But I have spent the winter yearning for any racing-related activity.
Thus far I’ve staved off the brutal pangs of withdrawal by reading motor sport books, going to Autosport International and visiting abandoned race circuits.
In recent weeks I have reached what must be an anorak zenith.
I acquired the British F3 seasons from 1988-1994 and 1999-2005 on VHS and DVD and sat through one after another. For ‘relief’ I dipped into my collection of live F3000 races from 2000.
Of course this has taken my social stock with non-race fans from ‘uncool’ to ‘pariah’ but, and this is a big, big but: the footage and racing is damn good and not a little addictive.
The earlier footage is fascinating:
Damon Hill looking like a kid – check,
Mika Hakkinen piloting the Raikkonen monotone – check,
Mika Salo proving he had an adept line in sarcasm as a teenager – check.
The number of drivers that made it through to the upper echelons of motor sport from what I consider to be a golden period of British F3 is incredible.
Martin Donnelly, JJ Lehto, David Brabham, Allan McNish, Gil de Ferran, Alain Menu, Mika Hakkinen, Damon Hill, Mika Salo, Christian Fittipaldi, David Coulthard, Rubens Barrichello and Pedro Diniz can all be seen plying their trade, often with spectacularly poor hairdos.
In 1992 the undoubted early season star was Marcel Albers who, tragically, died in the third round at Thruxton. Watching the footage from the first two rounds confirms just how fast Albers was.
Jumping forward a decade 2002 witnessed some sensational performances from Australian James Courtney.
But his promise was de-railed after a monster crash during testing for Jaguar at Monza from which he never really recovered.
Equally Luciano Burti was often sensational in 1999 (even if his driving ethics were somewhat questionable) but his single-seater career was effectively ended at Spa in 2001 following an enormous accident with 1988 F3 alumni Eddie Irvine.
The above stories if nothing else prove that even in this ultra-safe era motor sport remains dangerous, and that is often those who live on the limit that are caught out.
Others simply didn’t make the transition between disciplines very well – or at all.
Kelvin Burt, the dominant champion of 1993, never got the breaks, nor backing, his talent deserved.
However it is 1994 title winner Jan Magnussen who is perhaps the greatest lost talent of them all. Magnussen was my hero from 1992 onwards having seen his sensational Formula Ford Festival win, and 1994 was the ultimate justification of his talent.
That he never made a successful transition to F1 is perhaps one of the greatest losses of raw talent seen in recent times.
The star of 2000 was Antonia Pizzonia whose career never recovered from totalling a Jaguar S-Type full of journalists shortly before his Grand Prix debut. After several stabs at F1 he has astonishingly dropped into GP2 this year in a desperate attempt to find a way back to the top.
Takuma Sato’s 2001 F1 campaign demonstrates that F1 has not yet seen the best the Japanese can offer.
Or perhaps the plethora of series that have sprung up between F3 and F1 means it is no longer the case that one season’s F3 stars all appear on the F1 grid within a year or two.
So where should an F3 history virgin get started?
The BHP tapes of 1989 and 1990 are perhaps the best place to start – and readily available from a certain prominent auction website. They feature great coverage, good racing, some big shunts and the chance to see the stars of the future at the top of their game.
From then on it’s a slippery slope. The racing in 1994 was often dull but Jan Magnussen is effortlessly breathtaking. The 1999 season saw a thrilling duel between Marc Hynes and Luciano Burti that had me in front of the TV for 5 hours straight.
For sheer entertainment value 2003 and 2004 cannot be beaten: close racing, packed grids, and the priceless chance to see Nelson Piquet Jnr get driven into by the fire truck, a moment for the rewind if ever there was one.
It certainly isn’t cool; it definitely isn’t a girl magnet. You may well come out the other side without any friends and feel the need to discuss 1988’s Snetterton wet race with fellow commuters, but those moments of seeing the really fast drivers like Allan McNish, Jan Magnussen and James Courtney at their best makes it all worthwhile.
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