After guiding F3 rookie Stephen Jelley to three race wins in the 2004 British F3 Scholarship class Championship, Performance Racing were the first team to get their hands on the new Neil Brown Engineering Mugen-Honda engine set for next year's re-christened National class.

Braving wintry conditions at Donington Park last Thursday, Crash.Net caught up with Performance Racing's chief engineer Duncan Williams and captured his initial thoughts on an engine that could re-fire the class in 2005.

Crash.Net
After half a day's running is there anything that you can glean from the new engine?

Duncan Williams
Yes, we've got a good feel for the engine now, Stephen [Jelley] is very pleased with how it runs. There seems to be a similar output and performance to what he's been driving this year in the B class Championship. The Neil Brown guys have been ever so helpful to us in getting this car up and running for today. We've had quite a busy week in getting this car up and running because obviously this car is completely new to us for although the technology is very similar we've got a new data logging system to get our heads round, which has been causing us a few problems today, minor problems.

But its looking very good, we're looking forward to next year, it's going to be a very, very good championship and this engine should encourage a few more teams into the Championship.

Crash.Net
The idea of introducing the new engine was to reduce costs and increase participation. Do you think the new engine makes the National class more accessible to drivers coming up and compared to the engine you used last year where are the main areas of difference that you've discovered?

DW
The main areas of difference is the longevity of the engine which will cut the costs down, there's fewer rebuilds per season and also where its now a one make formula there's no update costs, the costs are actually fixed, which again should help encourage more teams into the Championship.

Also Neil Brown has engineered this engine so its going to be a bit more durable. Obviously being a junior class here in F3 the drivers are a little bit less experienced and they're more likely to make mistakes gear changing and hurt the engines, certainly with the A class engines which were much more highly tuned and they've engineered the engine with that in mind so it's a bit more durable.

Hopefully they haven't lost too much power and from what we've seen today it seems to be very, very similar to the old scholarship class so it should be very interesting.

Crash.Net
There was talk that they'd reduce the weight limit of the National Class cars if the engine was a bit lacking. Do you think they'll need to do that?

DW
It's difficult to say at this moment because we haven't really been pushing the car today. Obviously its just been a systems check this morning and so the afternoon we'll hopefully push a bit harder.

Reducing the weight isn't really possible because the cars are very close to the weight limit anyway. You couldn't reduce them significantly, you know five kilos will not make a difference to the performance.

Neil Brown Engineering tell me that they have got a little bit in hand for performance if they need to tune the engines a little bit higher because at the moment they are very safe and I think they should stick with that. And if there is a performance deficit, Neil Brown could get a little bit more performance out of the engine but I don't see that as a problem.

Crash.Net
As a team who've been faithful to the National/Scholarship class, what are the initial advantages of the engine that you've seen that will help bring Performance Racing on next year?

DW
Well you know what your engine costs are going to be at the start of the year, hopefully there will be less of these unforeseen costs with things like engine damage and there aren't going to be any upgrades coming out through the season, or if there are they'll be covered by the leasing costs we've got anyway. Neil Brown have agreed to freeze the costs for two years with leasing, so that's very good again from the point of view of introducing new teams.

Crash.Net
SRO has stated that they really want to improve the overall package with the National Class. What are the things you've seen which could be a lot better than 2004 in terms of exposure that Performance Racing could get next year?

DW
Well today s a good example. I mean there's been a massive amount of interest today in this new class and its been very good for us to have the first car out today. What we really need is more teams here and I hope that these fixed costs help.

There's much less uncertainty for the teams now whether you're going to have a competitive engine, you know that your engine is the same as all the other teams and you know that if you're successful then you know that its down to the driver and to the team. Its not down to, you know 'that team or that driver's got a better engine than me' or 'they've got more or they've spent more money on their engines'. Not that that's ever been an issue or a problem with Performance Racing but its nice to know.

Crash.Net
So you think that the new regulations have made the championship more accessible for next year?

DW
I hope so yes. Certainly something needed to be done to attract more teams to F3 and the scholarship class in this last year hasn't been very well supported, there were three cars on the grid at one stage, but if we can get eight or ten cars in the National class that would be very good for the National class and for F3 in general. And you know the A class could do with a few more teams maybe and so maybe this could introduce more teams into F3 and make the formula stronger on the whole.

Crash.Net
Thank you.