When German Formula 3 Went Oval Racing

F3-Oval-Lausitzring.jpg
Oval racing has never really taken off in Europe, despite CART's attempts in the early 2000s. They were not the final open wheelers to take to the speedways, though.

In the American racing scene, oval racing is a quintessential part of motorsport culture - so much so that the stereotype of US racing drivers not knowing how to turn right exists. Of course, this is entirely false, and European racers who have tried their hand at oval racing will attest to the discipline's difficulty and intricacies.

The EuroNASCAR series even runs on a short oval in the Netherlands, the Raceway Venray. However, the best-known European circuits of this kind are located in the UK and in Germany. The former is the home of the Rockingham Motor Speedway (not to be confused with the Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina), the latter has the Lausitzring.

Both tracks were built at the turn of the millenium to host US-style oval racing in Europe, trying to capitalize on the international popularity of CART at the time. The IndyCar World Series had infamously split into the all-oval Indy Racing League and CART, the latter still featuring the star drivers and teams. In 2001, CART flew over the Atlantic for a two-race European leg of its season.


The Lausitzring round infamously almost ended in tragedy, as it was at this event that Alex Zanardi had his horrible crash with Alex Tagliani in which he lost both legs. The German 500 was stopped, with Kenny Bräck being declared the winner. The Swede came second to Gil de Ferran a week later at Rockingham.

In 2002, Rockingham was the only European race on the CART schedule, with Christian Fittipaldi being victorious at the UK oval. While the event was replaced by a race at Brands Hatch for 2003, the Lausitzring did return the following year. The track had filed for insolvency in 2002, leading to the cancellation of the race.

Before the 2003 race got going, Zanardi famously completed the 13 laps he would have needed to win the race in 2001 in a car equipped with hand controls. His fastest lap would have put him fifth on the grid for the actual race, which was won by Sébastien Bourdais. This was the final time a major open-wheel oval race took place in Europe.

F3 Takes To The Lausitzring Oval​

Many believe that the 2003 German 500 was the final time the Lausitzring oval layout was used for a race. Of course, the facility has various road course configurations, which are still used by DTM, for instance. But The final hurrah for EuroSpeedway (as the track was called originally) oval racing took place in 2005 and 2006 - in Formula 3 cars.

Indeed, the German Formula 3 Cup ran at the Lausitzring oval twice, dubbing their event the Eastside 100. The events used the usual two-race format. Unlike all other events on the schedule, the oval races used rolling starts.

A few drivers that went on to become well-known were on the entry lists for the races, including current Haas F1 driver Nico Hülkenberg, Cadillac Racing WEC driver Renger van der Zande, or Ho-Pin Tung (IndyCar, WEC, and more). The 2005 winners were Jan Seyffarth and Ferdinand Kool, while in 2006, Tung and Kool took the honors. Weirdly, hardly any footage of either event is available online, but the entry lists, results and more are still around for both 2005 and 2006.

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Instead of turning left onto the infield where the car exits the pits in the background, F3 continued at full throttle into oval Turn 1.

For 2007, the event would not return, however. In Friday practice for the 2006 edition, Briton Joey Foster crashed heavily, suffering a back injury that required multiple surgeries to fix. After this and despite being popular with spectators, the F3 Cup decided not to return to the oval - and even though it was a junior formula, the F3 cars posted lap speeds north of 250 kph (155.3 mph). The fastest CART speed at the Lausitzring was recorded by Tony Kanaan in 2001, clocking in at 338.5 kph (210.3 mph).

Since the Eastside 100 events, the Lausitzring's oval has not been used for racing anymore. Rockingham's oval configuration saw its last racing action in 2007 as part of the ASCAR Racing Series' calendar. Unfortunately, the UK track was closed for racing purposes in 2018.

Meanwhile, the Lausitzring is still operational, but the oval would require significant upgrades to host events again. DTM has been using the oval's Turn 1 since 2021 as part of their road course configuration - Turns 2 and 3 are still waiting for race cars flying through in anger, however.

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At least in sim racing, this is still possible. A mod version of the track, including the oval layout, is available for Assetto Corsa here on OverTake, courtesy of @Fuzo. Simply grab the track, hop into your favorite Formula 3 car rendition - the RSR Formula 3 by @Andrea Lojelo, for example - or even a late 90s CART beast, and have some superspeedway fun in virtual Europe. It does not look like that will return to real Europe anytime soon.

Did you know about the German Formula 3 Cup racing at the Lausitzring oval twice before? Would you like to see series return to it? Let us know on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

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