Julian Westwood in the RF92.

Van Diemen

Having been such a dominant force in the junior formulae for so many years, it is perhaps surprising that Van Diemen have never had a serious crack at F3. Boss of Van Diemen, Ralph Firman has been involved in racing since the mid 1960s firstly working on brother-in-law Jim Russell’s racing school cars and then preparing other cars including in 1971, Carlos Pace’s F3 car. The first Van Diemen was built in 1973 for Tasmanian driver Ross Ambrose (Van Diemen’s Land being the old name for Tasmania), this Formula Ford chassis was very successful and soon other orders followed. Since then, despite the attention of numerous other manufacturers, Firman’s company have produced a succession of highly competitive machinery (with only the occasional lapse). Van Diemen seem more than happy to remain in their specialised market place.


When Van Diemen took over the ailing GRD F3 concern at the end of 1975 they produced the VG376 which was basically the GRD 375 with improved aerodynamic bodywork. The design however was well past its sell by date and almost no results were achieved except the odd top ten finish by Jac Nelleman, with a best of 4th at Zolder.


Van Diemen returned to F3 in 1992 with their first composite chassis which was designed by Dave Baldwin and built by Precision Composites, the same company that built the F1 Jordan. The front suspension was unusual in that it utilised a monoshock design to reduce the size of the monocoque. The rear of the car featured a tubular steel engine bay. The RF92 ran reasonably well when Andrew Thorby joined from Ralt to help develop it. Additionally Julian Westwood was bought back from Japan to race it and took a couple of thirds at the end of season races but it obviously wasn’t what Van Diemen wanted and the project was dropped.
The car also raced in Germany and France, driven by Franc ten Wolde in Germany it sat on the front row of the third round of the German Championship but retired early in the race. Results were indifferent after this with mid-grid qualifying at best and the only significant result a 7th at the Avusrennen. At the end of June the car stopped racing, it appeared again in some non-championships a few years later where it sat on the back of the grid. Japanese results were similarly disappointing with a best finish of nineteenth.
There were reports in early 1993 of an Andrew Thorby designed RF93, it was due to have a full length composite tub with a cast oil tank/gearbox module. It never seems to have seen the light of day if it was ever built at all.

1976 376
Tommy “Slim” Borgudd, Claude Crespin, Werner Fischer, Günter Hölker, Wolfgang Locher, Jac Nelleman, Gunnar Nordström, Jean-Louis Schlesser, Henrik Spellerberg.

1977 376
Michael Bender.

1992 RF92
“Jules” Boullion, Yukihiro Hane, Russell Ingall, Jason Plato, Tsutomu Shibuya, Julian Westwood, Franc ten Wolde, Hiroharu Yamauchi.

1995 RF92
Kristofer Wozniak.

1996 RF92
Alfred Ehgartner.

1997 RF92
Alfred Ehgartner, Guido Geisler.

The Van Diemen VG376 clearly showing its GRD ancestry.
The RF92 under construction at the Van Diemen works.
The RF92 in profile.
Early in the season the anhedral front wing (see top of page) was changed for a more conventional one (Jason Plato driving).