EVENT PREVIEW: And the 2008 Champion is……..?

The waiting is nearly over! On Sunday 12 October at Donington Park an Englishman, a Spaniard and a New Zealander will battle it out to see who will win one of motorsports most prestigious prizes and join the long and illustrious ranks of British Formula 3 Champions. The 2008 British F3 International Series has been one of the hardest fought championships anywhere in the world and has certainly been too close to call.

Britain’s Oliver Turvey has been the driver to beat for the second half of the year and the 21-year-old’s name is now being mentioned in the same breath as Lewis Hamilton as the next British hopeful. Like the McLaren Formula One driver, the Racing Steps Foundation driver has had to contend with immense pressure from a Spanish teammate and Turvey heads to the East Midlands circuit just twelve points ahead of Jaime Alguersuari, with forty-two still on offer in the final two races.

Alguersuari has been one of the most consistent drivers in the series this year, having only failed to score in three of the twenty races this year. The Red Bull sponsored driver has already seen the view from the top of the podium on three occasions this season, including the last race on the streets of Bucharest, and knows he will have to repeat the performance to close the gap to Turvey.

The third Carlin Motorsport contender for the title is Brendon Hartley, the second Red Bull backed driver in the line up. The New Zealander’s speed has astounded the critics this season and he would have been closer to the top of the leader board but for a couple of mistakes earlier in the season. However the 18-year-old from Palmerstone North is 30-points adrift of his rivals and knows that he will need a lot of luck if he is going to leave Donington Park as the new champion. However rest assured the five times race winner will be battling all the way to the final chequered flag.

The only other driver with a mathematical possibility of lifting the title is Mexico’s Sergio Perez. The only driver to race with the Mugen Honda engine, Perez has been one of the revelations of the year. The reigning British F3 National Class champion looked to be on course to add the overall title to his collection but thanks to two non finishes in Romania, the Telmex sponsored driver has been left with a 39 point deficit to his rivals. Perez will be looking for a silver lining to his particular cloud at Donington and the four times winner will be looking to add some more silverware to his trophy cabinet.

Finland’s Atte Mustonen started the year as one of the favourites for the title but has been outclassed by the four drivers ahead of him in the championship table. A single race win at Rockingham and four further podium finishes have underlined Mustonen’s race talent but he has been dogged by bad luck and technical problems on more than a few occasions.

Reigning Formula BMW Champion Marcus Ericsson is still searching for that elusive first win in British F3 and the Fortec Motorsport driver will be hoping it comes his way at Donington Park. The 17-year-olds race speed is not in doubt as his tally of pole positions, fastest laps and podium finishes attest. The Swede is one to watch in the final weekend of the 2008 season.

Max Chilton has had a season that can only be described as topsy-turvy. The 17-year-old Hitech driver started the year with his first ever British F3 podium backing up his pre season testing pace, but then his season stalled with the only high point coming with a 4th and 3rd at Rockingham in May. Chilton will start the first race at Donington Park with a penalty of 10 grid places for his move on Sergio Perez in the last race in Romania but like the rest of the grid will be hoping for a bit of luck that will see his second season in Formula 3 end on a high note.

With the withdrawal of Ultimate Motorsport to concentrate on the 2009 season, Bedford’s Nick Tandy is racing the only Mygale Formula 3 car at Donington run by his JTR Marshal Westland team. The Formula Ford Festival winner has been making steady progress in his first year at this level and podium finishes at Spa and Silverstone have given the whole team a huge boost.

While the battle for the overall title will go all the way to the final race of the 2008 season, Jay Bridger claimed the National Class title with two podium finishes in Romania. The new champion has been on the podium in sixteen of the twenty races held so far, an impressive statistic that has contributed to the driver from Kent being awarded BRDC Rising Star status. However Jay Bridger knows his task would have been much harder if Andy Meyrick hadn’t fallen seriously ill after Thruxton. Even though he has recovered Meyrick has decided to sit out the final two races of the 2008 season to concentrate on challenging for the overall British F3 title in 2009.

With just four points separating them the runners up spot will be fought over by Hywel Lloyd and Steven Guerrero and it will be hard to predict which of the two drivers will come out on top. 2007 McLaren Autosport BRDC Award winner Stefan Wilson had a slow start to the year but as soon as he found his form with wins at Snetterton, Spa, Silverstone and Bucharest.