The experience gained in 1998 during the International Formula 3000 Championship had greatly influenced the choice for the team in 1999.
After completing some winter tests and checking that all the available team choices were not sufficiently equipped to face a championship at the top level, I therefore decided to race for the Martello team with whom I had raced in 1997, this was because they had the right determination to aim for the title of the new Italian Formula 3000 Championship, but above all I would have the opportunity to once again work with my previous Engineer! (Mick Kouros)
Together we did an excellent job with the cars before the beginning of the Championship having completed several tests in Italy and in France. In June at the Vallelunga circuit the first race took place.
I did very well during the various free practice sessions, the set of tires I used in qualifying did not work as well as expected I had qualified sixth and finished in 4th place for the race.
The second event was held at the historic Monza Circuit. Racing at Monza with a car with 500bhp is quite another thing altogether, in fact at the end of the main straight we approached nearly 300 km/h!
I had a great result finishing in second place, it was a hard race having made a decision together with my team that was also a very risky choice, this was to run with very low downforce to gain a few extra kilometres on the straights, however from mid-race onwards the tires began to heat up too much this in turn raising the pressures making the car more slippery to control.
Then we went to Sicily in Pergusa; this was also a very fast track full of high curbs and tight chicanes.
During the free practice session coming out of the tightest chicane, I hit a very higher curb at a slightly wrong angle; the car ran wide on the exit outwards the outside edge hitting the barriers heavily.
The team managed to rebuild the car for the next day when I qualified in fourth position and then went on to win that race.
In August the next event was a race held in UK at the Donington Park circuit, a circuit being very dear to me, both because I had many good races and because in 1995 I found myself surrounded by flames with my Formula Ford race car.
The English race was dominated by the bad weather that made the conditions of the circuit very difficult; I started in fourth position after qualifying, halfway through the race my car flew over the barriers due to an aquaplaning, not the result I was hoping for.
Back again in Italy, we had two events at Misano Adriatico; the first wasn’t very exciting, qualifying in fourth position and then fifth at the finish line. I was overtaken at the start and didn’t have enough speed to overtake.
The second round of Misano became decisive because we were approaching the end of the Championship and it was of fundamental importance to collect as many points as possible.
In qualifying I scored the fifth fastest time, then having made an excellent start and with the complicity of the 2 drivers ahead of me who touched each other during their battle, I had managed to overtake them and win the race.
This victory set the path for me to challenge for the title however this was not yet mathematically conquered.
The last championship race would take place at Imola, during the free practice I was fine, fast and focused.
As soon as the qualifying session started a violent downpour struck, with heavy rain falling the climb after the Tosa corner an enormous amount of water caused a frightening accident this causing me crash into the wall while taking avoiding action.
This incident caused a dislocation protrusion to my vertebrae and the complete reconstruction of my car for the race the next day. Not having been able to complete even one qualifying lap I had to start last in last position, I managed to recover up to 9th place and this was still enough to win the Formula 3000 Championship title.
The prize for the winner of the championship consisted of carrying out a test with the Minardi Formula 1 team, the dream of my whole life was about to become reality.