12 June, 2016 is a date that will go down in history at Winton Motor Raceway. It was the day when the outright lap record, which had been held by Formula Holden driver Christian Murchison since the year 2000, was finally broken.
The driver who achieved the feat was none other than Formula 3 racer Chris Anthony, taking advantage of Winton’s new track surface, along with the copious slick tyre grip and abundant downforce of his Dallara F311.
Normally, the fastest laps of a race weekend are set during qualifying; not on this particular weekend. After lapping in the 1:16s and occasionally the ‘15s during Saturday’s running, Anthony and his rivals kept chipping away, teasing spectators and commentators as they edged closer and closer to the long-standing record.
Finally, on the 14th tour of Sunday’s 18-lap final, Anthony punched out a 1:14.3401 to reset the benchmark, deservedly triggering a jubilant reaction from the timekeepers and commentators.
In many ways, that weekend demonstrates why Formula 3 cars command respect not just in Australia, but internationally. They demand finesse and precision, but also dare the driver to push closer and closer to the limits. It might take time to gain the ultimate confidence required for a fully-committed lap, but if you approach the task of driving an F3 car with pure bravery, you will be rewarded on the stopwatch.
While the national Formula 3 series has gone through peaks and troughs over recent seasons, the undisputable fact that its cars are – on average – the very fastest circuit racing vehicles in the country, means it continues to attract a diversity of drivers, from recreational racers looking for the ultimate thrill, or aspiring professional drivers educating themselves about the intricacies of wings and slicks racing. The final round of the 2017 series at Wakefield Park attracted a healthy 19-car field, indicating the category is on an upward trajectory.
One person who has been passionate about Formula 3 for many years is R-Tek Motorsport Servces team owner Ian Richards, who is also the director of Formula 3 Management. As a former Australian F2 Champion, Richards understands the value of open-wheelers for driver development, and while other members of the category management team may have come and gone, Richards’ dedication to the class has been unwavering.
“F3 is definitely on the improve, and it’s promising to see a few talented young drivers in the F311 cars, the latest we allow in the national series,” Richards said.
“There are some strong state series in NSW and Queensland as well, and competitors in those categories have expressed interest in travelling to some of the national rounds this year.
“As well as being fast, F3 cars are affordable, much more than people think. Engines will do two seasons without being touched and the other costs are very reasonable.”
Richards is excited about the prospect of F3 competing in the inaugural AMRS event at Winton.
“When Wayne Williams rang and spoke to me about the AMRS, I was immediately supportive – it’s an exciting new concept that needs to be encouraged, with an excellent combination of affordability and exposure. We’re very happy to be part of it.”
For 2018, the Formula 3 series will run at the Winton and Morgan Park AMRS rounds, each round consisting of three 20 minute races.
The outright (2005-2011) cars will race in the Premier Class, with older (2002-2007) cars competing in the National Class. There is also an invitational Trophy Class for pre-2002 vehicles, along with invitational open-wheelers including F1000, F2000, Formula Renault, Formula BMW, Toyota Racing Series and other similar vehicles.
“There has always been a provision in our regulations for some of those other cars to run with us, and hopefully we see some of them in the field this year,” Richards said.
With the passion of Richards and other team owners such as Errol Gilmour, the national Formula 3 category will continue to provide a home for Australia’s fastest open-wheelers, and will be a welcome inclusion on the AMRS calendar.