“Palmer al­ways wanted his own F3 se­ries”

Motor Sport News - - Racing News -

B rands Hatch, Sun­day, Au­gust 31, 2014. My phone goes off. It’s a text from Jonathan Palmer ask­ing me to drop by his hos­pi­tal­ity suite to up­date me on some break­ing news.

A text from Mr Palmer isn’t a usual oc­cur­rence. So when you get one you’d prob­a­bly bet­ter go along for a chat, so I did. Jolyon was there too, ca­su­ally watch­ing the BRDC F4 grid line up for its fi­nal race of the week­end while Palmer Sr and I be­gan our dis­cus­sion on his plans.

Turned out he’d or­dered a batch of new cars for BRDC F4, aimed to make them faster than MSA For­mula ones but sig­nif­i­cantly cheaper than F3 ones. It was all very in­ter­est­ing stuff, but I had one burn­ing ques­tion. Bri­tish F3 was on that week­end too, with a rather shock­ing seven-car en­try. Would Palmer like to get his hands on Bri­tish F3? Back came the an­swer: “I’d love to run Bri­tish F3 one day. I think it’s a sta­ple of Bri­tish mo­tor­sport and it’s aw­ful to see the state of it now. It’s too ex­pen­sive, that’s the big­gest prob­lem. This new car could change things one day, with a cheaper spec en­gine with sim­i­lar power to cur­rent F3 cars. Let’s wait and see.” We’ve waited, and now we’ve seen. Com­mon sense has pre­vailed and the FIA and the MSA have agreed that BRDC For­mula 4 will be granted the Bri­tish F3 ti­tle with im­me­di­ate ef­fect.

It’s a great move as BRDC Bri­tish For­mula 3 rep­re­sents ev­ery­thing Bri­tish F3 did in its hey­day. Good per­for­mance cars, with top cal­i­bre teams, but not at an astro­nomic bud­get.

Bri­tish F3 lost its way over the last decade, and now has a chance to re­turn with a far more workable, and tra­di­tional, tem­plate.

There was an ar­gu­ment dur­ing the more re­cent suc­cess­ful years of SRO’S Bri­tish F3 that the se­ries couldn’t re­ally be called ‘Bri­tish’ when half of the rounds took place in Europe. But the truth is that’s what teams and driv­ers wanted at the time, but it’s also what started the inevitable spi­ral in the bud­gets that led to its down­fall.

BRDC Bri­tish For­mula 3 has just one away round, at Spa-fran­cor­champs, and the bud­gets cur­rently com­pare well to both the lower-tier MSA For­mula (soon surely to be Bri­tish For­mula 4 now the F4 tag is freed up) and the FIA For­mula 3 Euro­pean Cham­pi­onship to which it is meant to feed driv­ers.

But the pres­sure is on now for BRDC Bri­tish For­mula 3 to stay as it is.

With an F3 tag, the cham­pi­onship will im­me­di­ately be­come more de­sir­able, and with de­sir­abil­ity comes price. Teams could charge more, and driv­ers would prob­a­bly pay more, but with that rise the pool of prospec­tive en­tries able to af­ford to race shrinks.

Don’t think BRDC F4’s re­brand­ing as F3 is a last­minute move. Palmer knew what he was do­ing, and even back at that meet­ing in 2014 he had a vision to re­ju­ve­nate Bri­tish sin­gle-seaters. Few could ar­gue he’s failed to do that in the in­ter­ven­ing years.

We now have one of our best-loved Bri­tish cham­pi­onships back on our tracks, where it be­longs, and with a healthy grid.

Let’s just hope Palmer also has a mas­ter plan to bring long-term sta­bil­ity to the pack­age.

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