This year's British F3 series has seen a reduction in the number of competitors, but hopefully no reduction in quality. The low numbers can be largely attributed to the strength of the pound this year. After two seasons when the exchange rate was very favourable, foreign drivers are now finding it more economically viable to go to Germany, France or Italy. The only notable exception to this situation seems to be the Brazilians. There are now four of them driving in British F3; two of them at Paul Stewart Racing (Luciano Burti, Mario Haberfeld), one at Alan Docking Racing (Ricardo Mauricio) and one at Promatecme UK (Enrique Bernoldi).
Based on last year's performances (of both team and driver) it seems likely that the title will go to South America too, with Bernoldi at the top of everyone's list of likely champions. Of course there are a number of other drivers out there more than willing to try and give him a run for his money. Among the other contenders, Bernoldi's team mate Marc Hynes is a likely race winner this year, although he may lack the experience needed to take the title. The PSR Brazilians are also potential winners, with Haberfeld having two victories to his credit from last year. Burti has a cool head and is also a hard racer so expect good results from him too. The question mark over these two is whether the situation at PSR will develop into a Brazilian civil war or not. Hopefully not; certainly for Haberfeld's sake, as he seems more in need of a supportive relationship with his team than Burti does. The last South American, Mauricio, is a ferocious scrapper when he feels confident and he will get plenty of attention at Alan Docking Racing. He should regularly score points although I doubt if he is a potential champion.
Of course, one can never overlook Warren Hughes, the vastly experienced Northerner probably has more talent than the rest of the field put together. Unfortunately this is coupled with a perennial lack of funds and a seemingly inescapable run of atrocious luck. Based on events so far this season, Warren may well be let down by the Renault engine that Portman Racing have opted to run this year. Another highly talented driver is Martin O'Connell, running on a race-by-race basis at Toms this year. That last year's National Class Champion cannot raise a budget is simply criminal. When he does manage to race, he will certainly give the others something to think about, but looks unlikely to complete the season at present. A contender who will complete the season is Ben Collins, now in his third full season. He should be a race winner and should, theoretically at least, be in with a shout at the title. However, Intersport need to deliver and are trying to do so on a very limited budget. Of course, another driver who should not be discounted is Kristian Kolby. The young Dane seems to be fully recovered from the broken shoulder that put him out of Formula Renault last year (and perhaps the Kolby's will leave the wretched things alone now) and should show strongly. He's an intelligent racer as he proved in Formula Ford. He should make the podium on a regular basis.
Others who may show well include Jamie Spence, the sole representative of Martin Donnelly Racing, now without the Yellow Pages money that has served them well over the last three or four years. The Cook siblings, David and Paula can expect some top 10 placings but anything in the top 5 seems unlikely, unless the team know something they didn't last year. Michael Bentwood at Speed Sport and Yudai Igarashi at Alan Docking Racing are also unlikely to land results of any significance unless something very strange happens. It also seems unlikely that Alex Yoong will be able to make much progress unless his team mate Hughes is able to help him. And that does not seem very likely at the moment. Even less likely are results for Tim Spouge, Adam Wilcox or Narain Karthikeyan, all of whom face very steep learning curves. On his day, and if it rains, the young Indian can be brilliant but he also seems to have days when he is just not interested. Of course, he could prove me wrong and I would be happy for him to do so. Andrej Pavicevic is certainly likely to struggle during the early part of the season too. An Australian Tin Top man with little single seater experience and no knowledge of the circuits, he has taken a brave step coming here. I only hope he doesn't regret it.
In the national category there are three drivers this year, an improvement on last year when there was often only Martin O'Connell. They are Warren Carway, a refugee from Formula Vauxhall, John Ingram who has stepped up from the Caterham series, and Philip Scifleet, a young Australian aiming to move up a level next year. Scifleet looks the most likely champion of the three although we shall have to wait and see as they are all pretty much an unknown quantity.
International Category No. 1 Luciano Burti, Brazil, Paul Stewart Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 2 Mario Haberfeld, Brazil, Paul Stewart Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 3 Andrej Pavicevic, Australia, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 4 Kristian Kolby, Denmark, Fortec Motorsport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 5 Enrique Bernoldi, Brazil, Promatecme UK, Dallara F398 Renault No. 6 Marc Hynes, Great Britain, Promatecme UK, Dallara F398 Renault No. 7 Ricardo Mauricio, Brazil, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 8 Yudai Igarashi, Japan, Alan Docking Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 9 Michael Bentwood, Great Britain, SpeedSport, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 14 Jamie Spence, Great Britain, Martin Donnelly Racing, Dallara F398 Renault No. 16 Martin O'Connell, Great Britain, Toms, Dallara F398 TOMS Toyota No. 18 David Cook, Great Britain, D C Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess No. 19 Paula Cook, Great Britain, D C Cook, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess No. 20 Tim Spouge, Great Britain, S S Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda No. 21 Warren Hughes, Great Britain, Portman Racing, Dallara F398 Renault No. 22 Alexander Yoong, Malaysia, Portman Racing, Dallara F398 Renault No. 27 Ben Collins, Great Britain, Intersport, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess No. 32 Narain Karthikeyan, India, Intersport, Dallara F398 Opel Spiess No. 42 Adam Wilcox, Great Britain, Tarry Falcon Racing, Dallara F398 Mugen Honda
National Class No. 51 Warren Carway, Great Britain, Rowan Racing, Dallara F396 TOMS Toyota No. 52 Phillip Scifleet, Australia, Rowan Racing, Dallara F396 TOMS Toyota No. 53 John Ingram, Great Britain, ?, Dallara F396 Mugen Honda