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Formula 3000

F3000.gif
Formula 3000 is a type of Formula Racing


In 1985, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA) created the Formula 3000 championship to become the final preparatory step for drivers hoping to enter the Formula One championship. Formula Two had become too expensive, and was dominated by works-run cars with factory engines; the hope was that Formula 3000 would offer quicker, cheaper, more open racing.

Engines

Formula 3000 replaced Formula Two, and was so named because the engines used initially were 3.0 L (183ci) Cosworth DFV engines made obsolete by Formula One's change in engine rules. (It has been observed Bernie Ecclestone had purchased a job-lot of DFVs in 1984, with no obvious use for them at the time).

The rules permitted any 90-degree V8 engine, fitted with a rev-limiter to keep power output under control. As well as the Cosworth, a Honda engine based on an Indy V8 by John Judd also appeared; a rumoured Lamborghini V8 never raced. In later years, a Mugen-Honda V8 became the thing to have, eclipsing the DFV; Cosworth responded with the brand new AC engine. Costs, not unlike the senior series, were getting out of control.

Chassis

The first chassis from March and Ralt were developments of their existing 1984 Formula Two designs, although Lola's entry was based on and looked very much like an Indycar. A few smaller teams tried obsolete three-litre Formula One cars (from Tyrrell, Williams, Minardi and RAM), with little success -- the Grand Prix and Indycar-derived entries were too unwieldy - their fuel tanks were about twice the size of those needed for F3000 races, and the weight distribution was not ideal. The first few years of the championship saw March establishing a superiority over Ralt and Lola - there was little to choose between the chassis, but more Marches were sold and ended up in better hands. The form book was rewritten in 1988 with the entry of the ambitious Reynard marque with a brand new chassis; Reynard had won their first race in every formula they'd entered. This would continue in F3000. The next couple of years saw Lola improve slightly (at one point their car was so bad that Jean Mosnier's works Lola team bought Reynards) and March slip, but both were crushed by the Reynard teams and by the mid-90s, F3000 was a virtual Reynard monopoly, although Lola did eventually return with a promising car and the Japanese Footwork and Dome chassis were seen in Europe. Dallara briefly tried the series before moving up to Formula One, and AGS moved up from Formula Two but never recaptured their occasional success. At least one unraced F3000 chassis existed - the Wagner fitted with a straight-six short-stroke BMW. This was converted into a sports car, however.

Politics

The series was not without controversy. Definitive rules for the 1985 season did not appear until the championship was well under way. In 1987 questions were asked about the ability of some of the drivers, given the high number of accidents in the formula. In 1989 the eligibility of the new Reynard chassis was challenged - it was raced with a different (but safer and no faster) nose to the one that had been crash tested. This season also saw problems with driver changes - the cost of F3000 was escalating to the point that teams were finding it difficult to run drivers for a whole season. A badly-implemented "two driver changes per car per season" rule meant that some cars had to sit idle while drivers with budgets couldn't race them (rather than allowing two drivers to share a drive through the season on a race-by-race basis, teams could only change the driver of any entry twice in a year). In 1991 the performance of some Italian teams attracted attention - they had started using AGIP's "jungle juice" Formula One fuel, worth an estimated 15 bhp -- giving their drivers a significant advantage. In the early years of the formula there was much concern about safety, with a high number of accidents resulting in injuries to drivers and, unfortunately, one fatality in the European championship - Marco Campos in the very last round of the 1995 series.

Races

Formula 3000 races during the "open chassis" era tended to be of about 100-120 miles in distance, held at major circuits, either headlining meetings or paired with other international events. The "jewel in the crown" of the F3000 season was traditionally the Pau Grand Prix street race, rivalled for a few years by the Birmingham round. Most major circuits in France, Italy, Spain, Germany and the United Kingdom saw the series visit at least once.

Other F3000 series

A small British Formula 3000 series ran for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s, usually using year-old cars. An Italian series has now evolved into a second-level European one, running the previous generation of spec Lolas. The American Racing Series, a predecessor of Indy Lights, ran with March F3000 chassis (called Wildcats) and Buick V6 engines, before turning to Lolas some years later.

Japan persisted with Formula Two rules for a couple of years after the demise of F2 in Europe, but then adopted basically F3000 rules as Formula Nippon which, unlike European F3000, featured a lot of competition between tyre companies, and tended to feature highly-paid drivers (both local and European) in cars tending to be more developed and tested than those in the European series. The Mugen engine dominated this series, and was also extremely competitive in European F3000.

The European series remained unchanged for about a decade, but increasing costs reduced the popularity of the series by the mid 1990s.

The spec-chassis years

In 1996, new rules were introduced. These introduced a single engine (a detuned Judd V8 engine, re-engineered by and badged as a Zytek) and chassis (Lola), to go along with tyre standardization (Avon) introduced a number of years earlier. The following year the calendar was combined with that of Formula One, so the series became support races for the Grand Prix. Several Grand Prix teams established formal links with F3000 teams to develop young drivers (and engineering talent); these relationships varied from formal "junior teams" (such as the one McLaren set up for Nick Heidfeld) to fairly distant relationships based mostly upon shared sponsors and the use of the 'parent' team's name. The series grew dramatically through the late nineties, reaching an entry of nearly 40 cars - although this in itself was problematic as it meant many drivers failed to qualify. In 2000, the series was restricted to 15 teams of two cars each.

However, by 2002 expenses were once more very high and the number of entries, and sponsors, rapidly dwindled. Formula 3000 was experiencing tough competition with cheaper formulae, such as European F3000 (using ex-FIA 1999 and 2002 Lola chassis), World Series by Nissan (also known as Formula Nissan) and Formula Renault V6 Eurocup, as well as the North American CART series. While drivers from these series such as Juan Pablo Montoya (CART), Cristiano da Matta (CART), and Felipe Massa (EF3000) found top rides in Formula One, the F3000 drivers seemed to have inordinate difficulty in moving onwards. By the end of 2003, car counts had fallen to new lows.

The 2004 season was the last F3000 campaign, due in part to dwindling field sizes. In 2005 it was replaced with a new series known as GP2, with Renault backing.

Champions

Season Driver Team / Car Poles Wins Podiums Fastest
Laps
Points Clinched Margin
(points)
1985 West Germany -- Christian Danner BS Automotive
March-Cosworth
2 4 7 4 52 Race 11 of 11 6
1986 Italy -- Ivan Capelli Genoa
March-Cosworth
3 2 6 1 39 Race 11 of 11 2
1987 Italy -- Stefano Modena Onyx
March-Cosworth
0 3 4 1 41 Race 11 of 11 7
1988 Brazil -- Roberto Moreno Bromley Motorsport
Reynard-Cosworth
3 4 4 1 43 Race 9 of 11 9
1989 France -- Jean Alesi Eddie Jordan Racing
Reynard-Cosworth
2 3 4 1 39 Race 9 of 10 0
1990 France -- Érik Comas DAMS
Lola-Mugen
3 4 6 1 51 Race 10 of 11 21
1991 Brazil -- Christian Fittipaldi Pacific Racing
Reynard-Mugen
4 2 7 1 47 Race 10 of 10 5
1992 Italy -- Luca Badoer Crypton Engineering
Reynard-Cosworth
5 4 5 3 46 Race 9 of 10 12
1993 France -- Olivier Panis DAMS
Reynard-Cosworth
2 3 4 2 32 Race 9 of 9 1
1994 France -- Jean-Christophe Boullion DAMS
Reynard-Cosworth
0 3 4 1 36 Race 8 of 8 2
1995 Italy -- Vincenzo Sospiri Super Nova Racing
Reynard-Cosworth
0 3 5 0 42 Race 7 of 8 13
1996 Germany -- Jörg Müller RSM Marko
Lola-Zytek
2 2 8 4 52 Race 10 of 10 3
1997 Brazil -- Ricardo Zonta Super Nova Racing
Lola-Zytek
4 3 5 4 39 Race 9 of 10 1.5
1998 Colombia -- Juan Pablo Montoya Super Nova Racing
Lola-Zytek
7 4 9 5 65 Race 12 of 12 7
1999 Germany -- Nick Heidfeld West Competition
Lola-Zytek
4 4 7 6 59 Race 8 of 10 29
2000 Brazil -- Bruno Junqueira Petrobras
Lola-Zytek
2 4 5 1 48 Race 10 of 10 3
2001 United Kingdom -- Justin Wilson Nordic Racing
Lola-Zytek
2 3 10 1 71 Race 10 of 12 32
2002 France -- Sébastien Bourdais Super Nova Racing
Lola-Zytek
6 3 8 3 56 Race 12 of 12 2
2003 Sweden -- Björn Wirdheim Arden International
Lola-Zytek
5 3 9 7 78 Race 8 of 10 35
2004 Italy -- Vitantonio Liuzzi Arden International
Lola-Zytek
9 7 9 3 86 Race 9 of 10 30


Four past F3000 champions have never appeared in an F1 race: Bourdais, Junqueira and Wirdheim all have raced in Champ Cars. Müller is now BMW pilot in WTCC touring car racing after having been a test driver for the BMW-Williams F1 project in 1999 as well as a racer of the BMW V12 Le Mans winner. Sospiri has attempted to qualify for a race and failed to make it, having raced for a highly unprepared team with poor equipment. Wirdheim has been third driver in practice sessions for Jaguar Racing, but has never participated in a race.

Three of them have won a F1 Grand Prix: Alesi, Panis and Montoya (who also won the Indy 500 once). No Formula Two, Formula 3000 or GP2 champion has ever become World Champion (though Alberto Ascari won the World Championship for two years running when all qualifying races apart from the Indianapolis 500 were run to Formula Two rules).


FIA Formula 3000v · d · e
1985 • 1986 • 1987 • 1988 • 1989 • 1990 • 1991 • 1992 • 1993 • 1994 • 1995 • 1996 • 1997 • 1998 • 1999 • 2000 • 2001 • 2002 • 2003 • 2004