Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Formula Three is a type of formula racing and a class of auto racing. It is widely accepted as the first solid step on the road to Formula One. While a few drivers have gone on to drive in open-wheeled motorsports premier category since the inception of Formula Three without driving one, the majority have spent time in the cockpit of these cheap, fast, entry-level race cars.
The history of Formula Three traces back to postwar auto racing, with lightweight tube-frame chassis being powered by small Ford powerplants. By the start of the 1980’s however, Formula Three had evolved well beyond those beginnings to something closely resembling the modern formula.
Formula Three cars are monocoque chassis, using slick racing tyres and wings. Currently, Dallara manufacture the overwhelming majority of Formula Three cars seen on track, though Lola (with partners Dome of Japan) and Ralt also have limited production of their own cars. In many smaller or amateur F3 racing series older cars are frequently seen. Usually these series are divided into two or more classes of racing, to allow more cars to participate in the event.
Engines in Formula 3 are all two-litre, 4-cylinder naturally-aspirated engines. Engines must be built from a production model block, and often must be sealed by race or series organizers, so that no private tuning can be carried out. Honda engines (tuned by Mugen) have perennially been popular, as have engines produced by Volkswagen, Alfa Romeo, or Renault. Currently Mugen, Toms-Toyota, Speiss-Opel, and Mercedes are the most popular engines.
There has never been a World Championship for Formula Three. In the 1970’s and into the 1980’s the European Formula Three Championship was the most important series. With the demise of that series, national championships took prominence, with the British Formula Three Championship gaining special prominence with a number of future Formula One champions, such as Nelson Piquet, Ayrton Senna, and Mika Häkkinen coming from this series. France, Germany, and Italy also had important Formula Three series. Brazil’s SudAm Formula Three championship was known for producing excellent drivers who polished their skills in the British Formula Three championship. Perhaps the most curious of all was the small Japanese Formula Three championship. Although few drivers spent a significant amount of time there, future stars such as Michael and Ralf Schumacher and Jacques Villeneuve claimed victories there. For 2003, the French and German F3 series merged to recreate the European Formula Three Championship.
In addition to the many national series, Formula Three is known for special races, the best-known of which is the Macau Grand Prix. The first Formula Three Grand Prix of Macau was held in 1983 and won by Ayrton Senna. Michael Schumacher and David Coulthard have also taken victory in this race, traditionally the end of the Formula Three season, where drivers from almost every national series participate. Other major ‘crossover’ races include the Grand Prix of Pau, the Marlboro Masters of Zandvoort, and the Korean Superprix at Changwon. These events give fans off the major circuits a chance to experience the excitement of a Grand Prix weekend.
The Monaco F3 Grand Prix held until 1997 was also a famous special race. It should be restored for 2005 as a part of the F3 Euro Series .
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