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GP Week : Issue 80
JUNIOR JUNIOR The GP3 Series makes its world debut this weekend in Spain. But Will Buxton questions whether we really need another sub-GP2 championship. DO we really need another junior racing series? As if the re-launch of Formula 2 last season hadn't confused the scene enough, here comes GP3 into an already flooded market. Its birth in 2010 has already created its fair share of critics who claim that the organisers of GP2 are simply trying to cash in. After all, what made GP2 stand out when it launched in 2005 was that it filled a gap in the market. GP3, meanwhile, will have to compete with the Formula Renaults, F2s, F3s and World Series of this world. And with so much competition out there, is there actually a niche that needs filling? Well, yes and no. GP2 worked because it came in at a level above all the other F1 feeder championships, raced on F1 weekends and created a guaranteed route to F1. With such a flooded sub-GP2 level then, what GP3 has to do is mark itself out as something unique and of a level that is higher and more relevant to progressing up the ladder than any of its rivals. Part of that will come with the quality of the show. The fact that GP3 will also race on F1 weekends already places it above the majority of its rivals in terms of access to both GP2 and F1, and relying on Dallara and Renault, such solid GP2 partners, should result in a firm foundation. After pre-season testing, the car already looks like a cracking little runner. But where the championship's critics are already sticking in the boot is over cost. With seats in the three-car teams costing anywhere up to €750,000, GP3 has already marked itself out as one of the most expensive sub-F1 single-seater series in the world, more expensive even than the well-established and ultra-relevant F3 Euro Series. The cost of new engines and spare parts in GP3 are reported to be excessively high, and perhaps as a result of this the field has found trouble in filling quite as quickly as the teams might have wished. But there is quality in the inaugural field. The likes of Guttierez, Rossi, Wickens and Bortolotti should make the championship fight utterly engaging and so long as GP3 can deliver a good show there's no reason why it shouldn't be a success. But if it wishes to become as successful, popular and as engrained within the motorsport pantheon as GP2, it will have to keep its costs in check. 30