The fight of David and Goliath finally ended last weekend as the final 2 rounds of the USF3 Championship took place at the San Diego street circuit in California, with the Ralt, driven by Stuart Crow, coming out victorious over Luciano Gomides Dallara F300.
Crow has led the series almost from the from the first event back in June, when a dream start for the Ralt's first ever race ended with retirement half way through (caused by a wiring problem) letting the Dallara 300 of Adam Andretti inherit the lead. Crow had Pole and Fastest Lap.
Several more poles and fastest laps followed for Crow and the Ralt as the championship continued. After 2 DNF's later in the series Crow saw his championship lead being eaten away by the young Brazilian, Luciano Gomide. Going in to the final 2 rounds there was a possibility of either Gomide or Andretti taking the championship if Crow cracked under pressure
In Round 10, Crow fluffed the start and dropped from 2nd on the grid to 5th but quickly passed the other 3 Dallars F300's to get up behind Gomide. The flying Crow managed to take the lead with only 6 laps to go but was again passed by Gomide within 2 laps of the flag. A second place was better than taking any risks and blowing the championship.
Round 11 saw Crow having to pit the Ralt with a misfire, but rejoined the race and finished with enough points to take the championship.
When the VW backed open chassis / spec. VW engine series was announced 12 months ago, as expected, all the teams bought cars from Dallara, apart from Stuart Crow who's team owner Dave McMillan, thought the Ralt had winning potential after flying to the UK to see the car and go through the test data the Ralt engineers had collected from their UK test program in 1999.
Also of concern for McMillan was the radical Ralt gearbox: " I thought we could be taking on too many unknowns, but the guys did a fantastic job with the car and that little gearbox- they really know their shit. The only time it broke was when Stuart backed it into the wall doing 120mph at an Indianapolis test session!"
No European teams dared to take a chance with anything other than Dallara leaving Ralt with only the one car racing in F3 worldwide, against probably 70 or 80 Dallaras. "We always thought the car could do well when we tested in 1999, it just needed to be in the hands of a race team and some real race engineers. Because all the UK teams had their race programmes we ended up doing all this without the necessary intimate knowledge of the circuits, dampers and tyres " admitted one of the Ralt engineers, "At least it gave us chance to make sure everything worked OK with the car and the gearbox especially. Maybe now we might sell a car or two for the USF3 series next year."