or F3, is a class of open-wheel formula racing. The various championships held in Europe, Australia, South America and Asia form an important step for many prospective Formula One drivers. Formula Three has traditionally been regarded as the first major stepping stone for F1 hopefuls—it is typically the first point in a driver's career at which most drivers in the series are aiming at professional careers in racing rather than being amateurs and enthusiasts. F3 is not cheap (a competitive seat in British F3 now costs around £400,000 and about £80,000 in Asia, for a year's racing), but is regarded as a key investment in a young driver's future career. Success in F3 can lead directly to more senior formulae such as F2, GP2, A1 Grand Prix, or even a Formula One test or race seat.

History

Formula Three (adopted by the FIA in 1950) evolved from postwar auto racing, with lightweight tube-frame chassis powered by 500 cc motorcycle engines (notably Nortons and JAP speedway). The 500 cc formula originally evolved in 1946 from low-cost "special" racing organised by enthusiasts in Bristol, England, just before the Second World War; British motorsport after the war picked up slowly, partly due to petrol rationing which continued for a number of years and home-built 500 cc cars engines were intended to be accessible to the "impecunious enthusiast". The first post war motor race in Britain was organised by the VSCC in July 1947 at RAF Gransden Lodge, 500cc cars being the only post war class to run that day. The race was won by Eric Brandon in his Cooper Prototype (T2).

Cooper came to dominate the formula with mass-produced cars, and the income this generated enabled the company to develop into the senior categories. Other notable marques included Kieft, JBS and Emeryson in England and Effyh, Monopoletta and Scampolo in Europe. John Cooper, along with most other 500 builders, decided to place the engine in the middle of the car, driving the rear wheels. This was mostly due to the practical limitations imposed by chain drive but it gave these cars exceptionally good handling characteristics which eventually led to the mid-engined revolution in single-seater racing.

The 500cc formula was the usual route into motor racing through the early and mid 1950s (and stars like Stirling Moss continued to enter selected F3 events even during their GP careers). Other notable 500 cc Formula 3 drivers include Stuart Lewis-Evans, Ivor Bueb, Jim Russell, Peter Collins, Don Parker, Ken Tyrrell, and Bernie Ecclestone.

500cc Formula Three declined at an international level during the late 1950s, although it continued at a national level into the early 60s, being eclipsed by Formula Junior for 1000 or 1100 cc cars (on a sliding scale of weights).

A one-litre Formula Three category for four-cylinder carburetted cars, with heavily tuned production engines, was reintroduced in 1964 based on the Formula Junior rules and ran to 1970. These engines (a short-stroke unit based on the Ford Anglia<ref>Gauld, Graham, "Ford", in World of Automobiles (London: Orbis, 1974), Volume 6, p.696</ref> with a special 2-valve Cosworth SOHC head being by far the most efficient and popular) tended to rev very highly and were popularly known as "screamers"; F3 races tended to involve large packs of slipstreaming cars. The "screamer" years were dominated by Brabham, Lotus and Tecno, with March beginning in 1970. Early one-litre F3 chassis tended to descend from Formula Junior designs but quickly evolved.

For 1971 new regulations allowing 1600 cc engines with a restricted air intake were introduced. The 1971–73 seasons were contested with these cars, as aerodynamics started to become important.

Two-litre engine rules were introduced for 1974, still with restricted air intakes. As of today engine regulations remain basically unchanged in F3, a remarkable case of stability in racing regulations.

As the likes of Lotus and Brabham faded from F3 to concentrate on Formula One, F3 constructors of the 1970s included Alpine, Lola, March, Modus, GRD, Ralt, and Ensign.

Historically, March (up to 1981), Ralt (up to the early 1990s) and Reynard (1985–1992) had been the main chassis manufacturers in two-litre F3, with Martini fairly strong in France; Reynard pioneered use of carbon fibre in the mid-1980s replacing traditional aluminium or steel monocoque structures. Dallara, after an unsuccessful Formula One project, focused their attention on the formula in the early nineties and almost obliterated all other marques.

By the start of the 1980s however, Formula Three had evolved well beyond its humble beginnings to something closely resembling the modern formula. It was seen as the main training ground for future Formula One drivers, many of them bypassing Formula Two to go straight into Grand Prix racing. The chassis became increasingly sophisticated, mirroring the more senior formulae —ground effects were briefly used in the early 1980s but were banned, in line with other FIA single-seater formulae; carbon fibre chassis started to be introduced from the mid 1980s.

F3 cars

Formula Three cars are monocoque chassis, using slick racing tyres and wings. Currently, Dallara manufactures the overwhelming majority of F3 cars, though Mygale, Lola (formerly in partnership with Dome of Japan), ArtTech and SLC also have a limited output. In many smaller or amateur F3 racing series older cars are frequently seen. Usually these series are divided into two or more classes, to allow more participation.

Engines in Formula 3 are all 2-litre, 4-cylinder naturally-aspirated spec engines. Engines must be built from a production model block ("stock block"), and often must be sealed by race or series organizers, so no private tuning can be carried out. Honda engines (prepared by Mugen) have perennially been popular, as have engines produced by Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, or Renault. Currently the HWA-tuned Mercedes and the Volkswagen engines dominate the British and European series, with Mugen, TOM'S-Toyota, Opel and Fiat all being used by some teams.

Car regulations

  • width: 1850 mm (72.8") maximum
  • wheelbase: 2000 mm (78.75") minimum
  • track: 1200 mm (47") minimum
  • weight: 550 kg (1213 lbs) minimum
  • active suspension, telemetry, and traction control are forbidden
  • two-wheel steering only
  • two-wheel drive only
  • manual gearbox, six forward gears (maximum), and one reverse
  • undrilled ferrous brakes
  • wheels, breadth 11.5 inches (292 mm), width 13 inches (330 mm) maximum
  • Control fuel from a single supplier, but of a comparative level to pump/street gasoline (petrol)
  • Stock derived 2000cc engine with 26mm (1.02")-width restrictor, hence about 200 horsepower (150&bsp;kW) between 5000 and 7400 rpm


Championships and series

There has never been a World Championship for Formula Three. In the 1970s and into the 1980s the European Formula Three Championship and British Formula Three Championship (once one series had emerged from the competing British series in the 1970s) were the most prominent, with a number of future Formula One champions coming from them. France, Germany, and Italy also had important Formula Three series, but interest in these was originally subsidiary to national formulae—Formula Renault in France and Formula Super Vee in Germany. These nations eventually drifted towards Formula Three. The Italian series tended to attract older drivers who moved straight across from karting whereas in other nations drivers typically graduated to F3 after a couple of years in minor categories. The European series died out in the mid 1980s and the national series became correspondingly more important. For 2003, French and German F3, both suffering from a lack of competitive entrants, merged to recreate the Formula Three Euroseries. In Germany there is still a lower-key Formel 3 Cup.

Brazil's SudAm Formula Three Championship, which now has the most powerful engine of all Formula Three series, was known for producing excellent drivers who polished their skills in the British Formula Three championship. Perhaps the most curious of all was the small All-Japan Formula Three Championship. Although few drivers spent a significant amount of time there, future stars such as Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve scored victories there. An Asian series was established in 2001 and grew to produce current A1 drivers for Indonesia and Australia.

Special races

In addition to the many national series, Formula Three is known for major non-championship races typically including entries from the national series, the best-known of which is the FIA Intercontinental Cup at Macau. The first Formula Three Grand Prix of Macau was held in 1983 and won by Ayrton Senna. Michael Schumacher, David Coulthard, Ralf Schumacher, and Takuma Sato have also won there, traditionally the end of the Formula Three season, where drivers from almost every national series participate.

Other major races include the Pau Grand Prix (from 1999 to 2006), the Masters of Formula 3 (traditionally held at Zandvoort), and the Korea Super Prix at Changwon. These events give fans in locations not visited by other major series to experience major international racing.

The Monaco F3 Grand Prix held until 1997 was also a famous special race. It was restored in 2005 only, as a part of the F3 Euroseries.

List of Formula 3 series

Template:See also

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Series Name Zone/Country Active years Additional Information
Formula Three Euroseries Template:Country flagicon Europe 2003-still
British Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon United Kingdom 1951–1961, 1964-still
Italian Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Italy 1964–1966, 1968-still
All-Japan Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Japan 1979-still
European F3 Open Championship Template:Country flagicon Spain 2001-still formerly the Spanish Formula Three Championship

Other Series

Series Name Zone/Country Active years Additional Information
German Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Germany 1950–1953, 1971-still currently known as the ATS Formel 3 Cup
Australian Formula 3 Template:Country flagicon Australia 1997-still<ref>Australian Titles Retrieved from www.camsmanual.com.au on 9 August 2009</ref> the current Australian Drivers' Championship
Nordic Formula Three Masters Template:Country flagicon Finland 1958–1960, 1984–1986, 2000-still formerly the Finnish Formula Three Championship
Austria Formula 3 Cup Template:Country flagicon Austria 1984-still
Formula Three Sudamericana South America 1987-still

Defunct Series

Series Name Zone/Country Active years Additional Information
FIA European Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Europe 1975–1984
French Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon France 1964–1973, 1978–2002
Belgian Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Belgium 1964–1967
Swiss Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Switzerland 1967–2008
Swedish Formula 3 Championship Template:Country flagicon Sweden 1964–1994, 1997–2000
Danish Formula 3 Championship Template:Country flagicon Denmark 1949–1966, 1976–1977
Norwegian Formula 3 Championship Template:Country flagicon Norway 1999–2000
Scandinavian & Nordic Formula Three Championship Scandinavia 1984–1985, 1992–2001
North European Zone Formula 3 Cup Northern Europe 2008-2009<ref>http://www.fia-nez.eu/pdf/minutes/nez_minutes_2009-02.pdf</ref>
Russian Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Russia 1997–2002, 2008
Greece Formula 3 Championship Template:Country flagicon Greece 1990–2002
Turkish Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Turkey 1994-2006 <ref>Formula 3 Survey, Karl-Friedrich Katabian, International Race Results and Data Association, page 1225</ref>
Center-European Zone Formula 3 Cup Central Europe 1994–2005
DDR Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon East Germany 1950–1958, 1964–1972
Asian Formula Three Championship Asia 2001–2008 most recently known as the Asian F3 Pacific Series
Brazilian Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Brazil 1990–1994
United States Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon United States 2000–2001
Mexican Formula Three Championship Template:Country flagicon Mexico 1990–2002
Mexican Formula Three International Championship Template:Country flagicon Mexico 1990–2003

Special Races

Race Name Zone/Country Active years Additional Information
Masters of Formula 3 Template:Country flagicon Netherlands 1991–present
Macau Grand Prix Formula Three Template:Country flagicon Macau 1983–present also known as FIA Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup
Korea Super Prix Template:Country flagicon South Korea 1999–2003, 2010–present
Formula 3 Brazil Open Template:Country flagicon Brazil 2010-still<ref>http://www.f3brazilopen.com/?page_id=19</ref>
Pau Grand Prix Template:Country flagicon France 1999–2006
Monaco Grand Prix Formula Three Template:Country flagicon Monaco 1950, 1959–1997, 2005
FIA European Formula Three Cup Template:Country flagicon Europe 1985–1990, 1999–2002

Partially sourced from [1]

See also

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