Competitors in the 2010 Cooper Tyres British Formula 3 International Series will be facing a new and exciting qualifying session and race programme when the season starts at Oulton Park over the weekend of the 3rd to 5th April. Fans will get their first chance to see the new format on the 3rd April, with Qualifying and race 1, while races 2 and 3 are held on Monday 5th April.

As was previously announced, the series is to change to a triple header of races per race weekend, so an increase of 10 races, from the previous 20 to 30 races per season.

The changes will now see the Qualifying session held on the first public day as well as the opening race of the weekend, with the other 2 races the following day.

A draft copy of the sporting regulations have just been published, and yet they haven't been rubber stamped by the FIA, they propose 3 races per weekend of differing lengths.

On the first public entrance day, there will be a 30 minute qualifying session which will decide the grid for the day's race. The driver's fastest qualifying lap will be used for the race 3 grid, while the second fastest lap will be used to form the race 1 grid. The opening race of the weekend will be a 30 Minute race, which remains unchanged.

Day two sees the main race changes. For the second race of the 3, the length will be a short 20 minute sprint, with the grid formed on the result from Race 1, but with the top 6 to 10 drivers reversed. The race 1 winner will perform a podium draw to decide how many drivers get reversed.

Race 3 – a thrilling conclusion as the drivers head into a 40 minute feature race, which will test their race craft, their stamina and their cars reliability. It will also reward those drivers who've managed their tyres during the previous 2 races.

The general manager of SRO Motorsports Group, the Championship Promoter, Bernadette Fitzsimmons has this to say about the radical changes: “This is the single biggest change to the format of British Formula 3 since the twin-race concept was introduced in the 1990s, and we are delighted with the initiative – which came from the teams themselves.

“The reverse-grid sprint race will, I am sure, prove a real crowd-pleaser, and it will provide a chance for drivers who might not otherwise come too close to the podium to get up there. And the 40-minute feature race will offer a great chance of success to those drivers who have looked after their machinery and their tyres during the course of the race weekend; it should provide some fascinating results.

“The most important aspect, however, is the additional race start experience that competitors will gain as a result of the expansion to 30 races in one season. It will, I am sure, prove invaluable in their future careers.”

The new format in detail

Qualifying: A single 30-minute official qualifying session

Race 1: 30-minute duration. Grid established by competitors’ second-fastest times in qualifying. Full points awarded, i.e. 20-15-12-10-8-6-4-3-2-1 to the top 10 in the International and National classes, with an additional point for the fastest race lap in each class

Race 2: 20-minute duration. Grid established by the finishing order of Race 1, with the best-placed cars in reverse order. The Race 1 victor will perform a podium draw to determine where on the grid he will start – anywhere between sixth and 10th. Points for this race will be awarded on a reduced scale: 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 to the top 10 in the International and National classes, but there will be an additional two points awarded for the fastest race lap in each class

Race 3: 40-minute duration. Grid established by competitors’ fastest times in qualifying. Full points awarded, as per Race 1.

The changes to the weekend format have been welcomed by Volkswagen powered Dallara of Litespeed F3 driver Jay Bridger. Jay is one of the most experienced drivers to have committed himself to the Championship for 2010. Jay had this to say about the changes: “I’m delighted, because I think it will suit drivers who have a bit more experience of F3. The three-race format will make it more interesting for the drivers, and for everyone watching, and it’s going to be important to be consistent and to have the car set up right, so that you use the tyres correctly. Drivers will need to use their brains a bit and stay out of trouble. I’m working on my fitness a lot more, because if you are not up to scratch fitness-wise it’s going to have an effect.”

Since the Championship first started in 1964, British Formula 3 has seen more graduates into Formula 1 than any other single seater Championship worldwide. The list of former British F3 Champions who went on to become Formula 1 greats reads: Ayrton Senna, Jackie Stewart, Emerson Fittipaldi, Gunnar Nilsson, Nelson Piquet, Derek Warwick, Stefan Johansson, Johnny Herbert, JJ Lehto, Mika Hakkinen and Rubens Barrichello.

The series is sponsored by American tyre manufacturer Cooper Tyres and has further support from Sunoco Racing Fuels, Anglo American Fuel Company and www.mirror.co.uk.

Photo by Jakob Ebrey Photography