In 2007 Rockingham was a new addition to the British F3 calendar, returning to the Northamptonshire circuit for the season finale after a four year break. The circuit, with its unique banked corner, is a firm favourite with the teams and drivers for its technical nature and multiple overtaking opportunities.
Last season Marko Asmer took his 11th win in the penultimate round of his championship winning season, with Germany’s Maro Engel finishing the year off with a victory in the second race of the day to secure second in the championship. Both drivers have used their experience to move further up the motor sport career ladder, with Asmer now with the BMW Sauber F1 team as an official test driver, the final step before landing a race seat at the top level of the sport and Maro Engel is competing for Mercedes in DTM.
While Marko Asmer was the runaway winner last year, 2008 is turning out to be the most competitively fought season for many years, with eight or nine drivers being closely matched and all capable of winning races.
Northamptonshire is home to three of the leading British F3 teams and Mexican Sergio Perez is racing with Brackley based T-Sport this season. The reigning British F3 National Class champion is one of only two drivers using the International spec Mugen-Honda engine and he has already used it to great advantage to claim his, and his team’s, first International Class win at Croft last month, ending the domination of the Mercedes engine. Last weekend he dominated the proceedings at Monza with two wins after starting in the middle of the 28 car grid both times.
Ultimate Motorsport are based in Wellingborough and were the first team to use the French Mygale chassis. Argentine Esteban Guerrieri and Ireland’s Michael Devaney are in their second season with the team and have been joined by Angolan driver Ricardo Teixeira this season. The new team have been making spectacular progress, with podiums for Guerrieri at Croft and Monza and two fastest laps at the home of the Italian Grand Prix for the Argentinian. Rockingham could be the place where they finally get the just rewards for their hard work.
Red Bull drivers Jaime Alguersuari from Spain and Brendon Hartley from New Zealand are both in their first season of Formula 3 after competing in the Formula Renault Euro Cup, where Hartley finished the year as Champion. Both Carlin Motorsport drivers are race winners this season and are serious contenders for the overall title. Brendon Hartley has also sampled F1 power when he tested for the Scuderia Toro Rosso team last month.
Also at the Carlin Motorsport team is the leading British driver Oliver Turvey. Like his teammates, the 2006 McLaren Autosport BRDC Young driver of the Year award winner has already stepped onto the top of the British F3 podium and with backing from the Racing Steps Foundation the 21-year-old from Penrith is set for more glory this season. Australian Sam Abay is the fourth International Class runner at Carlin and has been slightly overshadowed by his three teammates. However the Formula BMW graduate has been gaining valuable experience while scoring top ten finishes to secure valuable championship points.
Daventry based Fortec Motorsport have a trio of cars in this year’s championship and it is their Swedish pairing that have pushed the team back to the front of the grid. 2006 UK Formula Renault Champion Sebastian Hohenthal is in his second British F3 season with the team, while 2007 UK Formula BMW Champion Marcus Ericsson has already proven he has the pace to win at this level in just a few races. Ericsson is managed by Kenny Brack, the driver who finished second to Gil de Ferran in the 2001 Rockingham 500 Champ Car race, the UK’s fastest ever motor race. Brack will be hoping that his young protégé will go one better on Fortec’s home circuit. Canadian Philip Major has yet to find his feet in British F3 but with experience comes results, so expect Major to be targeting a couple of points scoring finishes this weekend.
2007 championship winning team Hitech Racing moved their F3 team from Silverstone to new premises over the border in Buckingham and this year are running Britain’s Max Chilton and Austrian Walter Grubmüller. Pre season testing has shown the pairing have front running pace and success has come their way, however bad luck has dogged them so far this season and they will be looking for a better showing at Rockingham. 2006 championship winning team Raikkonen Robertson Racing are still a force to be reckoned with and Atte Mustonen is still hungry for success. The young Finn finished the 2007 season strongly, securing a win along the way; however he has yet to secure his second win in 2008 despite being a consistent point scorer. His Double R teammates are 2006 Australian Formula Ford Champion John Martin, Northern Ireland’s Alistair Jackson, both of whom raced in the series last year and rookie driver Henry Arundel, who finished 3rd overall in Formula BMW UK last year.
Bedford’s Nick Tandy has moved into the championship after a great season in Formula Ford. Run by his brother Joe, JTR has also made the step into British F3 and using the Mygale chassis and has quickly adapted to the extremely competitive and professional environment of British F3. Technical issues and bad luck has robbed Tandy and the team of some valuable points but when things have gone right, as was the case in Round 6 at Monza, the JTR run Mygale is right on the pace.
Viktor Jensen has also made the step up to the International Class this season with new team Nexa Racing. The Icelandic driver has tasted the victory champagne in the National Class last year at Snetterton but knows that to do the same in the International Class is going to be extremely hard work, something he and his team are certainly not afraid of.
While it is proving to be extremely difficult to pick a race winner in the International Class field the nine car National Class had almost become a one horse race prior to Monza with the rest of the grid wondering if Cheshire’s Andy Meyrick can be stopped. Meyrick started the season with a perfect scoring rate and the only driver to keep pace with him is Kent’s Jay Bridger. But in Italy the Welshman faltered, scoring just one point for the fastest lap in Round 5. Hywel Lloyd and Jay Bridger both picked up their first British F3 wins in Italy as a result. However it is a long season and the other teams have been working hard to peg back the advantage enjoyed by Meyrick and his Carlin Motorsport team. Fluid Motorsport have switched from Lola to Dallara for the 2008 season, with Jay Bridger and 2007 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Stefan Wilson in the cockpit for the Norfolk team.
Reigning National Class champions T Sport are also running a pair of Dallaras for series returnee, Bahrain’s Salman Al Khalifa and Columbian Formula BMW USA graduate Steven Guerrero. The Brackley based team are enjoying success with Sergio Perez in the International Class but desperately want to add a third successive National Class title to their trophy cabinet.
Andy Meyrick is joined at Carlin by Icelandic racer Kristjan Einar, the 19-year-old national karting champion making a big leap by making British F3 his first season racing cars. Einar has a lot to learn but he adapting swiftly to Formula 3 and he has Meyrick as a good bench mark.
Like Kristjan Einar, Germany’s Craig Reiff is racing in his first season in cars after success in karts across Europe. The 16-year-old is racing with former Formula Ford championship winning team Nexa Racing. Reigning BARC Formula Renault Champion Hywel Lloyd has successfully made the step into British F3 and a win and a second place at Monza gave him and his Welsh team CF Racing run by his father Harry, cause for some serious celebrating.