The third-tier of open-wheel racing, Formula 3, has been around since the 1940s, when 500cc engines were the norm and the cars resembled colorful bullets with wheels strapped onto them. The F3 has come a long way since then, with the latest and greatest revealed in 2019.
The current iteration of the F3 has a 3.4L Mecachrome V6 engine with 380hp at 8,000rpms. The Mecachrome engine is developed by Italian manufacturer, Mecachrome SAS, based out of France.
Although F2 is the category that sits right below F1, with many similarities between the two, F4 is considered to be the biggest step in the F1 direction and that is mostly due to the major step up in speed, horsepower, and power of the engine.
Interestingly enough, the latest engine to go into F3 cars is a toned-down version of the previous one. The current engine has 380hp at 8,000rpms, which is a step down from the 400hp of the engine that preceded it.
According to the FIA, the Formula 3 level is not interested in turbocharged engines, which the current iteration is. It's a naturally-aspirated, turbocharged V6 racing engine but due to that supposed “lack of interest,” that may change sometime in the near future.
Since 2010, F3 has depended entirely on ELF for their fueling options, regardless of the engine being installed and run. This type of gasoline is the same unleaded gasoline that we all fill our cars with, however, there are some subtle differences added to facilitate increased mileage.
For instance, one of the additives that go into F3 gasoline is LMS RON 102, which is considered to be a more environmentally friendly gas variation and it also improves the overall mileage between fill-ups.
Some of what is currently a part of the 3.4L Mecachrome V6 engine and car are carry-overs from the GP3. This “carry-over” includes some of the aerodynamic adjustments from the GP3, the engine, the gearbox, brakes, electronics, and the rear wing.
So much of the F3 racecar that you see out on the track today has been transferred from the GP3. The following is a brief overview of the technical specifications for the F3.
The testing phase of the newest engine that goes into the F3 is extensive. The car has to go through 165 laps at the Magny-Cours and includes three more similar tests that were conducted successfully prior to December of 2021.
Since Mecachrome builds all of the engines for all of the Formula racing categories that matter, there is a great deal of stability across the board. Mecachrome engines have been partnered with Formula racing for decades now and despite the occasional disagreements, it looks like they will remain so for the foreseeable future.
Formula 3 has been around since the WW2 era and originally started with 500cc engines. F3 racing was extremely popular in Britain at the time but eventually, it grew beyond the boundaries of Britain, becoming an international power in terms of popularity and reach.
The F3 engine didn’t get its first upgrade until 1964 when it doubled from 500cc to 1,000cc. By now, Formula 3 was popular well outside of Britain and was a phenomenon across the entire European landscape.
In 1971, F3 cars received another upgrade, jumping from 1,000cc to 1,600cc engines. At this point, F3 was considered to be a professional racing sport and more money was pouring into the coffers as it remained popular throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s.
In 1974, F3 upgraded their engines to 2,000cc. From that point on, the engines changed but the overall power, in terms of speed and horsepower experienced very little in the way of up and down movement.
It didn’t help that F3 dropped off the face of the planet as Formula Renault took its place. However, F3 made an eventual comeback and continues to be one of the more popular Formula categories to this day.
There were several F3s throughout the time period from inception to today, including the Swedish F3, French F3, Italian F3, the British F3, and the European F3.
Today, there are three official F3 series out there. The first is the BRDC British F3. The second is the Regional F3 and the third is the FIA F3 Championship. All of these series run with the same engine and the only differences between these three are the subtle changes that are made to the cars within the allowable rules.
Of course, various manufacturers supply these cars with different components that are, at least in terms of specs, highly similar to one another. For instance, Dome and Onroak provide the cars in the Regional for Japan and North America.
Dallara provides the cars in the FIA F3 Championship series and the cars in the only “official” F3 series (which is the BRDC British F3), are supplied by Tatuus. All of these cars run with the same engine and have a very similar chassis, along with matching components. So there is very little in the way of variation and innovation between the three of them.
The 380hp V6 that goes into the F3 cars of today is manufactured by Mecachrome and you can rest assured that the next engine that comes along within the next decade or so will also be developed and manufactured by Mecachrome.
Ultimately, the engine might change drastically in terms of technology, but will always remain in the same ballpark as far as horsepower is concerned.
(Top Photo: Lukas Raich, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)