Formula 4 Comes to America

Photo courtesy photosbyjuha.com
Photo courtesy photosbyjuha.com

The Sports Car Club of America, in conjunction with the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States, announced the arrival of FIA Formula 4 competition in the U. S., with SCCA Pro Racing to organize and sanction a five-venue, 15-race professional series starting in 2016.

SCCA Pro Racing will partner with chassis manufacturer Crawford Composites, engine supplier Honda Performance Development and Pirelli Tire North America to develop the spec chassis/engine/tire package to be utilized in the new series, which will be homologated in accordance with Federation International de l’Automobile Formula 4 specification.

The series will utilize the new, American-built Crawford carbon-composite chassis and Honda K20 C1 2.0-liter engine, producing the FIA-mandated 158 horsepower.

Intended as the “first step out of karting” for young racers, additional FIA requirements for Formula 4 include consistent organizational standards, technical fairness, stability and cost containment, with a full season of F4 United States Championship competition anticipated to cost approximately $115,000 in 2016.

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kb58
kb58 Dork
9/21/15 2:15 p.m.
with a full season of F4 United States Championship competition anticipated to cost approximately $115,000 in 2016.

Must be nice...

Tyler H
Tyler H SuperDork
9/21/15 2:44 p.m.
kb58 wrote:
with a full season of F4 United States Championship competition anticipated to cost approximately $115,000 in 2016.
Must be nice...

I've seen people show up at HPDEs that would spend that much or more for 15 races. I think the missing qualifier there is 'if you don't hit anything.'

kb58
kb58 Dork
9/21/15 2:48 p.m.
Tyler H wrote:
kb58 wrote:
with a full season of F4 United States Championship competition anticipated to cost approximately $115,000 in 2016.
Must be nice...

I've seen people show up at HPDEs that would spend that much or more for 15 races...'

Must be nice!

trigun7469
trigun7469 Dork
9/21/15 3:01 p.m.

"first step out of karting" and you spend $115,000....Yes I see the parking lot and the kart races and 3 spare chassis and engines, but 115K still seems like a big stretch.

drdisque
drdisque Reader
9/21/15 3:10 p.m.

There's a true "first step out of karting" series coming soon that will fill the void left by Skip Barber National that won't cost no six figures. For what they're asking for F4, you can run a lean operation in USF2000 and run in front of big crowds on big time race weekends, on big time tracks and have a chance to win a ride in Pro Mazda. I don't see the ROI in this F4 series and that's why it will fail.

Type Q
Type Q Dork
9/21/15 6:11 p.m.

Is the answer to a question no one asked?

chada75
chada75 New Reader
9/21/15 7:03 p.m.

In reply to Type Q:

Thats how most series start (and fail).

fasted58
fasted58 UltimaDork
9/21/15 7:15 p.m.

Somehow I remembered (and hoped) this was about a 750cc MC Formula car class I saw years ago. Maybe they just called it that back then or I been mistaken as Googles don't have anything relevant now. Actually a economic 750cc MC Formula class would be the logical step up from carts instead of $100K+ buy ins.

mazdeuce
mazdeuce PowerDork
9/21/15 8:02 p.m.

$100k for the year, but what does the car cost? What tires? Is there anyplace else to run, or are you pretty much limited to spending $100k on these races?

rob_lewis
rob_lewis SuperDork
9/22/15 2:53 p.m.

I think it's good to get some FIA attention here in the US. I just hope that it becomes successful and a decent series. Perhaps it will lead us to more American drivers in F1. Only time will tell.

I can totally understand the comment of the next step from karts. With Verstappen, the FIA has already started locking down on young drivers getting into F1 without much open wheel experience and this will help to alleviate some of that. Furthermore, the costs aren't that bad for many of the drivers competing on the national karting level. $200k+ budgets to race karts are not uncommon anymore. Six figure motor budgets for karts are unfortunately more common right now. Plus, it's a prime opportunity for this to appear. The karting industry is very fragmented right now. There is no single championship series and, instead, a slew of independent promoters all trying to cater to a very small market. Many of your top tier drivers are getting frustrated by this fragmentation and are looking to move to cars much sooner than they normally would. 13 year olds in cars are becoming commonplace because most are realizing that they could be in car for the same price as racing karts on the national level....

Furthermore, karting in the US doesn't compare to overseas. In international karting events, American drivers are mid to back of the pack. It's a big deal for an American driver to score in the top ten. Not to say that a few haven't reached the podium, but all of them did it by karting in Europe a year or more to get there. NO driver has come straight from racing in the US to winning an international karting race.

With a US F4 series, perhaps, the American drivers can start racing on a similar package as the Europeans do and can start breaking into those series. We all know, save for Rossi just recently, that an American hasn't raced in F1 in a long time. A top American driver in F1 has been even longer.

Regarding price, from what I've read, the $115,000 budget includes the car, fuel, tires, practice and entry fees. Broken parts, extra practice and tuning will add to that cost. I would say that comparatively, it's still pretty reasonable in cost.

I've already heard of several karters looking into this for next year. I would not be surprised if over half of the initial field is comprised people straight out of karts. I haven't found the age restrictions yet, but if it's fairly open, I'd guess that at least a quarter of them will be under 16.

-Rob

Adrian_Thompson
Adrian_Thompson UltimaDork
9/25/15 12:14 p.m.

This is potentially a really good deal, although I have doubts that it will take off and am concerned that it will end up like so many other one make series and die on the vine. I really hope that Rob is correct and that it attracts a lot of young sub 16 year olds who would other wise be racing karts. One issue is while the rest of the world allows 14 year olds to race in their Junior formula.

The cars are an absolute bargain. The SCCA article says they will meat the FIA mandated price cap of $45K plus a one year engine lease for $6.6K, so for only $51.6K you have a read to go carbon fiber race car with engine, paddle shift trans etc. Yes I am totally serious when I say 'only $50K' Look at the average new car transaction price these days. According to USA Today back in May it was $33,560. So for 50% more than the average new car you can buy a brand state of the art racing car. Still think that's expensive, a brand new Formula First (Formula Vee) chassis kit costs $10K with nothing. You need to add everything to that, and that's an old school steel tube chassis to which you have to add you old VW box and mechanical gear linkage, shocks etc. I don't have the money, but there are literally millions of people who do, although less than a fraction of those people will have any interest in doing so.

SCCA don't own Formula 4, it's an FIA formula so I hope NASA run a championship too. It would be great if hundreds of these cars are sold over the next 5-10 years which means they will become cheap on the used market down the line. Imagine how much fun a car like this would be at a hillclimb or similar. Go poke around the web, a used late model Formula F (Modern Formula Ford with Honda Fit engine) can easily cost $50K, that makes this look even more of a smoking deal.

HEre's hoping for good things

Driven5
Driven5 Dork
9/25/15 2:12 p.m.

When you talk about the next step up from karts, physically that'd probably be a F500/F600 type of car...But this is talking in terms of the next rung up the ladder towards F1. Affordability in reference to climbing that ladder, is totally different than affordability as we know it...But that "must be nice" level of expenditures already kicks in even at the karting level. So while the price for your first full season buy-in may cause sticker shock to those of us who don't have the means to run a nationally competitive professional road racing campaign in any type of car, it actually seems much more reasonable than it looks when put in the context of other racing series'. Consider that it's not all that hard to imagine a top tier driver spending half that, or more, just to buy and run a professionally built nationally competitive Spec Miata, with a professionally built nationally competitive engine, for a 15 race nationally competitive season...And that's just at the club level.

I hope it's a wildly successful class, as I'd love to see enough used hardware hit the market to turn it into a well attended club level class as well.

rob_lewis
rob_lewis SuperDork
9/25/15 2:42 p.m.

To Adrian, I didn't think NASA had any open wheel classes nationally. I wouldn't see them adding this just to pick it up. Besides, I don't see the FIA having two sactioning bodies running their series. It would dilute the idea of a F4 United States Champion.

Driven5 said: When you talk about the next step up from karts, physically that'd probably be a F500/F600 type of car

I don't think F500/F600 cars are powerful enough to challenge a national kart racer. Quite a few of my son's friends (at 12-15 years old) have started moving into cars. One tried spec Miata and was bored because it was too easy to drive. To equate the power and G's, only wide tire formula cars seem to compare. Not that driving a spec Miata isn't a challenge, per se, just that it doesn't compare in sheer physical violence. Remember, most of your Indy and F1 drivers drive karts on the weekend to stay in shape. Schumacher did a year of karts before returning to F1 to get back in racing shape.

I remember being shocked when I got my son a new MyChron and it was recording 3.5 G's at nationals in several of the turns. He and the kart were 235 lbs, which related to just over 800 lbs. in the turns. And, he was 8 years old.....

-Rob

Driven5
Driven5 Dork
9/25/15 6:22 p.m.
rob_lewis wrote:
Driven5 said:When you talk about the next step up from karts, physically that'd probably be a F500/F600 type of car.
I don't think F500/F600 cars are powerful enough to challenge a national kart racer.

Agreed. I meant that more in terms of them being mechanically almost right in between a kart and a 'proper' formula car...They also seem to fall more in line with GRM'er financial expectations for the GRM driver development ladder.

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