Formula 3000

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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 (3000 cc) Cosworth DFV engines made obsolete by the change of Formula One from the 3.0 L normally aspirated engines around this time. The rules permitted any 90-degree V8 engine. 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 Cosworth DFV; Cosworth later responded with the brand new AC engine. Costs were heading out of control...

Chassis

The first chassis from March and Ralt were largely based upon existing Formula Two designs, although Lola's entry was based on and looked very much like an Indy car. Several smaller teams tried obsolete three-litre Formula One cars, with little success. The first few years of the championship saw March drivers establishing a superiority over Ralt. 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. They kept up this success in F3000.... The next couple of years saw Lola improve slightly and March slip, but both were crushed by Reynard teams and by the mid-90s F3000 was a virtual one-make formula, although Lola did 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.

Politics

The series was not without controversy. In 1989 the eligibility of the Reynard chassis was challenged - it was raced with a different (but safer) 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 "two driver changes per car per season" rule meant that some cars had to sit idle while drivers with budgets couldn't race them. In 1991 the performance of some Italian teams attracted attention - they had started using "jungle juice" Formula One fuel, worth an estimated 15bhp -- 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. Fortunately, only one driver was killed 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 meetings. The "jewel in the crown" of the F3000 season was traditionally the Pau 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 Series for F3000 cars

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 F300 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. The Formula Nippon series, unlike European F3000, featured a lot of competition between tyre companies, and tended to feature highly-paid drivers (both local and European) in cars that tended 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 meant the popularity of the series was waning by the mid 1990s.

The spec-chassis years

In 1996, new rules were introduced. These introduced a single engine (a detuned Judd V-8 engine, badged as a Zytek) and chassis (Lola), to go along with tyre standarization (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. These measures decreased costs and popularity grew. 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 rapidly dwindled. Formula 3000 was experiencing tough competition with cheaper formulae, such as European F3000 (using ex-FIA Lola B2/99 chassis) and Formula Nissan (also known as Telefonica World Series or Superfund World Series), 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. For 2005 it has been replaced with a new series known as GP2, with Renault backing.

Champions

Over the years, the following drivers have become champion:

Three past F3000 champions have never appeared in an F1 race: Bourdais and Junqueira both race in Champ Cars, Muller competes in touring car racing. A fourth champion, Sospiri, has attempted to qualify for a race and failed to make it, having raced for a highly unprepared team with poor equipment. It is uncertain at the moment where Wirdheim will race in 2005, although he is currently racing Champ Cars as of May 2005.

Three of them have won a F1 Grand Prix: Alesi, Panis and Montoya (who also won the Indy 500 once). No Formula 3000 champion has ever become Formula One World Driving Champion.

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