Van Amersfoort Racing enter the 2024 campaign looking to build on the positive foundations laid in their first couple of seasons in Formula 3. Since debuting in the Championship in 2022 they have entered the winners’ circle on three occasions and achieved multiple podium finishes.
Last season saw them take seventh in the Championship after placing sixth the year before, but as they look to make up further ground, there is still plenty for VAR to be happy about entering 2024.
That includes their driver line-up, which sees a returning face in Tommy Smith, an experienced former VAR driver in Sophia Floersch coming back, and an exciting rookie in Noel León set to race in the Dutch teams’ colours. But do they have what it takes to continue that winning feeling and possibly vault the team into the top five?
Returning for a second season in the category and with VAR, Smith is very much a beloved and popular member of the team, with CEO Rob Niessink quick to praise the character of the young Australian.
Niessink is also keen to see Smith use the experience he gained from his rookie season to improve his fortunes in 2024. His best result came at his home race in Melbourne where he finished 12th in the Feature race.
However, arguably his finest performance came at Silverstone where he used the conditions to his advantage. While his rivals opted to stay on the slicks on a damp track, his gamble to go on to the wet tyres nearly paid off as he came from the back of the field to finish 11th on the road before a post-race penalty.
Smith showed good improvement for the most part, especially at the final two rounds of the season at Spa-Francorchamps and Monza where he had two of his best qualifying performances – with his P15 grid slot on Italian soil his best result.
Ahead of the new campaign, Smith is currently in New Zealand where he has been competing in the Formula Regional Oceania Championship, and after just two rounds of the competition, he has already stood on the podium.
He will be hopeful that the experience gained from last season and the momentum he built up at the tail end of the 2023 F3 campaign will put him in a good position to hit the ground running in 2024.
Floersch, on the other hand, is a new addition to the team for this season although she is someone that they know quite well. The Alpine-backed driver has previous with the Dutch team having raced for them at both the Formula 3 European and Formula Regional European Championships.
She has also taken part in the Macau Grand Prix twice in VAR colours, the first time being in 2018, while the latest opportunity came last year when she was the team’s lead car at the chequered flag in 11th.
On paper, it is her third season in Formula 3, so she comes into the year with plenty experience. However, Floersch has already admitted that it feels like her second go round in the category, considering the first - which was in 2020 - took place during COVID.
She also comes into this year with plenty to build on having impressed last year racing for new team PHM AIX Racing. Her six points scored at Spa-Francorchamps when she finished seventh were the German team’s only points last year, with Floersch close to adding to that tally on plenty of occasions.
She has stated that her goal is to try and consistently score points this year and her performances in 2023 bode well for her chances, especially as she will be racing for VAR who proved to be competitive last season.
She will also be hopeful of improving her qualifying performances, with her best result coming at Monza when she lined up 17th. If she can elevate her one lap production, it will put her in a stronger position to score the points she is targeting.
León is the lone rookie in the VAR lineup, but he comes with an excellent record in single seater racing that has seen him win four titles. The most recent of those came last year in the Euroformula Open Championship, which he won at a canter thanks to his seven victories.
The Mexican driver, however, openly admits finishing in the top 10 regularly is his goal for the year, although he is aware that he has plenty to learn, with tyre management and race runs an area of intense focus.
But his post-season tests at Jerez, Barcelona, and Imola must have done wonders to ease the transition and to get him up to speed. León will also be driving for a team who have a history of helping their rookies achieve success – with Franco Colapinto’s two wins and five podiums in 2022 an example of what is possible.
If the VAR newcomer adapts well, he has shown in his previous categories that the pace and ability is there. However, only time will tell if he can translate those successes to Formula 3.