Formula 3 has been used all over the world to breed driving talent and give drivers, engineers and mechanics the experience to then compete in the higher levels of motorsport. This year, Formula 3 and Formula 4 in Australia would form under a new 'Wings and Slicks' banner, the new Australian Formula Open series.
Formula 3 originated from the post World War II era of motor racing, being adopted by Formula 1 in 1950. The first Formula 3 cars were an evolution of lightweight and low-cost racing cars from Bristol built in the 1930's, with a tube frame chassis and a 500cc motorcycle in the front.
In Australia, Formula 3 racing began in 1964, by following the FIA Formula 3 championship recipe during the 60's and 70's. However, Australia's first attempt at Formula 3 racing was discontinued in 1977. The current era began in 1999, with the newly introduced 2 litre Formula 3 cars, which competed alongside the Australian Formula 2 cars at the time. In 2001, CAMS (now Motorsport Australia) granted Formula 3 in Australia national championship status and in 2005 Formula 3 became Australia's premier open wheel category.
Due to low grid numbers from 2015 until 2019, CAMS would strip the series of its Australian Driver's Championship status and it would no longer give the converted Gold Star award to the champion. In 2019, Formula 3 would be picked up by AMRS which returned it to national championship status.
The COVID-19 pandemic would hit motorsport in Australia and around the world hard with only a single race meeting at Sandown in December of 2020, and some state level races in 2021. In addition, the FIA would would now hold rights to the Formula 3 moniker, so a new name would be needed.
Australian Formula 3 would have one more season under the name in 2022 before the Australian Formula Open would be created, with Tim Macrow at the helm. Formula 4 would also join the roster since its demise at the end of 2019.
In Australia, there are plenty of Formula 3 cars and similar race cars such as Toyota Racing Series open wheelers that need a series to race in, hence why Formula Open also caters for additional styles of cars thanks to multiple classes within their championship. Without Formula 3 and Formula 4, there is a big gap between go-karts/Formula Ford to then jump to S5000 or racing in Europe, as Tim Macrow explained to Formula Scout.
We’ve got a gaping hole in Australian motorsport for a development category. Either coming from Formula Ford, which is more state-based, or even going straight into Formula Open from karts. Kids shouldn’t be going straight from karts to S5000, it’s the most brutal car you’ll ever drive." - Tim Macrow (speaking to Formula Scout)
Formula 4 in Australia has only been around since 2015, and unfortunately ended at the closure of 2019, due to low grid numbers. This year, the category has returned to racing with Formula Open. In addition, a new Formula 4 series in the works for next year thanks to AGI Sport as a fleet of current spec Formula 4 cars are shipped to Australia. The championship will start in April, with five rounds expected to be contested. How this affects the new Formula Open series though is yet to be known.
This year's Formula 3 championship is a battle between Trent Grubel and Ryan Howe. Grubel currently leads the championship after 8 wins already this year on 196 points. Howe closed the gap slightly at Sandown, with two more wins to his name against Grubel's one, and only follows him by 20 points as they head into the final round at Phillip Island at the end of November.
The winner of this year's championship will be granted a test in an S5000, and additionally a free entry into one S5000 race next year or later. Overall, it's great to see Formula 3 return to some stability thanks to the team behind the Australian Formula Open and also be a clear stepping stone to possible rides in S5000, which definitely needs to see more growth.