Home Formula RegionalEurocup-3 Eurocup-3 season preview: Spa start for Spain’s new single-seater series

Eurocup-3 season preview: Spa start for Spain’s new single-seater series

by Ida Wood

Photos: Fotocar13

The inaugural Eurocup-3 season begins today. Who’s taking part in the new FRegional-based series?

Five teams are at Spa-Francorchamps today, busy preparing for their first ever weekend of racing in Eurocup-3. The series, launched by the promoters of Spanish Formula 4, has used Tatuus’s Formula Regional chassis as the basis for its car but introduced a bodykit to make it lighter and more aero-efficient, as well as introducing Formula 1-inspired visuals.

Along with an updated diffuser, a new intercooler and a new battery kit, there’s a tuned-up version of Autotecnica’s Alfa Romeo-branded engine that several FRegional series use and a 25-horsepower push-to-pass system. With the upgrades, it aims to be 25kg lighter than other FRegional series.

Eurocup-3 will use 13-inch tyres manufactured by Hankook, and the supply for the first two rounds in May should be unaffected by Hankook’s factory fire in South Korea that has impacted its ability to provide tyres globally. Several of Eurocup-3’s teams are actually part of the series’ organising body, and among them MP Motorsport has the biggest line-up of five cars.

The lead driver in MP’s garage is its FIA Formula 3 racer Mari Boya, although he will miss round two at Motorland Aragon due to it clashing with F3’s races in Monaco. Boya was a late signing but he knows the team well, having come second in Spanish F4 with them as a single-seater rookie in 2020 and then racing for them in FRegional European Championship in the second half of last year.

He’s gained further FRegional mileage with them by contesting the Middle East championship at the start of this year and won twice, making him title favourite in Eurocup-3 despite the fact he won’t do the full campaign.

His most experienced team-mate is Sebastian Ogaard, who won last year in Euroformula with Van Amersfoort Racing before he and the team quit the series mid-season and he stepped down to FREC. Like Boya, he began 2023 by driving for the MP-run Hyderabad Blackbirds team in FRME.

Returning to action after a year out is former FREC and GB3 racer Jose ‘Joss’ Garfias, while stepping up fom F4 with MP is Danish championship runner-up Sebastian Gravlund and Motorsport Games bronze medallist Bruno del Pino, who is the nephew of Pedro de la Rosa who co-founded rival team Drivex School.

In Drivex’s line-up is 2021 Ontario F1600 champion and GB3 race-winner Nick Gilkes, who is entering his second year of slicks-and-wings racing, 2021 Formula Nordic champion William Karlsson and the team’s series driver coach Pierre-Louis Chovet.

He will definitely miss round two, as well as round five at Jerez, because he is racing a Lamborghini in International GT Open. However strong results should be expected when he is present, as Chovet is the 2021 FRegional Asian Championship runner-up, has won in FREC and raced in Euroformula and FIA F3.

Campos Racing is making its first venture into FRegional, but has a line-up with plenty of category knowledge. Esteban Masson – the 2021 French F4 champion – raced in FREC last year, as did Francesco Braschi who also has FRAC and FRME experience, while Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak has a FRME podium to his name and an impressive return of five wins, three poles and six fastest laps from six races in the Europe-based Ultimate Cup Series. Completing the team’s line-up is Suleiman Zanfari, who has spent the last three years in Spanish F4 and had his 2022 racing schedule cut short by medical reasons.

Global Racing Service is one of Eurocup-3’s founding teams but so far has Chinese racer Cenyu Han signed only for round one, while the new Palou Motorsport team has two full-season entries plus Euroformula racer Cian Shields for Spa.

Launched during the winter by IndyCar champion Alex Palou and run by his father Ramon, the Palou Motorsport team is based near Barcelona and its full-time drivers are GB3 graduate Javier Sagrera and Russian racer Miron Pingasov, a graduate of two years in F4.

A pre-event test was held at Spa for the drivers on Thursday, with a 2h55m morning session followed by a 1h05m afternoon session, and then two 40-minute practice sessions later in the day.

Eurocup-3 entries

Team Driver Country 2022 (’23)
MP Motorsport Mari Boya Spain 10th in FREC (5th in FRMEC, currently 24th in FIA F3)
Sebastian Ogaard Denmark 8th in Euroformula (24th in FRME)
Jose Garfias Mexico No racing
Sebastian Gravlund Denmark 2nd in Danish F4, 21st in Spanish F4
Bruno del Pino Spain 3rd in Motorsport Games F4 Cup, 16th in Spanish F4
Campos Racing Esteban Masson France 24th in FREC
Tasanapol Inthraphuvasak Thailand 12th in UCS [FRegional], 7th in F4 UAE, 9th in Spanish F4 (19th in FRME)
Francesco Braschi Italy 22nd in FRAC, 26th in FREC (27th in FRME)
Suleiman Zanfari Morocco 7th in Spanish F4, 17th in F4 UAE
Global Racing Service Cenyu Han China 40th in FREC (35th in FRME)
Palou Motorsport Javier Sagrera Spain 9th in GB3
Miron Pingasov 14th in F4 UAE, 18th in Spanish F4
Cian Shields Great Britain 13th in GB3 (currently 6th in Euroformula)
Drivex School Nick Gilkes Canada 14th in GB3
William Karlsson Sweden 21st in Italian F4
Pierre-Louis Chovet France 16th in FRAC, NC in FREC (currently 12th in Int. GT Open)

Masson set the first representative laptime of the day 25 minutes in, and he was in first place until Boya came on track after 33 minutes and set a 2m18.809s to go fastest by 1.640 seconds.

Del Pino joined him in lapping sub-2m20s, but then found himself 2.256s off the pace as Boya improved to 2m17.630s a minute later.

Boya found more pace, setting a 2m17.127s at the 40-minute mark that would stand thereon as the session’s fastest lap. Del Pino had improved twice more by that point, but remained in the 2m19s and over two seconds off Boya.

Late to hit the track was Sagrera, but he didn’t take long to get up to pace and set a 2m18.816s to slot into second place towards the end of the first hour. He remained there into the third hour, when he improved to 2m17.804s, while third place was shared between several drivers.

Braschi held the position at the session’s halfway point with a 2m19.549s lap, then at the start of the third hour his team-mate Inthraphuvasak set a 2m18.843s and Pingasov also lapped sub-2m19s.

There was another change with 45 minutes to go as Masson went around in 2m18.705s to return to the top three. He improved a few minutes later to 2m18.348s, then few drivers who had done extensive running then improved until after a late red flag period.

Del Pino reclaimed third place just before the red flags, setting a 2m17.937s, and after returning to track in the final 10 minutes he set a 2m17.405s to take second from Sagrera. Masson improved twice in fourth place to get into the 2m17s and Braschi jumped back up to fifth before Inthraphuvasak set a late 2m18.085s.

There were transponder issues through the session, and Gravlund had none of his laptimes recorded on the timesheet.

The first flying lap of the afternoon was set 17 minutes in by Han, and he spent a minute on top before Boya set a 2m18.546s.

Only seven drivers set laps in the first half-hour, with Masson 0.146s behind Boya in third and Sagrera 0.765s back in fourth.

There was then a four-minute window of frantic activity as del Pino and Masson traded first place. Del Pino brought the pace down to 2m16.827s, and Ogaard set a 2m17.569s to go second fastest.

Ogaard later improved his pace as Chovet jumped up to third place, then with 10 minutes to go Masson set a 2m16.796s to edge into first place. Boya had spent most of the session in the pits, but he returned to track to then snatch back top spot with a 2m16.603s lap.

Masson impoved in second place, putting him 0.152s behind, with del Pino, Ogaard and Braschi completing the top five after the latter improved at the end.

Sagrera didn’t improve on his morning pace, Gravlund’s transponder was faulty again and Pingasov missed the afternoon session entirely.

Han and Pingasov were absent from FP1 a few hours later, which was topped by Boya.

He and Garfias were initially the only cars setting laps, but after 15 minutes Masson and Braschi had also set flyers.

Boya and Garfias were one-two until Chovet set a 2m18.310s in the 26th minute. Gilkes then went 0.005s faster, and a minute later del Pino was very briefly on top before Chovet set a 2m17.989s.

Ogaard came through and he went second fastest, and bettered Chovet with two minutes to go only for Boya to come out of the pits and set a 2m17.201s.

Boya met the chequered flag with a 2m17.139s after that, putting him 0.587s clear of Ogaard. Del Pino also bettered Chovet, while Karlsson was black flagged by the stewards at the end.

FP2 had a similar narrative, with Chovet leading early on before Boya went 0.934s faster with a 2m18.339s. Masson got within 0.185s of him a few minutes later, but nobody else was lapping sub-2m19s.

Masson went fastest with a 2m28.110s lap 27 minutes in, while Inthraphuvasak jumped to third with a 2m18.998s, then on his next lap Masson found 0.821s more to set a 2m17.289s.

That put him second fastest overall in practice, and Sagrera left it until the final three minutes to set a laptime that wasn’t deleted for track limits abuse to go second in the session and third overall.

Gravlund and Inthraphuvasak in sixth and seventh were the only others to better their FP1 pace, while Zanfari didn’t get a single one of his 10 laps count due to excessive track limits abuse. In total 13 drivers had laps deleted.

Pre-event testing Free practice
Pos Driver Time Laps Pos Driver Time Laps
1 Boya 2m16.603s 34 1 Boya 2m17.139s 24
2 Masson +0.152s 39 2 Masson +0.150s 22
3 del Pino +0.224s 34 3 Sagrera +0.199s 14
4 Ogaard +0.448s 15 4 Ogaard +0.587s 23
5 Braschi +0.587s 36 5 del Pino +0.702s 22
6 Chovet +0.774s 18 6 Chovet +0.850s 23
7 Gilkes +0.931s 41 7 Gilkes +0.917s 23
8 Sagrera +1.201s 21 8 Garfias +1.318s 21
9 Garfias +1.282s 15 9 Gravlund +1.790s 26
10 Inthraphuvasak +1.471s 36 10 Inthraphuvasak +1.860s 23
11 Zanfari +1.838s 48 11 Han +1.955s 13
12 Han +2.064s 36 12 Braschi +2.408s 20
13 Pingasov +2.269s 21 13 Pingasov +2.462s 10
14 Karlsson +2.409s 44 14 Karlsson +2.513s 21
15 Shields +5.639s 11 15 Shields +3.932s 25
16 Gravlund no transponder 16 Zanfari +4.325s 25