Bart Horsten joined Hitech GP for his, and the team’s second season in the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship, going into 2021.
The Australian has already taken one podium this year, and has his sights set on more going into the third round of the season at Donington Park this weekend (10/11 July).
The Checkered Flag caught up with him to talk Australian Formula Ford, iRacing and his FIA Formula 3 ambitions.
The first race of the 2021 season yielded a maiden podium with Hitech at Brands Hatch, as Bart finished third ahead of team-mates Reece Ushijima and Sebastian Alvarez.
He views results since then through the lens of ‘what might have been’, though.
“Whilst it was certainly a more positive start than last season, I’d probably give the first round an eight out of ten, and the second a six,” he said.
“Let’s call it seven out of ten so far.
“A lot of good stuff has happened but I feel I’ve failed to achieve what was possible in a few small areas that have cost me greatly at the beginning of this championship.”
Bart began his racing career in regional Formula Ford Fiesta back in Australia, before stepping up to Australian Formula Ford. Podiums quickly followed, and he joined British F3 newcomers Arden Motorsport for the 2019 F4 British Championship.
The 19-year-old picked up ten podiums, including a win and a fastest lap on his way to fifth in the standings, despite what he identified as a steep learning curve.
“Going from racing on my own in a two-person team in Australia to racing in a series like British F4 is quite a big change.
“The tracks, and preparation level of the drivers, is completely different to what I’d previously experienced,” he said.
“In terms of adapting to ‘wings-and-slicks’ racing, I think it’s hard to say as the F4 car is not a true downforce car. It’s more akin to putting a wing on a road car.
“More than anything the cars are just more stable and have more grip than a Formula Ford, which can be quite frightening at high speeds.”
That first season racing in Britain presented an entirely different challenge and a host of new circuits to learn. As Bart alluded to, he was immediately enamoured with some of the venues he experienced on the BTCC support programme.
“I’ve loved getting to learn all the legendary British tracks. They all have their own unique challenges and seem to permeate this sense of history.
“My personal favourite is definitely Knockhill but Brands Hatch and Snetterton aren’t far behind.
“Part of why I feel there is such a great synergy between myself and the Briston Watches brand, is that their ethos and design captures the classic sporty British style.
“I have so much respect for these British tracks and the history of this great sport, so it’s a great partnership.”
During our chat, Bart also waded in on the changes teams can make to the Tatuus BF3-020 between rounds, in what is essentially a ‘spec’ series.
“Whilst there are a lot of changes you can do to things such as the differential and wheel geometry, the main changes between tracks are the spring settings and the amount of downforce we run,” he explained.
“Often at the tracks we’ll make adjustments to the bar, tyre pressures, ride height/rake and aero balance to adapt to my preferences as well as the track conditions.”
Bart moved to Silverstone-based Hitech GP during the off-season, after his 2020 squad, Lanan Racing, left the Championship and were replaced by Elite Motorsport.
That might have left him in the lurch heading into 2021, but Bart explained his place on the grid was more certain than it might have been.
“By the time Lanan had announced their plans publicly, we had already started talking to teams about this season, however we knew from Graham (Johnson, Team Manager and Owner) well in advance what his plans were.
“Doing a second season with Lanan wasn’t off the cards had they continued,” he admitted.
The Web Guys-backed driver explained the changes he noticed in moving to a team with a history of success in FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3, which took Nikita Mazepin to fifth in FIA F2 last season, and Liam Lawson to the same spot in F3.
At the time of writing, Red Bull Racing junior driver Jüri Vips sits fourth in the FIA F2 standings with Hitech, so they are a team well-versed in taking drivers in the right direction.
“Aside from the drivers, the main differentiator would be the personal experience within the team in regards to the Championship and racing in general, as well as the team structure and ethos that drives decision-making.
“Other things would be resources and facilities such as having a simulator and gym, alongside a friendly environment that pushes you while giving you confidence.”
As he made the transition from white to silver over winter, Bart, like many drivers, turned to iRacing to stay sharp before British F3 roared back into life in May.
As any sim racer will tell you, though, it’s no longer just a game.
“I think it’s important as a form of training and it’s a cheap alternative to extra testing to learn what you can before a race weekend,” Bart said.
“The iRacing stuff is more for my own enjoyment but can still be utilised as a tool for learning different parts of being a driver.
“I’m actually using it at the moment to work on a particular area for the next round [at Donington Park].
“I believe the simulator is a massively under-rated and under-utilised tool for drivers.”
Speaking of Donington, Hitech’s new recruit enjoyed some positive results in Leicestershire last season. The Championship visited on three occasions throughout a truncated campaign, with Bart taking two fourth-place finishes.
“Having raced there in the series before definitely gives me an advantage over rookies, but most people I’ll be racing against have driven plenty of laps on the track in testing as well as in previous championships so it doesn’t make as much of a difference as you may think.”
He enters the third round of the Championship in ninth place, just 13 points behind Fortec Motorsport‘s Roberto Faria in third.
That gap, he says, is “more of a motivating reminder of the mistakes and failures I’ve incurred in the previous rounds, as I know I could have easily been third at the moment.
“My goal for now is the top spot as I understand that’s what I’m capable of with Hitech’s support, but that only matters when the flag drops for the last time in October [again at Donington].“
Looking further into the future, we spoke about the strong Australian contingent that has graced Formula 1 and the FIA feeder series’ in recent years.
Mark Webber and Daniel Ricciardo have spent plenty of seasons at the top table, with Oscar Piastri and Jack Doohan in F2 and F3 respectively.
Webber spent a season in a previous iteration of F3 racing in Britain in 1997, before making the move to F1 with Minardi.
Naturally, adding his name to that list is a source of motivation for Bart, born in Sydney.
“Obviously it’s great for Australia to have so many great drivers.
“I love getting the opportunity to represent my country on track so I’m definitely aiming to make steps in that direction.”
The natural path from British F3 usually takes drivers into EuroFormula Open or FIA F3.
Bart admitted that “Hitech’s involvement in [FIA F2/3] definitely creates some better opportunities and we’re currently doing what’s possible to be in FIA F3 for next season.”
Finally, after a début British F3 season held largely behind-closed-doors, and with no fans allowed in the paddock, Bart must be looking forward to racing returning to normality?
“I’m really looking forward to that in all honesty, as so much has changed in the last year for myself and for the world as a whole.
“Eighteen months ago I wouldn’t have even dreamed I’d be working with a watch distributor like Time and More UK and a company like Briston, but now I attend photo shoots, have their branding on the car and my suit, and get to wear my beautiful Briston Clubmaster Traveler Worldtime and Clubmaster Sport on and off the track.
“The fans are central to the sport and certainly to my experience of it as a driver, so it’s fantastic that it won’t be long until I get to experience that passion in full force.”
Around 4,000 spectators will be in attendance at Donington for the third round, and Bart will hope to kick-start his title challenge in time for capacity crowds to return to the British circuits he’s developed such an admiration for.
Bart Horsten has partnered with Time and More UK Ltd for the upcoming 2021 season, with Bart’s watch of choice being the Briston Clubmaster Traveller Worldtime in Steel and Blue.
He will compete in the third round of the BRDC British Formula 3 Championship at Donington Park this weekend (10/11 July), supporting the Intelligent Money British GT Championship.
The Checkered Flag will be bringing you all the action from both series’ throughout the weekend.