Resurgent F3 Cup heads to Donington for 2016 opener

The 2016 F3 Cup Championship roars into life at Donington Park this weekend, with a grid of at least 16 cars set to take on the former European Grand Prix venue

The 2016 F3 Cup Championship roars into life at Donington Park this weekend (23/24 April), with a grid of at least 16 cars set to take on the former European Grand Prix venue. The line-up comprises a mix of regular, new and returning faces, with new teams and new cars all adding to the excitement.

A number of last year's regulars return, headed by 2015 championship runner-up Stuart Wiltshire. Wiltshire has worked hard over the winter with team Chris Dittmann Racing (CDR) to give himself the best chance at the title this year and after his career-best finish is surely a favourite for the honours. He will be joined at CDR by Tony Bishop and Malcolm Scott, Bishop relishing the prospect of campaigning the Dallara F310 VW which he debuted at the end of last season. Scott joined the championship towards the end of 2015, and having caught the bug will be racing his ex-Bishop Dallara F306 Mercedes.

Hywel Lloyd's CF Racing outfit will field three cars this weekend, with 2015 regular Daniel Tapinos being joined by George Line and James Heffernan. Line, a newcomer to single seater racing, will run a Dallara F308 Honda alongside Tapinos' F311 Honda and Heffernan's F308 Mercedes.

Norfolk-based Omicron Motorsport also returns this year, with team boss Tristan Cliffe hoping for strong results from driver Jacopo Sebastiani. The team gelled well with their Dallara F311 VW Speiss and will be aiming for nothing less than podium results this season.

Two new teams join the fold this year, in the shape of Team Fox Racing and University of Wolverhampton Racing (UWR). Team Fox is led by experienced single seater engineer Dan Fox, and will run multiple Monoposto champion Robbie Watts (who has past F3 Cup experience) and Daryl Jones, another new face to the championship. Watts will undoubtedly be looking forward to putting his new Dallara F308 VW to the test, with Jones also fielding a F308 VW which has proved itself well in pre-season testing.

UWR bring experienced driver Shane Kelly in a Dallara F308 Honda, ably supported by the squad of motorsport engineering students, with the full backing of the university. The team exceeded all expectations in their debut year running a Formula Renault in the Monoposto Championship, and are relishing the opportunity to graduate to F3 Cup this year, getting their hands dirty in the highly technical world of Formula 3 racing, alongside a Morgan racing programme.

A number of drivers make a very welcome return to F3 Cup this weekend after varying times away. Championship stalwarts Magic Motorsport will return with Mark Harrison at the wheel of a Dallara F305 Opel Speiss, and the family-run team will be keen to return to the strong form they showed when they last raced in the championship in 2014.

Matt Payne and Richard Purcell return to tackle the Midlands circuit, in a F305 Mercedes and a F308 Toyota respectively. The Trophy Class (for 1997-2004 cars) will be represented by James Ledamun in his F300 Toyota, and Geoffrey Hoodless has worked tirelessly to repair his stunning March 813 Toyota, which was badly damaged during testing early in 2015, to contest the Masters Class (1981-1996).

A familiar team, though with a new face at the wheel, comes in the form of Mike Gale's Gale Force Racing. The team has enjoyed much success in previous F3 Cup seasons, and will run newcomer Chris Kite in his F393 Ford Zetec in the Invitation Class this weekend.

The action will kick-off with qualifying at 11:45 on Saturday morning. This weekend will continue the popular format introduced in 2015 of two 15 minute races (15:20 on Saturday and 10:45 on Sunday) followed by a 20 minute feature race on Sunday afternoon (17:15). Race reports will be available on the F3 Cup website, as well as live timing, with updates available on the F3 Cup Twitter and Facebook pages.