A popular British motor racing series played out its final battles in 2010, as the Formula Palmer Audi Championship comes to a close after 13 successful years.
The championship was set up by former Grand Prix driver Jonathan Palmer as a less expensive alternative to Formula Three for young drivers aiming towards a future in Formula One. It used identical-specification cars and a 1.8-litre turbocharged engine from Audi.
Palmer explained his key criteria when setting up Formula Palmer Audi. “Providing identical cars was important but what was critical to achieving the objective of high quality but low cost was to innovate and operate all the cars by just one team, which would apply exactly the same methodology to the running of the Van Diemen single-seater cars,” he said.
“I’m extremely proud of Formula Palmer Audi. It provided hundreds of drivers with affordable, fair single seater racing to help their careers, as intended, and was run with total integrity for 13 years since the day it began.
“I conceived FPA because of my love of motor racing and respect for the efforts and ambitions of budding F1 drivers and their families, having been there myself with only funding that I could generate on my own.”
Justin Wilson won the first FPA title in 1998, and went on to win F3000, race in F1 and most recently win races in the United States. Other drivers to have raced in FPA on their way to F1 are former GP2 champion Giorgio Pantano and current McLaren test driver Gary Paffett. Other drivers to have raced in FPA earlier in their careers include triple World Touring Car Champion Andy Priaulx, fellow WTCC driver Rob Huff, sportscar stars Darren Turner and Romain Dumas and A1GP champion Adam Carroll.
The Audi engine would prove to be incredibly reliable over the duration of the championship, with only two retirements attributed to the failure of an engine component. This was despite there being 260 races of the 13 years, with between 20 and 25 cars competing each time, covering almost 1.5 million racing miles.
“The power unit was carefully chosen,” said Palmer. “We wanted 250bhp with the greatest reliability, consistency and of course, low cost. The only way to achieve it was through a standard production engine and to keep the weight down, that meant it needed to be small capacity and turbocharged – an engine philosophy soon to reappear in Formula One.
“An evaluation of all such production engines identified Audi’s 1.8 litre 20 valve turbo unit as the most suitable. It was to prove an outstanding success and a great strength of FPA, particularly with Mountune’s development and management.”
Building upon the experience gained in running FPA, Palmer and MotorSport Vision went onto launch the FIA Formula Two Championship in 2009. FPA has proved to be an effective feeder series for F2, with 2010 F2 runner-up Jolyon Palmer amongst those to have made the step up. The final ever FPA champion, Nigel Moore, was awarded with a £100,000 scholarship towards a drive in F2 in 2011.