Despite the loss of the British F3 name, there was a positive vibe in GB3’s paddock as 2021 drew to a close. With a new car and a joint-record 21 drivers confirmed, that optimism appears to have been well placed
The Tatuus MSV F3-016 chassis that was used in BRDC British Formula 3 from 2016 to its rebranding as GB3 last year has been superceded by a heavily-upgraded Tatuus MSV-022, which includes several safety and performance enhancements, while crucially preserving the series’ low-cost nature.
As well as the addition of the halo cockpit protection device and stronger side-impact protection, the new car also produces up to 25% more downforce than its predecessor, and a side-mounted air intake will help the Mountune engine produce an extra 20bhp as well as giving the car extra visual appeal.
Interest in the MSV-022 has been high, enabling GB3 to retain all of its competing teams from last year. Hillspeed and JHR Developments are also making full-season returns, and Douglas Motorsport has expanded back up to three cars.
The format remains unchanged, with eight rounds consisting of three races per weekend, and race three of each being a fully reversed grid race with additional points on offer for positions gained.
The Jack Cavill Pole Position Cup will continue, with a total prize fund of £4,000 up for grabs. Award founder John Cavill has also put together the opportunity of a tour of the Red Bull Racing Formula 1 factory to the driver that leads the points at the end of the third round at Donington Park.
With four drivers from the 2021 grid, including champion Zak O’Sullivan, stepping up to FIA Formula 3 this year, GB3 has again proven itself as a credible stepping stone for the international single-seater scene. O’Sullivan’s success also earned him the prestigious Aston Martin Autosport BRDC Award, as well as a junior role with the Williams F1 team.
On paper, the field again looks strong for 2022, with four of the top five drivers from the last British Formula 4 season joining champions from Formula Ford 1600 and entry level sportscar series Ginetta Junior, and GB3 race-winners. So, who are the contenders going into the Oulton Park season opener this weekend aiming to succeed O’Sullivan as champion?
Having fielded five of the last six drivers’ champions, defending teams’ champion Carlin is facing a level playing field this year due to the introduction of the new car, which will provide a data reset for all of the teams.
Roberto Faria is the driver most likely to spearhead the team’s latest challenge, having been in contention to be title runner-up spot last year at Fortec Motorsports. Incidents and bad luck late in the campaign saw him slip to fifth, but his podium tally – which included one victory – was only bettered by O’Sullivan. The speed is undoubtedly there, but consistency will be key to Faria delivering the title. The Brazilian was recently added to the Sauber Academy, making him the only driver in the field with F1 affiliation.
Javier Sagrera makes the switch from Elite Motorsport for his second GB3 campaign, having finished 10th with one podium finish last year as a rookie at this level. Prior to that, he did 15 F4 races over two years in his native Spain.
Carlin is also fielding single-seater rookie Callum Voisin, who took seven wins in Ginetta Junior last year – his first in car racing. The Anglo-Swiss will likely use this campaign as a learning curve.
Second to Carlin in last year’s teams’ standings, Hitech has another strong three-car line-up for its third year in GB3.
Luke Browning starts as one of the title favourites after winning during a one-off appearance at Oulton Park last year with Fortec, who he also won the British F4 title with in 2020. The 20-year old raced in both ADAC and Italian F4 last year with US Racing, taking two wins and finishing third in the standings in Germany.
Bryce Aron makes the switch from Carlin for his second GB3 season, having finished 12th in 2021 with a peak of two fourth places. The Team USA scholar came third in the 2020 Walter Hayes Trophy in a year spent racing FF1600 in the UK.
Cian Shields will be making his car-racing bow after competing in karts across the UK and Europe until last year. He was Benelux champion in X30 Junior karts in 2019, and in 2020 was third in the IAME Euro Series after stepping up to X30 Senior.
Fortec will again be expected to contend regularly for wins with a line-up that includes two Scandinavians it already knows.
Mikkel Grundtvig remains for a second season after finishing 13th in the standings as a rookie last year. The Dane produced his best performances in reversed-grid races, winning twice at Donington Park, and will be looking to improve on his qualifying performances this term.
Joel Granfors makes the step up to GB3 from British F4, where he finished fourth with Fortec last year. The 16-year-old Swede won at Thruxton and was in contention for the title until the final round. He was swayed to F4 after winning the Formula Renault 1.6-spec Formula Nordic series in 2020 as a graduate from karts.
Fortec’s third driver Zak Taylor also come from British F4, but switches from Arden. The 19-year-old scored a victory at Brands Hatch and had four other podiums in the 2011 season – his first in single-seaters after stepping up from Ginetta Junior.
Arden was new to GB3 last year and won two races, and will again field two cars for year two.
Alex Connor, who scored three podiums during a three-round stint at the beginning of last year, returns to the championship. The 17-year old has a long association with Arden, having raced for the outfit in British F4 in 2019 and 2020, finishing fourth overall with three wins in the latter campaign.
Joining him is David Morales, who scored two podiums for the team in British F4 last year. The American previously raced in the Lucas Oil Formula Car Race Series and NACAM F4.
After a solid debut season in GB3, Ginetta aces Elite Motorsport will aim to be single-seater frontrunner in 2022, fielding three drivers it is familiar with.
Tom Lebbon continues with the team with which he won the 2020 Ginetta Junior title and came ninth in GB3 last year. He will be aiming to compete for wins this term.
Elite reunites with its 2019 Ginetta Junior champion, James Hedley, who made his GB3 debut at the Donington Park season finale last year. Hedley has spent the last two years in British F4, coming fifth in the standings and taking four wins in both ’20 and ’21.
John Bennett then makes his single-seater bow, having spent his past two seasons racing with Elite in the Ginetta GT5 challenge, where he was runner-up last year.
Chris Dittmann Racing
After winning races in each of the past three seasons with Ayrton Simmons, CDR will aim to continue its success with two full-time cars plus a third potential part-time entry. It has also expanded its operations by entering British F4 this year.
Branden Lee Oxley impressed when he contested the second half of last season with CDR, scoring a best result of fourth at Donington Park, and has resigned with the team for a full campaign. The Anglo-Thai also finished 19th in Spanish F4 and made a one-off appearance in Euroformula in 2021 during his first year racing single-seaters.
McKenzy Cresswell will be his team-mate, making the step up from a strong enter into cars in British F4 as he won six times and finished third in the standings as a newcomer to car racing. He will be aim to hit the ground running in GB3 too, after testing with CDR throughout the winter.
After a difficult 2021, Douglas will hope to return to winning ways this year with a three-car assault.
Tommy Smith returns for a full season after making three appearances for the team in ’21, when he had a best result of 12th. The Australian previously raced in the FIA’s Asian and European Formula Regional championships.
Max Esterson makes a return to slicks-and-wings, having been a class winner in the United States’ F2000 Championship Series in 2020. He was a star of the wingless FF1600 category last year, taking two wins and coming third in the BRSCC’s national championship. With Team USA Scholarship backing, he shone at both the FFord Festival and WHT, taking a lights-to-flag win at the latter. He is also a highly-accomplished sim racer, and his real racing is backed by the iRacing platform. This week he announced a new association with the Red Bull energy drink brand that gives its name to the F1 team.
Marcos Flack joins GB3 as a British F4 podium-finisher with Argenti Motorsport, and has experience of F4 on the continent too. The 16-year-old Australian will dovetail his maiden GB3 campaign with a full season in Italian F4 in 2022.
Having appeared at the final three rounds last year, series stalwart Hillspeed is back for a full assault with 2021 Toyo Tires F1600 champion Nick Gilkes.
The team scored a podium with Jonathan Browne at Silverstone on its first start in the rebranded GB3, and was victorious in this month’s inaugural GB4 round at Snetterton, with Gilkes’ sister Megan leading a one-two finish.
After his success in the US, Gilkes took part in the FFord Festival and Walter Hayes Trophy at the end of last year, before undertaking a busy winter testing programme in GB3 machinery in preparation for his slicks-and-wings debut.
With two other cars available, the team could add further drivers during the season.
JHR appeared with two cars for three rounds in 2020, but was then absent until now. Its return takes place with its 2021 British F4 champion Matthew Rees, whose overall title success as a rookie was a culmination of several years of the team becoming one of the biggest and most successful in the F4 paddock.
Karting graduate Rees claimed four wins and seven poles en route to the crown, began testing the new GB3 car this February, and is aiming to be fighting near the front against some of his British F4 rivals. For now he is JHR’s only GB3 signing, as the team has two vacant seats.