You are currently viewing archive for May 2009
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
I've been loosely tracking the progress of the new FIA F2 series since it was announced last year. I'm interested to see how the series goes this year. The series features a modern chassis designed by Williams F1, a 400HP turbocharged Audi 1.8L engine, 8 double race weekends on prominent European circuits, and the champion gets a test the Williams F1 team. Its an arrive and drive deal but significant setup changes to the cars are allowed. All this is for a fraction of the multi-millions required for GP2. The exact costs aren't on the website anymore, but I recall them being a little higher then the 200,000 euros originally announced, but still very affordable for potentially being one step away from Formula One.

The driver lineup features some well known names. The series is organized and promoted by MotorSport Vision, which also runs Formula Palmer Audi, another arrive and drive series. With Palmer Audi being just 55000 pounds a season and offering tests and a partial scholarship to F2, could this be a new affordable path to F1?

First weekend is May 29-31 at Valencia supporting WTCC.
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
Volkswagen has announced a series of karting qualifers for the TDI cup. See the link for details, but here are the basics:

  • 6 separate 1 day qualifying events at F1 outdoors in Rotax karts
  • 10 karting finalists move on to the final driver selection; however, to secure your spot in the final selection, you have to post 3k within 2 weeks, and the rest of the 42k with 60 days of the qualifying event
  • The final driver selection is similar to years past. 25 drivers will be selected and if you aren't selected, the 45k is returned. The top karting qualifier will win the 45k entry fee for the season.

The rules on the website still leave a lot of questions, but you can contact the organizers for information and they may or may not provide the information you're looking for.

The exact criteria for selection is unknown, so I have no idea how much of a advantage people with a lot of karting experience and experience on the F1 outdoor track will have over those who don't. Also I don't know if there will be other ways to qualify for the TDI cup besides this and iRacing.

Although you now get a chance to participate in the selection process for much cheaper ($995), considering you have to pay the whole $45,000 entry fee BEFORE the final selection, it ultimately does not make the series more accessible then before. Although still a nearly impossible task without the right connections, I image raising sponsorship once you are selected as a driver for a series like the TDI cup is a lot easier then before the selection. Even though the top qualifying karter wins the season entry fee, they still need have that money to post the fee themselves to attend the final selection event! There are 6 karting qualifiers and a max of 10 drivers qualifying from each one, and considering in previous years there were from what I know less then 60 drivers at the final selection, my feeling is it will still come down to mainly who has the money to race.

Still, I think the TDI cup is one of the best values for aspiring racers. I like that the maximum age remains at 26 instead of the rumored 24, which gives guys who got started later in the game a chance, and that the entry fee remains at $45,000, pretty ridiculously cheap for a series that races on pro weekends and has a TV deal.
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
It's nice to see several series in the formula car "ladder" seem to be doing well despite the economic recession, although others are struggling.

Indy Lights has really picked up strength in the past few years, after being pretty worthless in the early part of the decade. The current field is about 25 deep and features many capable drivers. The "unification" has helped the series as it is the direct feeder to IndyCar.

On the other hand, the demise of Champcar has really hurt the Atlantics series, although it is still surviving. The series is now kinda a feeder to nowhere but ALMS and Grand Am, and not that much cheaper then Indy Lights. Car counts are barely in double digits this year, although there are some pretty prominent drivers running it. I'm a little surprised the big prize purses and championship prize (a million bucks!) hasn't attracted more teams to the series. The Atlantic Championship is worth more then the Champcar championship in its last few years!

Below that, Star Mazda has really picked up strength this year. The race in Utah this weekend boosts a competitive field of 33! entrants. It's not surprising to me that Formula BMW has been struggling. Reportedly it costs the same as Star Mazda and offers IMO a lot less - no TV package, no big championship prize, etc. On the plus side it does have the international connection, which could be a benefit for guys trying to make it in europe.

At the bottom of what I'd consider the pro ladder is the F2000 championship series. Here's an interesting article about the series posted on their own website. The series has around 30-40 drivers! While star mazda and atlantics now run totally different cars from the SCCA, the F2000 series runs pretty much the same rules as the SCCA FC class, which allows club racers to cross over easily. Sure, there's no composite chassis and paddle shifters, but do you really need that to start out and have good racing? It just seems like a relatively affordable way to enter pro formula car racing, and I think there's a place for that. And they're also doing this without any manufacturer support.

So in the end it seems to me like the series that are offering a good value are succeeding. Not that surprising I guess. However, I'm not really sure what needs to happen to strengthen the ladder overall and make it sustainable. I'm sure some of these series will come and go in the next few years.

Thats just my opinions and I don't know much!
Category: General
Posted by: Mike
Being Mother's Day got me thinking about the relationship of family support and success in racing. When a driver wins a big race, they almost always thank their parents and talk about how instrumental they were in their success.

I'm sure I'm not the only one out there that has to overcome a lack of family support, both financially and otherwise while trying to enter the sport. We didn't have much money growing up, and even if we did, I sure as hell wasn't going to get a penny for something as ridiculous as racing. Mom told me as a kid whatever you do, don't race cars and don't fly planes.

Recently I let my mom in on the plan that I was going racing and she wasn't going to stop me. I'm pretty sure she's accepted this and really there's nothing she can do about it anyway. I know there's no way I can make her understand the passion behind the sport.

I have the utmost respect for my mother. She raised me and sacrificed so much for me and my sister, there's nothing I could possibly do to pay her back. I know my Mom's not reading (at least I hope not!), but Mom, sorry for breaking your rule! Thanks for everything and happy Mother's Day!
Category: Racing Schools
Posted by: Mike
I've just finished up the Bertil Roos 3 day school and Skip barber 2 day advanced school. Since I didn't do the same program at both schools, I can't provide a perfect comparison, but here are a few:

Bertil Roos provides a lot of open lapping in their intro program. They don't use lead follow sessions or rev limits to get you up to speed. If you already have an idea of how to drive a race car, or you have previous racing experience already, I think this method can be beneficial.

Bertil Roos does not do passing exercises in their 3 day school. Because of this, you need to do the whole 5 day program to get an SCCA Regional License, while with Skip Barber you can apply for the SCCA License after the 3 day school.

Roos has no damage liability in their 3 day program, and a lower damage liability compared to Skip Barber for the advanced 2 day.

Roos cars have digital display instead of a analog tach. The display includes shift lights which help for learning the shift points. It also displays speed, although you shouldn't really be looking at that anyway!

The Skip Barber F2000 used for all advanced programs use a 5 speed sequential transmission, while the Bertil Roos F2000 uses a 4 speed crashbox. The sequential transmission is significantly easier to shift.

The Skippy intro schools use the "Formula Skip Barber" which is basically the same as the F2000 but with a 4 speed crashbox and without wings. I don't think having wings or not in an intro school makes a big difference, especially on a course without a lot of high speed corners like VIR south. Unless you have a lot of experience, you probably won't be getting everything out of the car at the end of 3 days anyway.

Bertil Roos cars have a large windscreen so head buffeting and bugs on your visor are not an issue, like the Skip Barber and most other formula cars.

I felt the Skip Barber cars handled a lot more neutral while the Roos cars understeered.

I thought my instructors at both schools were solid and helpful. I would say my instructors at Skip Barber were more experienced at higher levels of competition.

The roos programs are a little cheaper then skippy.

Both programs were pretty flexible in terms of modifying the schedule as necessary. I had read with skip barber some felt held back by the slower students, but I don't think that's the case, at least not in the advanced school

Otherwise, there was a lot similar between the two schools. I would highly recommend both schools, and I don't feel there are any significant downsides to trying both programs.
Category: Racing Simulators
Posted by: Mike
Volkswagen recently announced a partnership with the iRacing simulator which includes an online competition in which the winners get the opportunity to race in the TDI Cup! wow! This is exactly the type of thing I mean when I talk about the future of racing and lowering the entry barriers.

Here are the details.

Props to Volkswagen for having the insight to do this! I can't emphasize how awesome I feel this is along with the whole TDI Cup. It's a relatively inexpensive series for new drivers with a green racing concept. Not only is that a much better sell for sponsors, but its something I truly believe in. No one else is doing this!

The iRacing simulator looks real good. I've only done a few laps at a demo, but the vehicle dynamics feel good, and what jumped out at me was the realism of the track - absolutely unmatched in any other sim I've played. Unfortunately, it won't run faster then 2 FPS on my laptop; I'll have to work on that.

More on both iRacing and the TDI Cup later...