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 EURO 3000 - 2001 SEASON PREVIEW

(l-r): winter testing: Bentwood, Massa

2001 SEASON PREVIEW

After two seasons as F3000 Italia, Pierluigi Corbari's series has expanded further into Europe, and consequently is given the Euro 3000 name. More significantly the championship is now an FIA recognised series, with the winner earning the right to compete in Formula 1. In addition to four Italian races, events will be held in Belgium, Great Britain, Germany and Spain. Once again the Lola T96/50-Zytek combination, raced in International F3000 from 1996-1998, will be used.

The first year of F3000 Italia didn't prove much of a stepping stone for its champion and vice champion, Giorgio Vinella and Werner Lupberger (although Vinella did sign a testing deal with Minardi). Last year, however, three of the top four drivers in the final standings (champion Ricardo Sperafico, third-placed Gabriele Lancieri and fourth-placed Rodrigo Sperafico) all graduated to International F3000 for 2001, suggesting it has become a viable route into the premier series. It remains to be seen what fortune awaits those who perform well in Euro 3000, but the quality of drivers expected to be at the front of the field suggests International F3000 teams, and perhaps even F1/CART teams, will take notice of the final results.

Late last year there was a boom in interest in the series, but ultimately many teams have opted not to enter. It appears that the general shortage of drivers and sponsor money which hit F3000 Italia at the end of 2000, and has led to smaller International F3000 grids, will also mean that Euro 3000 grids will not be huge.

Last year's Teams champion, Arden Team Russia, has pulled out to concentrate on the International series, but another International F3000 team, Fortec, has set up a joint-owned and long-delayed second squad for Euro 3000. Fortec Italia Motorsport, based in Forli, Italy, sees 1995 International F3000 champion Vincenzo Sospiri involved and former British F2 driver Vito Popolizio as Sporting Director. Meanwhile First GP/Traini Corse has been renamed "Great Wall Racing", with initial reports suggesting two Chinese drivers would be signed. Top teams ADM Motorsport, Sighinolfi Autoracing, Draco Racing, Monaco Motorsport and Durango all continue their involvement in the secondary F3000 series.

With a much changed driver line-up, the most notable newcomers to Euro 3000 include:

Vitor Meira (BR): The reigning SudAm F3 champion has signed for ADM Motorsport, the team which took Ricardo Sperafico, another SudAm F3 graduate, to last year's title. With much success in the junior categories, Meira should be a strong title favourite. The Brazilian had been looking at IRL options before joining Euro 3000.

Felipe Massa (BR): Last year's Eurocup and Italian Formula Renault champion, the Brazilian signed for Draco Racing early in the winter, and from the start has been consistently the pace-setter in testing. Expect Massa to be another title favourite. Experience of the Italian tracks is a bonus, as is the fact he has had months of preparation and testing with Draco.

Alex Müller (D): The German's International F3000 career with Oreca in 1998 and '99 failed to meet expectations, but two seasons back in F3 saw him take runner-up spot in last year's German F3 championship with Team Ghinzani. He stays with the team but moves up to Euro 3000 where his experience, familiarity with the team and the confidence gained last year, could see him become a title contender.

Other newcomers include: British F3 veteran Michael Bentwood (GB) at Fortec Italia Motorsport; Italian Formula Renault frontrunner Alex Piccolo (I) at Sighinolfi Autoracing; Euro Formula Palmer Audi graduate Marco Cioci (I) at Durango; German F3 graduate Armin Pörnbacher (I) at Team Ghinzani, and third-placed Italian F3 driver Valerio Scassellati (I) at Great Wall Racing. Unconfirmed participants could be Italian F3 champion Davide Uboldi (I), moving up with his Uboldi Corse squad, ex-Formula Renault champion and Italian F3 driver Massimiliano Busnelli (I) at Great Wall Racing and German F3 graduate Val Hillebrandt (B), who is said to have a deal for the season with an as yet unidentified team.

Returning drivers include: Thomas Biagi (I) at GP Racing, the veteran's experience and recent form (including winning last season's non-championship Assen race) marking him out as one to watch; Gianluca Calcagni (I), who could launch a title assault if he does indeed remain with Monaco Motorsport for a second year, having already raced for the squad in an International round at Imola this year; Michele Spoldi (I), another Italian with much potential who stays with Durango; Polo Villaamil (E), who impressed on occasion with Coloni in 1999, and returns with Fortec Italia Motorsport. "Babalus" (I), who impressed greatly in his debut season last year, could race for ADM after testing earlier this month.

2001 TEAM/DRIVER LINE-UP (as known/expected at present; expect changes when the season begins...)

ADM MOTORSPORT

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Vitor Meira (BR)

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"Babalus" (I)?

DRACO RACING

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Felipe Massa (BR)

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Luca Vacis (I)

DURANGO BENETTON JUNIOR

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Michele Spoldi (I)

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Marco Cioci (I)

FORTEC ITALIA MOTORSPORT

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Michael Bentwood (GB)

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Polo Villaamil (E)

TEAM GHINZANI

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Alex Müller (D)

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Armin Pörnbacher (I)

GP RACING

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Thomas Biagi (I)

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Gabriele Gardel (I)

GREAT WALL RACING TEAM

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Valerio Scassellati (I)

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Massimiliano Busnelli (I)?

MARTELLO RACING ?

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MONACO MOTORSPORT ?

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Gianluca Calcagni (I)?

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SIGHINOLFI AUTORACING

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Alessandro Piccolo (I)

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Salvatore Tavano (I)

UBOLDI CORSE ?

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Davide Uboldi (I)?

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Euro 3000 Calendar 2001

(according to the official site)

Date

Circuit

22nd April

Vallelunga (I)

6th May

Enna Pergusa (I)

24th June

Monza (I)

12th August

Donington (GB)

19th August

Zolder (B)

26th August

Imola (I)

16th September

Nurburgring (D)

7th October

Valencia (E)

 

For testing times, latest entries and race results when available please see the Euro 3000 section.

The official Euro 3000 site is here (Flash 5.0 required).

Text (c) Unofficial F3000 Information, April 2001. Photos taken from Draco Racing & Michael Bentwood Online.

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