Vicky Piria becomes first female GP3 racer; Ellinas, Machado and Visoiu also sign up

Italian racer Vicky Piria will become the first female to contest the GP3 Series this season when she competes for Trident Racing.

A relative veteran of Italian and European Formula Abarth with Prema Powerteam, the 18-year-old enjoyed a best finish of 8th in the final round at Monza, propelling Piria to 15th overall in the Italian category.
Piria is hoping to become the first female to enter a Formula 1 event since Giovanna Amati’s shortlived appearance with the ailing Brabham team in 1992*. She begins her test programme with the team at Portugal’s Estoril circuit today.

Trident are also making their debut in GP3 alongside their GP2 campaign, having previously competed in Auto GP and International Formula Master. The team have yet to announced their other two drivers for the 2012 campaign; however Antonio Spavone and Nico Muller are due to test with them this week.
The Italian squad are replacing Addax, who have left the series to concentrate on their efforts in GP2.

Trident weren’t the only squad busy on the driver-signing front. Marussia Manor Racing filled their quota of three drivers last week, when they announced Tio Ellinas and Fabiano Machado are to partner Dmitry Suranovich for the coming season.

Ellinas moves to GP3 following a successful single season in Formula Renault UK. The Cypriot** took two wins on his way to 3rd in the series, albeit still quite a way behind eventual champion Alex Lynn. In twenty races, Ellinas only missed the podium on six occasions.
It has been a quick progression through cars for Ellinas. After several years competing in various ranks of karting, the Cypriot moved to British Formula Ford in 2010, picking up three race wins and 4th in the championship. With a single Formula Ford season under his belt, Ellinas joined Atech Reid GP in Formula Renault UK.

Meanwhile Machado – the 2011 Formula 3 Sudamericana champion fills out the Marussia Manor stable. Despite already being 25-years-old, Machado is a relatively recent addition to car racing. The Brazilian competed in karts until 2009 prior to moving to Formula 3.
In his title winning year, Machado won an astonishing seventeen of the twenty-five races for the Cesário Fórmula squad during the championship, although only he and series runner-up Ronaldo Fritas competed in every round.

Backed by the Schahin Group – a Brazilian body servicing the engineering, energy production, real estate and telecommunications needs for a developing Brazilian market – Macahdo is taking his first steps into European racing, beginning in earnest with the GP3 test in Estoril.

Last but not least, Jenzer Motorsport have revealed their first signing of the season – 16-year-old Robert Visoiu has joined the Swiss squad. Visoiu impressed Jenzer initially at the winter tests in Valencia and Jerez, where he produced times placing him in the top three of the sheets.

Like Piria, Visoiu competed in the Italian and European Formula Abarth championships, with Visoiu taking a single win in each category (at Misano and Barcelona). The Romanian was rewarded with 4th overall in the European championship.
Visoiu will be pulling double-duty this season, as the youngster has confirmed his participation in the Italian Formula 3 Series with for A1GP squad Team Ghinzani***.

The opening two-day GP3 test of the 2012 season begins at Estoril today. Further sessions at Barcelona and Silverstone are set to take place prior to the season opening in May.

* {note 1}
While Amati was the last female to enter a Formula 1 weekend (Brazilian GP, April 3rd-5th, 1992), only a mere two women have even tested an F1 car in that period.
In 2005, returning IndyCar racer Katherine Legge enjoyed a two-day session with Minardi at Vallelunga, while Maria de Villota completed a 200-mile test with Renault at Paul Ricard last August.
Former racer and IndyCar team boss Sarah Fisher ran several laps in a McLaren at Indianapolis in 2002; however that was considered promotional venture to help boost Formula 1’s popularity in the United States and was not considered an official test session.

** {note 2}
As far as I can tell, Tio Ellinas is the sole Cypriot driver currently on the Formula 1 ladder system. There were a few youngsters here and there in Karting during the last decade, but none made the jump to car racing.
39-year-old Doros Loucaides did become a convert to motor racing in recent years, when he competed in the FIA GT3 European Championship in 2009. Loucaides also competed in the 2007 Formula Palmer Audi Series, where he finished joint-20th overall.

*** {note 3}
Despite being in various categories of Formula 3 since the year 2000, Team Ghinzani have achieved relatively little in the way of success.
Team Ghinzani – led by ex-Formula 1 racer Piercarlo Ghinzani of Osella fame – achieved a best result of 2nd overall in the 2005 Italian Formula 3 Series with Alexander Müller, but have mostly been midfield squad in all other campaigns.
In the early part of the last decade, the team ran the likes of Robert Doornbos, Álvaro Parente and the unforgettable Bjorn Wirdheim****, but few if any of their other runners have made a significant mark on track.

**** {note 3b}
2003 Formula 3000 race of Monaco. Just YouTube it.

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