Kotaro Sakurai was British F3's rookie titlist in 2011. Image by Jakob Ebrey Photography
British Formula 3’s ‘junior division’, the National Class, looks set to be revitalised in 2012 thanks to the ready availability of chassis and strong interest from rookie drivers looking to get in on the ground level of UK motorsport’s premier series.
The adoption of new chassis regulations for the International class of the Cooper Tires British Formula 3 International Series means that a host of Dallaras from the 2008-2011 seasons are on the market and ready to race on in the rookie division.
To make them even more cost-effective and appealing to the junior driver, new technical regulations have been drawn up for the class. Chief among these is the requirement that all National class chassis are powered by the trusty Mugen Honda engine, tuned by Neil Brown Engineering, and the removal of some of the more expensive aerodynamic appendages to the bodywork.
It’s a move which has found favour with the teams, including CF Racing, which is reforming this season under the leadership of Hywel Lloyd to run two or three National class cars. “The cars should be a lot more economical to run,” says Hywel, who drove to third place in the National class in 2008 before stepping up to the International level for three seasons.
“Losing some of the aerodynamics will make the playing field more level and make it easier for new drivers to come in and quickly get to grips with racing a Formula 3 car. Neil Brown Engineering do a brilliant job with the Mugen Honda engine, which is a very forgiving power unit and still more than powerful enough for the job. These cars are going to be fast and reliable, and a great introduction to F3.”
Lloyd is not planning on racing himself, but will instead switch to full-time team management and car preparation at CF Racing’s new North Wales workshops.
T-Sport, which won the National class in 2007 with Sergio Perez – now a Sauber F1 driver – and in 2010 with Menasheh Idafar, will be running a National class F3 Dallara this season for Australian Formula Ford graduate Spike Goddard, and hopes to add a second National driver to the mix. “It’s a really good car,” says T-Sport’s Russell Eacott, “and you can’t argue with 6000 miles or so of testing and racing in a season. With the reduced costs, it’s a stunning way to learn about Formula 3.”
Lisa Crampton, general manager of championship promoter SRO, says the new National class represents a great investment for younger and less experienced drivers: “They get equal billing in the championship and a great chance to learn the circuits, the tyres, the ethos of Formula 3 – and all for a budget which is significantly less than is required for the International class.”
“It is a fantastic training ground for any youngster,” adds teams’ spokesman Peter Briggs, “and the perfect introduction to Formula 3 for a young driver hoping to progress his career. Drivers with a year’s experience of the National class are so much better prepared for the International class and all the demands that come with that step up.”
British Formula 3, which enjoys the headlining support of Cooper Tires and is additionally backed by Sunoco Racing Fuels and Anglo American Oil Company, features a 29-race schedule for 2012. There will be races on the Formula 1 Grand Prix circuits of Monza, Spa-Francorchamps and Silverstone, as well as the blue riband Grand Prix de Pau and events alongside the Blancpain Endurance Series at Paul Ricard and with British GT on the UK’s top circuits. The season gets underway at Oulton Park at Easter.