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2013 European F3 Open season review

by Gruz David


Although the newly-established FIA European F3 Championship has been extremely popular this year, it didn’t affect the European F3 Open as the grid contained 25 full-time drivers. The grid of the series was a great mixture of relatively experienced but not the most successful drivers, who needed to boost their career with some great results, and racers who used F3 Open as the next step of their career.

The season was dominated by RP Motorsport’s quartet Sandy Stuvik, Santiago Urrutia, Alex Toril, Alexandre Cougnaud and Team West-Tec’s duo Ed Jones and Nelson Mason. The championship fight was a really close one between Jones and Stuvik, but, in the end, Jones was crowned as the first Asian champion of the series.

1. Ed JonesEd Jones

United Arab Emirates, Team West-Tec F3, age 18

256 points, 6 wins, 10 podiums, 4 pole positions, 3 fastest laps

The 18-year-old racer headed into a crucial year for his single-seater career, on the heels of a decent rookie year in InterSteps and an under-the-radar debut in Formula Renault 2.0. His 2013 season was quite busy, featuring full-time campaigns in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and European F3 Open.

Although he missed the first round of F3 Open because it clashed with Formula Renault, it is the former championship that seemed to be most crucial to his 2013 goals throughout the rest of the season. Consistently being one of the fastest drivers in the field, he won in every round save for Jerez, where he finished second twice. Slightly quicker pace-wise than his rival Stuvik, Jones was also able to put in performances similarly consistent to those of his Thai rival and recorded just one non-scoring finish due to an erroneous tyre compound choice in mixed conditions.

He spent most of the year trailing his Thai rival in the standings due to his absence in the first weekend, but wound up securing the title rather comfortably in the end, helped out by the rule of dropped scores. The title was beneficial for his future career, now looks set to continue in FIA European F3 with either Fortec or Carlin, with the latter seeming the more likely option. Season rating: 9

2. Sandy StuvikSandy Stuvik

Thailand, RP Motorsport, age 18

247 points, 3 wins, 10 podiums, 2 pole positions, 3 fastest laps

After two rather muted years in Formula Renault 2.0, the Thai racer stunned the F3 Open field with frontrunning form right from the get-go. Lining up in a strong team, but with three very competitive teammates, Stuvik impressively took the initiative with victory in the first weekend at Paul Ricard and backing that result up with four subsequent podiums in a row.

In the second half of the year, he finished in the top-two five times, among which was a win in a spectacular race at Monza. Although he lacked some of the outright pace of Jones, he was immensely consistent, finishing every race in the top five. A prominent title contender for the entirety of the year, he finished the season with the most points but had to drop two fifth-place finishes in the final standings, which cost him the title.

Stuvik’s F3 Open campaign did well to bolster his reputation and he will surely be looking to move up the ladder for 2014. He took part in GP2 post-season testing, but it is unclear whether he can gather up the funds to make that switch next year. Season rating: 9

3. Nelson MasonNelson Mason

Canada, Team West-Tec F3, age 26

195 points, 3 wins, 7 podiums, 4 pole positions, 4 fastest laps

F3 Open rookie Nelson Mason wound up being one of the most interesting additions to the series’ grid, as he put in an unexpectedly strong campaign.

Having had no major racing experience over the past four years, he was a surprise signing for F3 Open frontrunners West-Tec. The Canadian quickly made a name for himself within the category, winning the pre-season Winter Series, and started the regular championship in great shape with two pole positions and a victory at Paul Ricard. Later on, he managed a dominant weekend at Jerez, where he won both races – the only one do so throughout the season.

He was generally on-pace with Jones and Stuvik, but an above-average rate of retirements ruled him out of title contention. Still, finishing third was a major achievement for the Canadian, who is now tipped to follow West-Tec into FIA European F3 next year. Season rating: 8

4. Santiago UrrutiaSantiago Urrutia

Uruguay, RP Motorsport, age 17

191 points, 2 wins, 8 podiums, 1 pole positions, 3 fastest laps

The young Uruguayan was one of the most promising drivers on the F3 Open grid, having finished fourth in Formula Abarth in his rookie year in single-seaters in 2012.

Appropriately for a rookie campaign, Urrutia did not have the most consistent season with its ups and downs. He scored no points in the Paul Ricard opener yet two weeks later at Algarve a stunning victory and a second-place finish saw him firmly establish himself as a frontrunner. He continued to bag points in the subsequent rounds with his performance streak reaching a high point at Silverstone, where he took his second win. Retirements at Spa and Monza ruled him out of the title fight, but Urrutia did manage to finish the year on a high note, taking two podiums in the final round.

Given his relative inexperience, it was no surprise his 2013 campaign proved rather similar to his Abarth efforts in terms of results. He always had the pace to be a frontrunner, but will still need to work on his propensity towards incidents. Urrutia participated in the post-season GP3 test with Koiranen and is hoping to secure the budget for a well-deserved move to the category for next year. Season rating: 8

5. Alex TorilAlex Toril

Spain, RP Motorsport, age 17

158 points, 4 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap

Only a month older than Urrutia, Toril was the other frontrunning youngster of the series. His 2013 campaign in F3 Open was his second year in the category, after a learning year in the Copa Class in 2012.

This year, he kicke things off with a podium at Paul Ricard and then repeated the feat at Algarve, having previously become RP Motorsport’s only polesitter of the first half of the season earlier that weekend. Consistency became a bit of a trademark of his campaign, as he scored every single time in the first ten races. While Spa proved to be his most difficult weekend, his eleventh place in race one turned out to be his only non-scoring outing. The Spaniard was soon back on-track with a great round at Monza as he grabbed two podiums. He scored in both Barcelona races as well, becoming the only racer besides Stuvik who actually had to drop points in the final standings.

Although he lacked any outstanding results, Toril was reliably present at the front for the entirety of the year. For 2014, he is heavily tipped to join European F3 with T-Sport, having reportedly impressed the team in private tests. Season rating: 7

6. Alexandre CougnaudAlexandre Cougnaud

France, RP Motorsport, age 22

139 points, 1 win, 4 podiums, 1 pole position, 1 fastest lap

Another driver graduating from F3 Open’s Copa Class, Cougnaud had a season similar to that of Toril, as he reliably scored points but struggled to keep up with RP’s frontrunning duo.

In the first half of the season, he mostly ran in the lower parts of the top ten before bagging a podium at Jerez. A reliable point-scorer, he finally managed to realize his frontrunning potential towards the end of the year. He took his maiden pole Monza and narrowly missed out on victory. At Barcelona, he took his third podium finish in race one, before finally taking the checkered flag first in the final race of the season.

Due to his late-season form, Cougnaud made up a lot of ground and finished close to Toril in the standings. He wound up finishing the season with only one retirement and one finish outside of the top ten, but he spent too much of the season in the midfield. His 2014 plans are unclear, but, if he’s to stay in the category, he’ll be a definite favourite for the title next year. Season rating: 7

7. Hector HurstHector Hurst

Great Britain, EmiliodeVillota Motorsport, age 21

97 points, 1 win, 3 podiums, 2 pole positions

Graduating from the now-defunct Formula Two, Hurst was seen as something of a dark horse for the F3 Open title, helped out by a deal with an established team. The Briton got off to a good start in the championship, securing a podium in his rookie outing.

The second and third races combined yielded just one point, but he then took a maiden pole on Sunday at Algarve, albeit finishing outside of the podium. His campaign-best round came at the Nurburgring, where he took third in race one and won race two, yet, from that point on, something went south in Hurst?s campaign. At Jerez, he managed to score in both races, but wasn’t in serious contention in either. After that, Hurst would struggle in the remaining three rounds, dropping down to seventh in the standings. While?EmiliodeVillota Motorsport couldn’t match the juggernauts of RP and West-Tec, the Briton’s last-round switch to the latter squad didn’t produce headline results.

It’d make sense for Hurst to stay on for a second year, perhaps with West-Tec, who could benefit from having an experienced driver.? Season rating: 6

Yarin Stern8. Yarin Stern

Israel, EmiliodeVillota Motorsport, age 18

80 points, 1 podium

The championship?s first Israeli driver Yarin Stern had no small task ahead of him, as this was his first year in single-seaters. His start was nothing short of impressive as, by the end of the Paul Ricard opener, he was already a podium finisher.

At Portimao and the Nurburgring, he was seemingly struggling to keep up with his more experienced teammate Hurst but, as the team started to lose pace, Stern took the leading role from the Briton. He impressively collected two fifth and two sixth places at Silverstone and Spa, but he wasn?t able to beat his race-winner teammate in the standings.

Having lacked previous single-seater experience, Stern has become one of the biggest revelations of the 2013 F3 Open season. Another campaign in the series would be reasonable. Season rating: 7

9. Mario MarascaMario Marasca

Italy, BVM Racing, age 19

62 points

Italian F3 graduate Mario Marasca was faced with a rather tough task of putting together a debut season in F3 Open with a rookie team. The three years of single-seater racing on his CV allowed the Italian to be one of the more consistent drivers in the championship. Despite retiring three times, he managed to bag points on 11 occasions.

Marasca kicked things off with a ninth place at Paul Ricard and then noticeably improved at Algarve and the Nurburgring as he collected a sixth and two seventh places. He was in the points in both races at Jerez, but the next two weekends proved the most troublesome for Marasca, who only scored two points in four races. At Monza, he was back on form, fighting not just for points but for podiums. He finished sixth in the first race, and was fighting for the lead in the second one, eventually settling for fourth due to a mistake.

After a promising rookie season, Marasca can improve a lot next year. But another category switch might be on the cards as he tested with EuroInternational and could join their German F3 ranks. Season rating: 6

10. Vicky PiriaVicky Piria

Italy, BVM Racing, age 20

33 points

After a tough rookie campaign in GP3 in 2013, Piria made a reasonable step back and joined the F3 Open grid.

She took fourth in her sole Winter Series outing and then repeated that result in the opener at Paul Ricard. Most of her season was very consistent, as she took points in every round from Algarve to Spa, yet his best result was only eighth and she usually trailed her teammate Marasca.

At Monza, as her teammate had his best outing, Piria struggled most, yet she still held on to tenth in the standings. Overall, she could’ve hoped for more from the season, but was still rather impressive in the early stages. It is currently unclear where she could race next year. Season rating: 6

The rest of the grid:

28-year-old Alexey Chuklin completed his rookie-season in F3 Open in eleventh with some good performances, including a fifth place at Paul Ricard and sixth places at Algarve and Silverstone respectively. His teammate and fellow rookie Andres Saravia scored less points, but did manage one more top-ten finish than Chuklin.

Venezuelan racer Valeria Carballo ended up as the best Campos Racing driver in the standings and managed a surprise fastest lap at Paul Ricard. Her teammate Artur Janosz improved a lot during his rookie year in cars and finished sixth in the chaotic race at Monza. Russian driver Denis Nagulin ended his season with nine points, eight of which were taken at Paul Ricard.

Mattia Vita left the series after three rounds, despite securing two points finishes. His compatriot Luca Orlandi started his third year in F3 Open but didn?t take part in the last three rounds.

Roberto La Rocca was the only driver who stood on the podium but didn?t finish in the top ten in the standings, as he left the championship after three rounds.? Four guest drivers, including American talent Spencer Pigot, former Ferrari Academy Driver Brandon Maisano,?German F3 regular Emil Bernstorff and Jonathan Legris, all took points in their respective outings. F3 Open 2012 graduate Tatiana Calderon made an appearance in the finale and placed firmly in the top ten in both races.

Several Copa Class drivers were able to score some points in the regular championship, including Richard Gonda, Gerardo Nieto, Liam Venter, Che One Lim, Nicolas Pohler, Tommaso Menchini, Huan Zhu and Damiano Fioravanti.

Copa Class

Last year, the Copa class championship, which featured drivers with F308 cars, saw the dominance of Kevin Giovesi, who switched to GP2 this year but ended up in Auto GP at the end of the season. Spaniard Moises Soriano finished second and Alexandre Cougnaoud, this year’s frontrunner took third. Below, we take a look at the top three drivers of 2013.

1. Richard GondaRichard Gonda

Slovakia, Drivex School, age 19

100 points, 7 wins, 11 podiums

Gonda?s CV hasn’t been particularly notable up until this year ? in 2011, he had an increasingly struggling year in Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0, while last year he only made guest appearances in Formula Renault NEC and Formula Two.

The Slovakian wasn’t looking good for a full-time seat this year either, yet he managed a late move to the F3 Open Copa class with Drivex School, which turned out to be a great decision. Starting with a podium at Paul Ricard, he won four class races out of the next five and took the lead in the standings. Silverstone and Spa set back his progress, but the competitiveness of the category allowed him to remain in the lead.

Gonda secured his title with a strong outing in the final round and became the first Eastern European champion of F3 Open.?Although Gonda does not have a big budget, his results might have attracted some teams, as he already tested with Zele Racing in Auto GP and showed decent speed for a rookie.

2. Cameron TwynhamCameron Twynham

United Kingdom, Team West-Tec, age 17

81 points, 2 wins, 9 podiums

Twynham was a promising newcomer to the series, after graduating from the well-respected now-defunct Intersteps championship, where he finished fourth last year.

The Briton started the year in great shape, taking the class victory in the opening race. After that, he was unable to consistently match the runaway leader Richard Gonda, but he impressively finished second or third six times in four rounds. He had to wait until Spa-Francorchamps for his next and final win of the season. Twynham then lost some ground in the last two rounds, which allowed Gonda to comfortably clinch the title.

Twynham has confirmed he’ll be moving into the Championship Class full-time in 2014 with West-Tec and could very well be a contender.

3. Tommaso MenchiniTommaso Menchini

Italy, Corbetta Competizioni, age 21

78 points, 3 wins, 8 podiums

Another championship rookie, Menchini arrived from from Formula Renault Italia, where he raced in 2011.

He started the 2013 campaign after one year of absence from racing, which was definitely noticeable the first round of the championship. However, he began to deliver at Algarve, taking second, and finally secured his maiden win at Nurburgring. He was a winner at Jerez and in the finale at Catalunya, rapidly closing in on Twynham in the standings. Eventually, the Italian had to settle for third.

It is currently uncertain where Menchini will continue in 2014, but a year in the main class would make a lot of sense.

The rest of the field:

Igor Urien and Che One Lim had both their debut years in single-seaters and collected a class victory each. South African Liam Venter finished sixth, right ahead of Gerardo Nieto, with both of them taking a win.

Nicholas Pohler collected a couple of podiums before switching to an F312 car for the last two rounds, while Sean Walkinshaw took ninth in the standings, also picking up podiums. Lorenzo Paggi, Trino Rojas, Huan Zhu, Saud Al Faisal and Damiano Fioravanti all scored points but weren’t in frontrunning contention for most of the year.