European Formula 3 1979

With Renault pouring money into proving Alain Prost with their aluminium block 20TS engines, the 24-year-old Frenchman's victory in the 1979 European Formula 3 series was not a surprise, but he impressed commentators with his professionalism and his smooth driving style. His reward would be a seat in the McLaren F1 team for 1980 before a predictable move to Renault. Prost did not really have any close rivals in 1979, and there was a huge gap to Michael Bleekemolen, who was back in F3 after his brief 1978 F1 career, to spend more of F&S Properties' money with Roger Heavens' team, swapping his 1978 Ralt for a March 793 during the season. Slim Borgudd did remarkably well in his underfinanced Ralt, and former Renault 5 champion Mauro Baldi also impressed after swapping his Ralt for a March 793. Four races were won by drivers who were focused on their national championships: Brett Riley won at Donington, where Prost was taking it easy to save his sole car for Monte Carlo; Mike Thackwell took his British series March 793 to the Monza Lotteria and scored an impressive victory; Frenchman Richard Dallest won at Kinnekullering in a Martini MK27 when most of the stars had gone to the Austria GP race instead; and Michael Korten narrowly held off Borgudd to win the end-of-season Kassel-Calden race.

The other two races were won by 1977 champion Piercarlo Ghinzani but he was ineligible for points as he had already finished in top six positions in Formula 2 races. However, he comfortably won the 1979 Italian F3 series. Autosport predicted that his career would be all down hill from here, but he went on to appear at 111 Grand Prix over eight seasons. His teammate in Paolo Pavanello's Euroracing team was Michele Alboreto, who won the non-championship Austrian GP race, and finished second in the Italian series, and was the find of the season. Of the drivers who would go no further, the talented Daniele Albertin was tragically killed together with his young wife in a road accident in 1982.

The races

18 Mar 1979 > Gran Premio Campidoglio at Vallelunga

01 Apr 1979 > Goodyear-ADAC-300-km-Rennen (snowed off) at Nürburgring

15 Apr 1979 > Preis von Knittelfeld at Österreichring

22 Apr 1979 > Grote Prijs van Zolder

01 May 1979 > Trophée Jean Bernigaud at Magny Cours

20 May 1979 > Race of the Year at Donington Park

26 May 1979 > Monaco Grand Prix Formula 3 Race at Monte Carlo

04 Jun 1979 > Pinksterraces Zandvoort

17 Jun 1979 > Gran Premio di Pergusa at Enna-Pergusa

24 Jun 1979 > Gran Premio della Lotteria at Monza

05 Aug 1979 > Kvällspostens Newsrace at Knutstorp

11 Aug 1979 > Austrian Grand Prix support race at Österreichring

12 Aug 1979 > Vredstein Racing Show at Kinnekullering

09 Sep 1979 > Trofeo Villa de Madrid at Jarama

07 Oct 1979 > ADAC-Hessen-Preis at Kassel-Calden

European Formula 3 Championship events shown in bold

1979 European Formula 3 Championship table

1Alain ProstMartini MK27 - Renault 20TS Dudot67 pts7 wins
2Michael BleekemolenRalt RT1/78 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
March 793 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
28 pts 
3Tommy 'Slim' BorguddRalt RT1/78 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor23 pts 
4Mauro BaldiRalt RT1/78 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
March 793 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
22 pts 
5Richard DallestMartini MK27 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor21 pts1 win
6Michele AlboretoMarch 793 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor19 pts1 win
7Michael KortenMarch 793 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor14 pts1 win
8=Brett RileyMarch 793 - Triumph Dolomite Swindon
March 793 - Triumph Dolomite Holbay
9 pts1 win
8=Daniele AlbertinRalt RT1/78 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor9 pts 
8=Mike ThackwellMarch 793 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor9 pts 
11Serge SaulnierMartini MK27 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor8 pts 
12Carlo RossiRalt RT1/75 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor7 pts 
13=Thierry BoutsenRalt RT1/78 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
March 793 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
6 pts 
13=Arie LuyendijkArgo JM3 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor6 pts 
13=Chico SerraMarch 793 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor6 pts 
13=Anders OlofssonRalt RT1/77 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor6 pts 
13=Philippe StreiffMartini MK27 - Renault 20TS Dudot
Martini MK27 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
6 pts 

Previous: the 1978 season

Next: the 1980 season

This series ran over 14 rounds and used a 9-6-4-3-2-1 points system. Points tables from Autocourse 1979/80 pp229-231.

Ralt could not get their new ground-effect RT3 design working so surrendered the sales lead they had established in 1978. Chevron attempted to make a wing-car version of their existing models with Tony Southgate's help, but this was a complete flop, leaving the field open for March whose "podded" 793 just about worked, and Martini, who did not bother with such new-fangled ideas, having only just mastered monocoques. Thanks to Prost and his Renault engine, Martini's simple and straightforward MK27 won seven races to the March 793's five, but an analysis of podium finishes shows March leading on 17, from Martini on 11, Ralt on seven and Argo taking one. As a greater indicator of sales success, March had 36% of the grids, double its share for 1978, followed by Ralt down considerably to 29%, Martini up strongly on 14%, Chevron plummeting to 8% and Argo steady on a little under 7%. Lola, Wolf-Dallara, Duqueine and Maco were also represented.