Jonathan Palmer in the West Surrey Ralt RT3/81 at Oulton Park in August 1981.  Copyright Alan Cox 2009.  Used with permission.

British Formula 3 1981

Jonathan Palmer moved up to F3 in 1981 together with West Surrey Engineering, who had run him in FF1600. They bought Stephan Johansson's 1980 championship-winning Ralt RT3 and also obtained the services of Dick Bennetts who had run the car in 1980. After extensive winter testing, Palmer won the first four races and went on to win the title comfortably.

Mike White led the March works team but the March 813 oversteered badly on British spec Goodyears and his competitiveness - and career prospects - waned. Thierry Tassin started in the works Argo JM8 but this new design was a catastrophe and he moved to Neil Trundle's Ralt-equipped team to become Palmer's closest challenger.

The races

01 Mar 1981 > Silverstone

08 Mar 1981 > Thruxton

29 Mar 1981 > Silverstone

12 Apr 1981 > Mallory Park

20 Apr 1981 > Thruxton

04 May 1981 > Thruxton

10 May 1981 > Snetterton

25 May 1981 > Silverstone

14 Jun 1981 > Cadwell Park

21 Jun 1981 > Silverstone

05 Jul 1981 > Silverstone

12 Jul 1981 > Brands Hatch

18 Jul 1981 > Silverstone

02 Aug 1981 > Mallory Park

15 Aug 1981 > Oulton Park

31 Aug 1981 > Silverstone

27 Sep 1981 > Oulton Park

04 Oct 1981 > Silverstone

11 Oct 1981 > Snetterton

25 Oct 1981 > Thruxton

07 Nov 1981 > Thruxton

Marlboro British Formula 3 Championship events shown in bold

1981 Marlboro British Formula 3 Championship table

1Jonathan PalmerRalt RT3/80 - Toyota 2T-G Mader122 pts7 wins
2Thierry TassinArgo JM8 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
Ralt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Mader
Ralt RT3/81 - VW
92 pts5 wins
3Raul BoeselRalt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Mader81 pts3 wins
4Mike WhiteMarch 813 - Alfa Romeo38 pts1 win
5David LeslieRalt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor29 pts 
6Dave ScottRalt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor28 pts2 wins
7James WeaverRalt RT3/80 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
Ralt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
Tiga F381 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor
21 pts1 win
8Cliff HansenRalt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor13 pts 
9Kurt ThiimMarch 813 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor12 pts 
10Michael BleekemolenRalt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor11 pts 
11Roberto MorenoRalt RT3/81 - Toyota 2T-G Novamotor9 pts1 win

Previous: the 1980 season

Next: the 1982 season

Points table from Autosport 19 November 1981 p51 but modified to allow for the disqualifications of Palmer and Moreno at Silverstone on 4 October. Palmer lost his seven points for second place (and fastest lap) but then had to drop one less result, so only lost four on aggregate. Moreno lost his one point for sixth, on top of the 18 points he had already lost as a penalty after his disqualification for fuel irregularities at the British GP support meeting. Other drivers gained points as they were bumped up: Scott to second, Tassin to third, Mike Blanchet to fourth, Leslie two places to fifth, Claus Schinkel two places to sixth, and Boesel who inherited Palmer's point for fastest lap.

All points scorers in the 1981 series used Toyota engines except Mike White who used Novamotor-built Alfa Romeos, the engine that dominated F3 elsewhere in Europe, and Tassin who used a Brabham-tuned Volkswagen engine at the Silverstone race in July. Palmer took maximum points in eight races, the other being the June race at Silverstone which was won overall by Mauro Baldi.