Formula Three set for competitive season
The expanded 16 car grid for the first event at BRC on April
10th is undoubtedly the most competitive field to date. Don
Tacos gives his predictions on who will be winning this year.
OHara swaps teams from Kinetic to TOMS and will
race their Dallara 304. Testing has not gone well, OHara
driving the chassis used by Enzo Pastor last year. The team
and driver believe there is a chassis problem and TOMS
Japan have sent one of their cars as a replacement. We will
not know until race week testing has got under way if the
new car will get OHara on the pace. It will be a major
surprise if he is not winning races this year. He has to win,
if not his racing career will be in danger of stalling.
Jones returns with the same car and team, his own CJM Dallara
301 Neil Brown Honda. The team also have a new Dallara 304
but supposedly no engine to fit it with. Which car Jones will
drive we only know once the first event has started. The first
race will also answer one of the big questions of the year,
what is faster the 304 or 301 model. OHara reckons initially
it will be 301 but that long term it will be the 304. He has
a point, the 301s are 10kg lighter and the teams know
the car very well. The real advantage of the 304 is its
six speed sequential gearbox, six speeds are always going
to be better than the five of the 301. Back to Jones, like
OHara he has to win to keep his career on track. Certainly
he will find it harder this year and it would be a surprise
to see any driver win the first four races in a row, a feat
Jones achieved in 2004. His smooth yet deceptively fast style
reaps rewards when the going is good, whether this is good
enough to beat the feisty style of OHara only time and
circumstance will tell.
Mikola returns to the series with a new team, Pertamina Fastron
Racing, and a new car, a Dallara 304 Nissan. This is the first
time a Nissan engine has been seen in the Series. The car
comes from Three Bond Racing and will be engineered by Adachi
San who has defected from Kinetic to run Mikola. Adachi proved
with OHara and Mikola last year that he is a great engineer
and he will give Mikola a car capable of winning. He has set
the fastest testing time to date at BRC, 1m 23.29 and will
certainly go faster when Nissan send their ECU tuner for race
week. Mikola is another driver who has to win and I believe
he starts with a slight edge over Jones and OHara.
Promotion Class winner, Tyson Sy, surprised many by moving
from Team Goddard-Minardi Team Asia to Speedtech Asia. He
has shone promise in testing so far but he still needs to
move up a notch if he is going to win races outright this
year. His fitness is also a little suspect so he may struggle
to keep up the pace for a race distance. If Sy is to have
any chance of fulfilling his dream of racing in F1 he has
to win races this year. Will he rise to the challenge? This
is one of the more interesting questions of the year.
Pena has moved to Ambi Pur Team Goddard-Minardi Team Asia
to lead the team in their Dallara 301 TOMS. He has all
but equaled Ananda Mikolas best in testing and put himself
right in the frame this year. Like Sy, Pena has driven for
Minardi Team Asia in Formula BMW Asia for the past two seasons.
The team know that Pena has the speed and extremely good technique.
His major fault has been allowing slight problems to get to
him but Pena himself says he understands this and that he
will not allow it to happen this year. The team were extremely
impressed with him in testing at BRC and they truly believe
they have a good chance of winning races. Pena has remained
part of the Minardi ladder to the top and he knows if he does
well doors will open to help him on his way to F1. Sy and
Pena have been arch rivals since their karting days and both
are desperate to beat the other. Who comes out on top is one
of the talking points of the season.
Konno joins JF3 but is difficult to predict how he will fare.
His experience is relatively little and it is doubtful if
he can hack it with Jones, OHara, Mikola, Pena and Sy.
However he may be the next Sato but we will not know until
the first race.
Avila is an Asian Formula Renault Champion but this is a big
jump for the young Macanese. He has done more testing miles
than any other driver and as yet has not set the world alight.
However his testing has been done in the ex Enzo Pastor 304,
a car with which John OHara struggled to get within
two seconds of Mikola on the same day. Avila tests his own
car, a Dallara 304 freshly delivered from Japan, on race week.
Expect him to improve as the year goes on but this year it
will a real surprise to see him on the podium too many times.
However he has good backing an he obviously does possess some
talent. Expect him to use this year as a springboard to a
real championship campaign in 2006.
Marave returns for Shell Kinetic PCSO in his 301 TORRI engined
car. Last year was not a good year for the 2003 Champion,
he spent most of the year looking like he would have preferred
to be on the golf course rather than behind the wheel! Can
he regain his former glory days? He has the talent but does
he still possess the will to win?
Winslow joins Kinetic also in a 301 TORRI. He will be competitive,
he finished second in the ARP British F3 Series last year.
Can he win races? Probably. Kinetic are tight fisted with
any information so we really do not know how he has fared
fate of OHara, Avila, Konno, Sy and Pena is partly in
the hands of TOMS. Their rival Toyota tuning company,
TORRI, probably had a slight advantage last year as their
ECU man had only two cars to deal with and he was possibly
able to sail closer to the wind when mapping the ECU. Joness
ECU was mapped through e mail by Neil Brown, not as good an
arrangement as TORRI but they were able to concentrate on
one engine only. TOMS on the other hand were mapping
for almost the entire field and were also possibly a little
too conservative on occasions. So all the TOMS drivers
hope for a real effort to match TORRI this year. Some are
afraid that the effort will be directed at the works
driver, OHara, to the detriment of the remaining TOMS
runners. Add in Nissan with just one engine and TOMS
really have a point to prove this year.
Don Tacos prediction of who will do the winning this year?
If TOMS really push all their drivers the top three
will be OHara, Pena and Mikola with Jones, Winslow and
Sy pretty close. If OHara turns out to the favorite
son then OHara, Mikola and Jones will make up the top
three. If TOMS lag behind then expect Mikola, Jones
and Winslow to fill the top three. The champion could be any
one of six drivers and that really reflects the growing stature
of Asian Formula Three.