Formula 3 European Championship race winner Enaam Ahmed is the latest European star to join the All-Japan F3 Championship for this season.
The 19-year-old Londoner – who briefly led the 2018 Euro F3 standings – will line up with ThreeBond Racing for an attack on the Japanese F3 Championship.
The moves comes after Ahmed realised that he would not raise the budget required to compete in the new Formula 1-supporting FIA F3 Championship, which has succeeded Euro F3 and the GP3 Series.
“In Europe things were getting really expensive, and it was very unrealistic to try to stay there,” Ahmed told Motorsport.com.
“I couldn’t get the backing, so I decided to become a professional driver at the age of 19 and take the offer from ThreeBond Racing.”
ThreeBond, which uses its own Tomei-built engine in the ubiquitous Dallara chassis, took its F3 project back to Japan in 2017 after five years of supplying powerplants to T-Sport in Europe.
With a car run by Drago Corse, Alex Palou took third in the points that season, before ThreeBond took the programme in-house last year, when Honda junior Ukyo Sasahara netted the same result.
Palou returned to Europe last season to partner Ahmed at Hitech GP in Euro F3, but has used his reputation in Japan as the foundation to clinch a Super Formula seat with Nakajima Racing for 2019.
Ahmed is convinced that he can emulate Palou and race at the highest levels of Japanese racing.
“This will be something I’ll look back on in 10 years’ time and be glad I did it,” he said.
“ThreeBond approached me in December, and then I did a shootout at Okayama in January against another driver [believed to be ex-Honda F3 protege Hiroki Otsu] and I went quicker than him, so they decided to go with me.
“It felt really good to drive a proper F3 car on proper tyres with downforce.
“At Silverstone before the Macau GP we were testing low-downforce and back-to-backed the Hankooks [from Euro F3] with the Yokohamas [used in Macau and in Japanese F3] and went two seconds quicker with the Yokohamas.
“But at Okayama it was the first time I’d driven the tyres with downforce, and the car felt great.”
Ahmed will be up against fellow European F3 refugee Sacha Fenestraz (with the new B-Max/Motopark collaboration), Formula Renault Eurocup race winner Charles Milesi (with the Carlin-assisted OIRC Team YTB) and TOM’S Toyota pair Ritomo Miyata and Kazuto Kotaka.
“I don’t really know if we have a title chance, to be honest,” he said, “but we’ll definitely be the underdogs.”
Pre-season official Japanese F3 testing kicks off at Suzuka next week, before the opening round at the same venue on 20-21 April.
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