On 5 May, the brand new Eurocup-3 series kicked off its maiden season with the opening round held at Spa-Francorchamps. The Spanish-based series had a successful debut by welcoming sixteen drivers, including Mari Boya from FIA F3. Feeder Series talked to Eurocup-3 coordinator Álvaro Martínez de Tejada about it in the paddock of Spa-Francorchamps.
By Perceval Wolff
Before being one of the most competitive F4 series in Europe, Spanish F4 started its history in 2016, by receiving twelve drivers in the first round, with half of them being wild-card entries, and only six drivers eventually doing the whole championship. The championship even had some rounds with no more than eight drivers. Seven years later, Spanish F4 held the opening round of its eighth season with thirty drivers.
The coordinator of Spanish F4 since 2020 and of Eurocup-3 since the launch of the series in November 2022, Martínez de Tejada was ecstatic about the start of this new championship to bridge the gap between national F4 series and FIA F3.
Sixteen cars and counting
“The first round is always difficult. It’s always a tense moment because that is when we can see the result of all our work. But we are so happy to have sixteen cars with us at Spa. It has been a tough way, but we are finally here. The car looks amazing, the drivers are happy. We can’t be happier than that,” he said.
Sixteen cars could only be the beginning for Eurocup-3. If some teams are reportedly in talks to join Eurocup-3 in 2024, a Spanish F4 team manager told Feeder Series he was evaluating the possibility of joining this championship later this year.
“We expect to have a bit more cars in some months and grow throughout the season. We are in conversation with some teams, not only for 2024 but also for 2023, so let’s see where all of this goes,” the Eurocup-3 coordinator told Feeder Series.
Not an oversaturated market
Despite the presence of FRECA, GB3 and Euroformula Open between F4 and FIA F3, Eurocup-3 seems to have managed to find a space in which it can attract drivers and teams.
“Let’s think from another perspective. We created the championship with the competition from FRECA, EFO, et cetera, but FRECA still has over thirty cars. It is a very similar grid compared to what they had last year. EFO has ten cars, which is more than on some of last year’s rounds, and GB3 is still having a strong grid.
“We just covered a space of the market. We are not competitors. We are completing each other because each championship has its positive points and its not-so-positive points.”
Like GB3 this year, Eurocup-3 has received the status of an FIA international series.
“It is not giving FIA Super Licence points for the moment, but we have an international calendar. We don’t have any limitation to go abroad, outside Spain, and I believe our calendar is one of our strengths. Concerning the car, this status means we have to follow the FIA regulations, so we are not a fully -certified FIA championship. It’s something in between.”
FIA F3 driver Mari Boya was a surprising last-minute addition to the first Eurocup-3 entry list, as the Spaniard revealed he would be doing FIA F3 and Eurocup-3 for the whole season, even if he would miss the next EC-3 round at Motorland Aragon because of a clash with the Monaco F3 round.
When asked about whether receiving an FIA F3 driver gives recognition to the series or not, Martínez de Tejada didn’t hesitate.
“For sure, yes. Actually, when we created the calendar, one of our goals was to welcome drivers from FIA F3 or from other categories that could do double programmes. Our calendar is very attractive for them, and the car is a very good experience too. To welcome drivers like Mari, we really hope this can help to catch the attention of other FIA F3 drivers.”
Like a little F1
One of the main talking points coming into the opening round of Eurocup-3 was the car. Thanks to a new aero kit from Tatuus, many expected miracles from this update of the original Tatuus F3-T318 car used in FRECA.
The first tests with the new aero kit were at Valencia at the end of April and seemed to have convinced everybody in the paddock.
“It was over our expectations,” Martínez de Tejada said. “The feedback of all drivers was really promising, and we really need to thank Tatuus for the wonderful job they did.”
But the praise for the new car was not just exclusive to the organisers. After collecting wins in FREC in 2020 and podiums for RPM last year in FRECA, Pierre-Louis Chovet was overwhelmed by the difference between the FRECA and the EC-3 cars.
“It may depend on the tracks, but the car is much lighter and gives much more drag in the straights, so it helps overtaking even without push-to-pass. What is even more surprising, is that despite giving all this drag, there isn’t much dirty air in the technical parts of the track, so we can follow each other.
“And I have to say the car is also so mighty. It really looks like a little Formula 1 car, especially on the side pods and on the wings. I think all other feeder series will be looking like this in a few years,” the Frenchman said.
One of the specificities of Eurocup-3 is that, as in F1, a cost cap was established to avoid intensive testing and differences too important between teams.
“This was our aim from the very beginning, and this works very well in Spanish F4. But we also have to understand that this is a free-, open-market model, so we can’t regulate, we can’t interfere directly. It is more like a gentlemen’s agreement, as in F4, with friendly conversations between the teams and us,” Alvaro Martínez de Tejada said.
Goals for the future
At what moment could Eurocup-3 be considered a success for the championship promoters?
“From what we are seeing now, taking the consideration it is the first round of the first season, Eurocup-3 is a success. But we will have to keep things like this and keep growing. I don’t want to set a number of cars as a threshold for the championship to consider it as a success. There are so many things getting into this equation, such as driver satisfaction, team satisfaction, federation satisfaction, et cetera. We don’t want an overcrowded grid, but it’s much too soon to speak about this.
“Of course, that would be lovely to see our drivers stepping up to FIA F3 next year and being successful in upper categories. That would say a lot on our championship.”
The next Eurocup-3 round will take place at Motorland Aragon from Friday, 26 May, to Sunday, 28 May.
Header photo credit – Perceval Wolff
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