August 14th, Zandvoort
The Masters of Formula 3 is an event which started out in 1991 to decide who was the best F3 driver in Europe. The F3 Euro Series and the British Championship where combined to achieve this. Large starting fields produced strong races and so the Masters became one of the most important races on the calendar for young drivers. Many F1 teams keep a sharp eye on the one who wins this race.
Some names on the roll of honour:
David Coulthard 1991
Pedro Lamy 1992
Jos Verstappen 1993
Takuma Sato 2001
Christian Klien 2003
Lewis Hamilton 2005
Paul di Resta 2006
Nico Hülkenberg 2007
As you can see, many of today’s F1 drivers won this race!
Starting out as the Marlboro Masters, the event provided a whole weekend of racing in various classes like Formula Ford, Clio Cup, various touring car championships and loads of very cool demos.
This year Red Bull provided a airplane stunt-team, a Nascar driven by Daniel Ricciardo and Jos Verstappen who drove a Tyrrell 026.
The Sunday programme contained the following races:
Formula Renault 2.0
Dutch Formula Ford Championship
Red Bull Kart Fight (more on that later on)
Suzuki Swift cup
Touring car diesel cup
The day started with loads of sun, always good for watching races, so the dunes around the Zandvoort track were packed with spectators. Tickets were given away for free with a 2 pack of Red Bull, I decided to buy an additional paddock ticket (35 euro) and the fun could start.
Being a bit late I missed out on the Formula Renault and the Formula Ford but did see the Kart Fight. This is set-up on indoor kart tracks around Holland and kids fight for the fastest lap times. They receive tips & tricks from Robert Doornbos through-out these sessions and Daniel Ricciardo was helping out during the final. I think that this is a good way to get the kids to go karting and maybe we get a new Dutch F1 driver this way, it is about time ;-)
Next up was the Suzuki Swift cup which is always nice to watch because of the close racing and huge fights between these little cars. The drivers really make the difference in this class.
Then came a personal highlight of the day: the BOSS GP. Standing for Big Open Single Seaters, this class shows classic F1 cars in action, combined with GP2, Indycars, Champcars and some World Series cars. Various engines are used, like Judd 4.0 V10, Cosworth 3.0 V10, Hart 3.0 V10, various V8 and one original Asiatech 3.0 V10. I’ve seen (and heard!) Benetton B197 and B199, Arrows A22, Tyrrell 026, a Jordan 194 (a very cool car) and a Leyton House to name a few.
Some drivers come with a little truck and a tent, which they set up, build up the car and race, but some teams come with huge trucks and tents and run 4 of these cars. One of the Arrows was for sale, asking price 165,000 euros… Maybe I can start a new hobby.
Being in the paddock, I watched all these cars from the past get started and roll by on their way to the track. And every single one of these sounds brutal! Also the mechanics and drivers are very open and willing to answer questions or let you take pictures, it is a very good series, as I said earlier, for me it was the best of the day.
And on we went for the Dutch GT4 cup, which contains loads of M3s, some Porsches 997, Vantages, one Lotus Evora and some Camaros. Mostly the M3s run the show in this class, that is way the winner is presented with some extra weight in the car for the next race. One car is driven by 2 drivers, there is a mandatory pit-stop/driver change in mid-race. Although these stops can change the running order a bit I don’t really like this class, it is not very exiting to watch.
Next up was the main event: the Masters of Formula 3. Using carbon fibre monocoques, 2.0L engines, adjustable wings and sequential gearboxes, these cars look like miniature F1 cars.
The chassis are fabricated by different companies, but that is the only major difference between the cars. With 215 BHP and a weight of 550 kg they manage a topspeed of 270 Km/h. Not to bad in my opinion!
Usually these races are good to watch because of the large starting fields, while overtaking is not very easy because of the “dirty” air coming from the car in front. Today the race was pretty much decided before the first corner. Prema Powerteam drivers Mehri and Juncadella where on the front row. Right after the lights went out Mehri came to the right and pushed his teammate towards the wall. Their wheels interlocked, Juncadella spun and took out some other cars, Mehri could continue on 11th place. The safety car came in and when the debris was cleared the race continued. Felix Rosenqvist managed to pull a gap of 6 seconds on 2nd place driver Marco Wittman. In 3rd came Kevin Magnussen, just in front of Dutch driver Nigel Melker. Due to the start crashes it was not a very exciting race.
Red Bull provided the spectators with some good demos. They brought a Toyota Camry Nascar, their flying stunt-team and Jos Verstappen drove a good 10 minutes in a Tyrrell 026. It was the first time I saw a Nascar up close, and they are pretty awesome! Daniel Ricciardo gave a good show with the 800 BHP car, it was very entertaining to see. Everyone around got a fit of nostalgia when Jos “the Boss” Verstappen entered the track in the Tyrrell. And while gotten older he was still pretty fast around the track. Since the time he pulverized the track record with an Arrows the timing system is switched off during these demos but he managed some good 1.28 laptimes. Not too shabby for a guy who hasn’t driven an F1 car for a long time.
If you ever get the chance to visit the Masters, go and take it. The normal tickets are almost for free and every time there are very nice demoss, usually with some F1 cars or MotoGP bikes.
Next up for me is Bavaria City Racing in Rotterdam. Gonna see Scuderia Ferrari, Mercedes GP Petronas and Lotus Renault GP in action. I also got paddock admission for this one, so I’ll be back with the story and some pics from that.
See you around, some time, somewhere.