Junior Open Wheel Talent

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Archive for the ‘ Junior Formula 101 ’ Category

(photo: www.markusniemela.com)

The Atlantic Championship is the longest running junior formula series in North American history. It is currently in its 36th year of competition. The series is highly regarded as one of the best developmental programs in the world.

I saved this installment of my Junior Formula 101 articles for last, for a couple different reasons. The first, and perhaps most obvious, is that the Atlantic Championship has a very storied past. The history behind the series is quite complex, so once again, I will work on creating a synopsis of the historical details for you. The second reason I saved this piece for the end is that the Atlantic Championship is considered, by many, the top-rung of the North American motorsports ladder. Several readers may argue that the Indy Lights series is the top step, and it probably is in many ways, but, I chose to write this piece last. I hope you enjoy.

The series wouldn’t exist today, at least not in its modern form, without the creation of the Formula B class by the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). The Formula B class, which originated in 1965, featured open wheel formula cars– powered by an engine with 1600cc or less. The SCCA ran a very successful Formula B program from 1969 to 1972 in North America. With increasing popularity, the ideology of the Formula B race car spread across the Atlantic, hence the name, to England where John Webb created the first Formula Atlantic series in 1971. Webb set out to create a car with performance capabilities similar to the F2 race cars, but at a lower cost. He wanted a car which could be run on a budget similar to that of an F3 car.
(photo:1969 Lotus Formula B-copyright-Mark Manroe/courtesy of OldRacingCars.com)

The UK Formula Atlantic series was based on the SCCA’s Formula B class, but featured a few differences. The UK series used a few different 1100cc-1600cc production based engines without fuel injection, whereas the U.S. based Formula B class allowed fuel injection using an 8-valve twin-cam engine. In 1968, the Ford Motor Company— in association with Cosworth (an automotive engineering company based out of England)— invented the Ford Cosworth BDA (Belt Drive A-Type) engine. The engine was designed for use in a Ford Escort on the street and was homologated at 1601cc. In order for the BDA engines to be approved for competition in the UK, they had to be modified (by shortening the engine block) to meet the 1599cc requirement. Despite the required modification, the powerplant proved to be the best option of the bunch for both performance and reliability in the long run. The SCCA didn’t allow the use of the 16-valve BDA engine (four valves per cylinder), choosing, instead, to stick with the 8-valve engine (two valves per cylinder).

The Canadian Automobile Sports Club (CASC), was impressed by the new Formula and decided to start their own Formula Atlantic championship featuring the BDA engines. With financial support from Player’s, a Canadian tobacco entity, as well as television coverage from CTV, the new program really took off. The series would be termed the Player’s Challenge Series. The first Atlantic event in North America was run on May 26, 1974 in British Columbia at the Westwood Circuit. The race was won by American driver Allan Lader, who had previously won the 1971 SCCA Formula B Championship.

After the initial success of the Player’s Challenge Series in Canada, the IMSA (International Motor Sports Association) created their own Formula Atlantic series for the 1976 season, which was held in the United States. Both series carried the same sponsor in 1976, as Player’s continued their support of the program. Another interesting note is that both 1976 championships were won by the same driver; Gilles Villeneuve. In 1977, the SCCA decided to take over the United States races, while CASC maintained the Canadian Formula Atlantic Labatts Championship. The following year, 1978, CASC and the SCCA decided to join forces and conduct the series in a joint effort. The partnership was maintained for the next five years. In 1983, the series was changed to the Formula Mondial North American Cup and was sanctioned by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile). The FIA had intentions of creating a worldwide Formula utilizing the Atlantic ideology. The attempt failed miserably and the FIA dropped the series; leaving the North American Atlantic scene in shambles.
(photo: Bobby Rahal (1977)- copyright- Fred Young/ courtesy of OldRacingCars.com)

With the Atlantic series about to perish in North America, a few Atlantic faithful jumped in and created the WCAR (West Coast Atlantic Racing) series for the 1984 season. The following season, 1985, saw Vicki O’ Connor form the ECAR (East Coast Atlantic Racing) series. With two coastal Atlantic programs running, the Formula began to rebuild and flourish. Four years later, in 1989, the series picked up a new sponsor: Toyota. Toyota’s sponsorship created a bright light at the end of the tunnel for everyone who had worked so hard on rebuilding the Formula after the 1983 season. As the new primary sponsor of the series, Toyota supplied a new powerplant—the Toyota 1600cc 4A-GE kit engine. The East and West coast series unified in 1991 as the Toyota Atlantic Championship. Toyota maintained their loyalty to the series for 17-years, which brings us to 2006.

In 2006, Mazda came onboard as the series sponsor. Working with Cosworth, Mazda introduced a 2.3-liter, 300 horsepower engine—which remains in use today (2009). In fact, the duo recently signed a contract that will put Mazda power in the car through 2011. The current car features a five speed sequential gearbox. The engine is placed on a Swift 016.a chassis and weighs in at 1,415 lbs. with the driver. The naturally aspirated engine runs on high octane VP- C12 racing fuel—which is rated at 108 octane. As stated above, the engine produces 300 bhp at 8,500 rpm and makes 200 ft-lb of torque at 5600 rpm. The engines are provided to all teams/competitors by Cosworth in a sealed state. The powerplants are rebuilt every 2,000 miles at Cosworth’s Torrance, California facility. The race car utilizes Cooper tires (slicks and wets) on BBS wheels. A modern Atlantic Championship car is capable of running over 175 mph and has an incredible amount of downforce produced by front and rear wings.
(photo: www.cosworth.com)

The series typically focuses on road and street courses, but has also run a few oval races in the past. Standing starts are utilized at all facilities with the exception of oval events.

The required budget for an Atlantic Championship driver runs at approximately $700,000-$850,000 USD. Obviously, this number can go up or down depending on what’s included in the package and how much testing the driver plans to do.

Fun Facts:
* Dave McMillan of New Zealand was the first overseas driver to win the North American Atlantic Championship. (1982)
* Michael Andretti is currently the youngest champion in series’ history.
* Jocko Cunningham won the series’ first oval race in 1988 at the Milwaukee Mile.
* Graham Rahal became the youngest race winner in Atlantics history at the age of 17.
* Katherine Legge was the first female to win an Atlantic Championship race.
* Simona De Silvestro became the second female in history to win an Atlantic race.
* Mark Dismore has won the most Atlantic Championship races to date (15).
* The IMSA returned as the sanctioning body in 2008.

Television Alumni
* Dick Smothers
* Frankie Muniz (current driver)

Notable Alumni
To be honest, this list it too large to publish in this article. You can view an impressive list of Atlantic competitiors here.

Past Atlantic Champions
2008- Markus Niemela
2007- Raphael Matos
2006- Simon Pagenaud
2005- Charles Zwolsman
2004- Jon Fogarty
2003- A.J. Allmendinger
2002- Jon Fogarty
2001- Hoover Orsi
2000- Buddy Rice
1999- Anthony Lazzaro
1998- Lee Bentham
1997- Alex Barron
1996- Patrick Carpentier
1995- Richie Hearn
1994- David Empringham
1993- David Empringham
1992- Chris Smith
1991- Jovy Marcelo
1990 East- Brian Till
1990 West- Mark Dismore
1989 East- Jocko Cunningham
1989 West- Hiro Matsushita
1988 East- Steve Shelton
1988 West- Dean Hall
1987 East- Calvin Fish
1987 West- Johnny O’ Connell
1986 East- Scott Goodyear
1986 West- Ted Prappas
1985 East- Michael Angus
1985 West- Jeff Wood
1984- Dan Marvin
1983- Michael Andretti
1982- Dave McMillan
1981- Jacques Villeneuve
1980- Jacques Villeneuve
1979- Tom Gloy
1978- Howdy Holmes
1977- Gilles Villeneuve
1976- Gilles Villeneuve (CASC)
1976- Gilles Villeneuve (IMSA)
1975- Bill Brack
1974- Bill Brack

For more Junior Formula 101 Reading: Click Here.

For more information on the Atlantic Championship, please visit their Official Site.

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Junior Formula 101- Indy Lights

Posted February 11, 2009 at 3:29 pm Indy Lights, Junior Formula 101 Comments

(photo: Jim Haines/IndyCar.com)

The Indy Lights series’ has a very storied past. The beginnings of the feeder series can be traced back to the 1970’s, under the guidance of USAC (United States Automobile Club). USAC is an open wheel sanctioning body that is currently known for its association with sprint cars and midget race cars. However, they weren’t always focused on that type of racing.

The sanctioning body was created in 1956 by Tony Hulman (grandfather of current IMS President Tony George), who at the time, was the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tony Hulman and a very young Tony George are pictured to the right. Hulman placed the focus of USAC on two things; developing the current National Championship (the single-seater championship in the United States at that time) and on the development of the Indianapolis 500, which was the marquee event of open wheel racing in the United States. He succeeded in both by increasing revenues and drawing international competition, which in turn increased national and international attention. During the 1970’s, the rear engine formula car became increasingly popular. In an effort to create a feeder series that followed in the footsteps of the SCCA Super Vee and the Atlantics, USAC created the “Mini-Indy” series, utilizing the Super Vee race car.
(photo: www2.indystar.com)

Hulman passed away unexpectedly on October 27, 1977, due to heart failure. Shortly there after, in April 1978, another tragedy struck the USAC family, when a twin-engine 10-seat Piper Navajo Chieftain plane crashed 25 miles southeast of Indianapolis. There were nine fatalities in that crash and eight of the nine were top players in the USAC organization. The crash turned out to be a catalyst for change in the sanctioning body behind the top tier open wheel racing series in the United States. USAC dropped all sanctioning of Indy car races run outside of Indianapolis in 1980, ending the “Mini-Indy” series, which ran from 1977-1980.

USAC Mini-Indy Champions
1977: *Herm Johnson and Tom Bagley—*the duo tied in the championship point standings*
1978: Bill Alsup
1979: Dennis Firestone
1980: Peter Kuhn

The change in sanctioning came at a time when current team owners and drivers were demanding changes in the way USAC was running the championship. Attendance had begun to drop at the USAC events and prize money was rapidly decreasing. The teams who were fighting for change banded together in 1978 under the guidance of Dan Gurney and formed CART (Championship Auto Racing Teams). Their first race was run in 1979. Both USAC and CART ran a championship series in 1979. After the discontinuation of the “Mini-Indy” series in 1980, a feeder series for CART and USAC disappeared. It wasn’t until five years later, 1986, that the Championship Auto Racing Teams decided a official CART developmental series was necessary to continue the growth of their championship.

The American Racing Series (ARS) was formed in 1986 as the first official feeder series for CART. It’s important to note that the Toyota Atlantic championship was also active during this time frame and developed several CART drivers.

In 1991, the ARS underwent a name change; a name that is familiar to most today: The Indy Lights series. The Indy Lights races were initially run at the same venues as CART, with the exception of the Indy 500 and a few other Super Speedways. Firestone came on board as the series’ primary sponsor in 1991, later, Dayton Tires (a Firestone subsidiary) took over as the primary sponsor. The cars were powered by a modified 3.8L Buick V6 engine, typically found under the hood of a Buick LeSabre. The engines produced roughly 425 horsepower after being re-worked and sealed by famous drag racer “Ohio” George Montgomery. George Montgomery and his son Gregg Montgomery had been official engine builders for the Indy Lights series since 1986. The duo worked year-round on providing teams and competitors a stock (modified) sealed engine. The idea behind the sealing of the engine was to limit/prevent teams from making further modifications or improvements to the powerplant. The Montgomery shop, known as George’s Speed Shop, was based in Dayton, Ohio. The engines used in the series were leased to the competitors for around $45,000 USD and were warranted by the sanctioning body for 1000 racing miles or three competition weekends, whichever comes first. Each additional rebuild was estimated at $8,000 USD.
(photo: http://www.ohiogeorge.com)

Between the series inception in 1986 and 2001, CART began to have some financial difficulties. The Indy Racing League was formed in 1996 as another option for aspiring professional drivers. The formation of the new series offered more top level seats for developed drivers, but it also put more strain on the finances of both organizations (due to the competition between the two). During any financial burden or economic difficulty; it’s always the low man on the totem pole that gets the bump… CART dropped the Indy Lights series all together at the end of the 2001 season.

The Indy Racing League had never had an official feeder series’, so they decided to take over where CART left off, forming the Menards Infiniti Pro Series in 2002. The cars utilized a modified Infiniti Q45 engine, which produced 420 horsepower. The powerplant was placed on a Dallara chassis, which was produced exclusively for the series. Previously, March created the chassis for the series from 1986-1992. Lola produced the chassis from 1993-2001. In an effort to further develop drivers and bring in more road-racing veterans the series’ added several road courses to the largely oval line-up in 2005. This proved to be quite popular, so the series ran an even amount of road courses and ovals in 2006. After the 2006 season, the series lost both primary sponsors in Nissan and Menards. They rebounded in 2007 by changing the name to the Indy Pro Series, continuing to run under the Indy Racing League (IRL) banner. In 2008, they brought back long time supporter Firestone, as their lead sponsor. The name was once again changed to the Firestone Indy Lights series, which remains in use today.

The annual budget for an aspiring Indy Lights driver runs at approximately $800,000-$850,000 USD. Although, some claim the total budget is much closer to one million dollars.

The current chassis is a carbon fiber Dallara, built exclusively for the series, with a price tag of $137,900 (including the data acquisition system). The car weighs in at 1,430lbs (not including driver or fuel), which makes it one of the heavier junior formula cars in existence. The car utilizes a Ricardo six-speed sequential gearbox. The current car is powered by a Firestone Indy Lights spec 3.5L V8 engine, which produces 420 horsepower at 8,200 RPM’s. The engine runs on high octane Sunoco Unleaded Racing Fuel, which is burned at approximately 5 MPG. Speedway Engine Development, based out of Indianapolis, Indiana, manages all the rebuilds and service requirements of the series’ engines.

Fun Facts

  • Tony Hulman began the tradition of commanding drivers, “Gentlemen, start your engines!” at the Indianapolis 500.
  • Fewest Indy Lights cars to cross the finish line: 3 @ Milwaukee (7/25/04).
  • The first Indy Lights street race was run at St Pete and won by Marco Andretti in 2005.
  • Greg Moore currently holds the all-time record (of most victories in one season) with 10 in 1995. Alex Lloyd holds the record for the current series: (8 wins).
  • Logan Gomez beat Alex Lloyd to the finish line by 0.0005 seconds at Chicagoland Speedway on 9/9/07….It was the closest recorded finish in automobile racing history.

Past Champions
2008— Raphael Matos (IndyCar, GrandAm)
2007— Alex Lloyd (IndyCar)
2006— Jay Howard (IndyCar)
2005— Wade Cunningham (Indy Lights)
2004— Thiago Medeiros (IndyCar, Stock Car Brasil)
2003— Marc Taylor (IndyCar)
2002— A.J. Foyt IV (IndyCar, USAC, GrandAm)
2001— Townsend Bell (IndyCar)
2000— Scott Dixon (IndyCar, GrandAm)
1999— Oriol Servia (ChampCar, IndyCar)
1998— Cristiano Da Matta (Formula One, ChampCar, GrandAm)
1997— Tony Kanaan (ChampCar, ALMS, IndyCar)
1996— David Empringham (ALMS, GrandAm)
1995— Greg Moore (IndyCar, ChampCar)
1994— Steve Robertson (British Touring Car Championship)
1993— Bryan Herta (IndyCar, ChampCar, A1GP, ALMS)
1992— Robbie Buhl (IndyCar)
1991— Eric Bachelart (IndyCar, LeMans GT, Belgian Procar)
1990— Paul Tracy (IndyCar, F1 Test Driver, ChampCar)
1989— Mike Groff (IndyCar)
1988— Jon Beekhuis (IndyCar)
1987— Didier Theys (IndyCar, LeMans-GT, ALMS, GrandAm)
1986— Fabrizio Barbazza (IndyCar, Formula 3000, Formula One)

Notable Alumni
Casey Mears
Jason Priestley
Helio Castroneves
Adrian Fernandez
Dan Wheldon
Johnny O’ Connell
Tony George
Jon Fogarty
Eddie Lawson

Take an on-board lap in an Indy Lights car with Jeff Simmons
(Watkins Glen International)
**make sure to click-“watch in high quality”**

For more information on Indy Lights; please visit their Official Site.

For more Junior Formula 101 Reading; Click Here.

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The beginnings of the Star Mazda series can be traced back to 1983, when their first formula car was created. The original set of cars were built by Hayashi in Japan for use in the Jim Russell Racing School. They were given the name: Formula Russell. The car made its debut at the 1984 Long Beach Grand Prix. Shortly thereafter, the car became so popular that numerous regional/divisional series were established by the Russell Racing School. It wasn’t until 1990 that the car was referred to as a Formula Mazda. At that time, the car featured a 180-hp two-rotor engine, weighing in with a curb weight of 1,140 lbs.

The actual Star Series originated in 1991 at the hands of current Star Mazda President Gary Rodrigues. Eight years later, in 1999, the regional Formula Mazda championships added a national championship race dubbed the Best Western Star Mazda Championship. That event offered the first big prize for Formula Mazda competitors; the national champion was awarded a 2000 Mazda Miata street car. In 2001, the series began its first official national program, referred to as the Goodyear Star Mazda North American Championship. In 2004, the series took on a new name which is still in use today; The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.

With the infamous Mazda rotary engine being re-introduced to the general public in 2003 via the RX-8 street car, the Star Mazda series decided to incorporate the new Renesis-powered rotary engine (used in the RX-8) into their race car. With the help of Elan Motorsport Technologies, the new car was created by Star Race Cars and built to meet the safety standards set forth by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) utilizing a light weight carbon-fiber chassis.

The current Star Mazda car was introduced in 2004 and features a 240hp Renesis, two-rotor rotary engine (same rotary engine used in the current Mazda RX-8). The naturally aspirated engine utilizes a MoTeC encrypted ECU, equipped with a rev limiter, speed limiter, traction control (which can be turned off by the driver inside the cockpit), as well as a fuel trim option.

The Star Mazda car currently uses a unleaded VP Racing fuel: Star Mazda MS100. The gearbox is a Hewland FTR six-speed sequential (with no lift shift), making shifts very efficient without upsetting the balance of the car. The chassis is a Star Race Car carbon fiber composite built to FIA standards, which sits on BBS wheels and Goodyear tires. The dry-weight of the car is very light and scales at 1090lbs, creating a very nice hp to weight ratio. Performance of the car is quite impressive: 0-60mph (2.9 seconds), 2.5 G’s (lateral grip), with a top speed right around 160mph. This is a true race car. The series is currently making some updates and will be releasing a new car for the 2009 season. Specs are not yet available, but it should be noted that all current cars can be easily updated.

The series used rolling starts in the past, but decided to incorporate standing starts for 2008 as well as incorporating a new Goodyear radial tire (slicks), specially designed for the Star Mazda series. Goodyear has been the sole tire provider for the national series since its inception. Races are timed by the scoring tower and last 45 minutes, requiring a very fit driver. The schedule utilizes three types of racetracks: road courses, street courses, and ovals. The variety of tracks, helps to make Star Mazda one of the premier development series in the world. Engine maintenance is minimal with a full rebuild occurring only about once every race season. The series is sanctioned by the IMSA (International Motorsports Association) and is part of the MazdaSPEED Development Ladder. As part of the current Mazda ladder system, the winner of the series is awarded a funded ride in the Atlantic Championship.

Drivers must be 16 years of age to compete in Star Mazda. According to several inside sources, the approximate budget for a season in Star Mazda is $250,000-$300,000 USD. Obviously, those numbers will vary from team to team as well as for the drivers involved.

Fun Facts:

  • World Speed Motorsports has been involved in the Star Mazda Championship longer than any other current team. (Dating back to the series inception: 1991)
  • The original set of cars used for racing in America, were assembled in the paddock by the Russell mechanics at the Long Beach Grand Prix (1984).


Past Star Mazda Champions

1999-Joey Hand (Grand Am Rolex Series, ALMS)
2000-Bernardo Martinez (NASA Honda Challenge)
2001-Scott Bradley (SPEED World Challenge)
2002-Guy Cosmo (Grand Am Rolex Series)
2003-Luis Shiavo (Atlantic Championship)
2004-Michael McDowell (NASCAR)
2005-Raphael Matos (IndyCar)
2006-Adrian Carrio (Atlantic Championship)
2007-Dane Cameron (Grand Am Rolex Series, Atlantic Championship)
2008-John Edwards (Atlantic Championship)

Famous Alumni (to name a few…)
Marco Andretti (IndyCar)
Scott Speed (Formula One, NASCAR)
Gerardo Bonilla (Grand Am Rolex Series)
Graham Rahal (IndyCar)
Colin Braun(NASCAR Truck Series, Grand Am Rolex Series)
Mike Potekhen (Indy Lights)
James Hinchcliffe (Atlantic Championship)
Kevin LaCroix (Atlantic Championship)

Star Mazda Championship

For more information on the Star Mazda Championship, please visit their Official Website.

For further Junior Formula 101 Reading; Click Here.

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(photo: courtesy of Janice Eakin/F2000championshipseries.com)

The F2000 Championship as a new series is pretty easy to cover, but the history behind it is quite complex. This particular piece will be one of the most difficult to cover, but hopefully one of the most interesting articles of the Junior Formula 101 series. In order to fully understand the current F2000 Championship series, you need a little background info. I will do my best to provide a brief overview of the history behind F2000 racing in North America, which will in turn lead into a write-up on the current F2000 Championship series.

The Formula Ford ideology was largely put into place by three men: Jim Russell, John Webb, and Geoff Clarke. The original concept behind the Formula Ford was to provide aspiring race drivers an affordable entry level single-seater race car. They accomplished this by putting a 1500cc Ford Cortina GT engine on a price-capped chassis. The 1500cc engine was soon replaced by the 1600cc engine. There is actually a lot more history behind the engine package and chassis, but in an effort to keep things simple, I will leave it at that for now. The car offered drivers a feel, varying from that of a go-kart or a Formula Vee, by incorporating racing suspension. The suspension helped the career-minded race car drivers garner the much needed skill of race car set-up and handling feedback. It also gave the car a “real-car” feel, which was highly regarded. The concept took off, making it one of the most successful race cars in history. Today you will see drivers of all ages racing Formula Fords in numerous countries worldwide.

Eventually a few drivers and engineers started looking for ways to take the Formula Ford to the next level. They succeeded sometime in the 70’s, by putting wings and slicks on the Formula Ford chassis accompanied by a larger 2.0L Ford Pinto engine (built by Ford Europe). The new race package was given the name: F2000. And once again, it proved quite popular. In the mid-eighties a Canadian Pro F2000 series, known as the Canadian Tire/Motomaster Championship, was created. Several current big-name drivers developed their craft in the Motomaster Championship, including Paul Tracy. The series eventually became known as Export A under different ownership, which was also a very popular stop for drivers looking to race professionally, producing several top notch competitors, including the likes of Jimmy Vasser and Patrick Carpentier among others (see a full list of famous F2000 drivers from various series below). During this same time frame, specifically in 1986, the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) incorporated the F2000 package into their already existing Formula C class; renaming it Formula Continental. The name still holds today. (photo: courtesy of Henk A. Hazelaar)

In 1991, Dan Andersen(Andersen Racing) and Mike Foschi formed Formula Motorsports, creating the U.S. F2000 National Championship. The U.S. F2000 National Championship was extremely popular, fielding up to 60 cars in the late nineties, running both oval and road course events. In 2001, after overseeing the series for 10 years, Dan and Mike decided to sell Formula Motorsports and the series to Jon Baytos. Baytos was no stranger to the F2000 world as he was the owner of Primus Racing, a Van Diemen (chassis) distributor. He also helped start the Hooters F2000 Series, which operated from 1994-1995. In 2002, Jon introduced the Ford Zetec engine, re-naming the series the Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship. The new series incorporated different gears, spec wings, new 8 and 10 wheels to the package, in an effort to create a “Pro” car. The cars were powered by either the four-cylinder, double-overhead cam, fuel-injected 2.0-liter Ford Zetec engine or the carbureted 2.0-liter Ford Pinto engine. Cars utilizing the Pinto package ran in a separate class called the ACC or the American Continental Challenge. At the time, all cars employed Cooper racing tires. During this transitional period, the series had a lot of top-notch drivers make a routine stop on their way up the ladder, but they also lost several “would-be” pro racers to the club level (where they could run their car within the SCCA Formula Continental rules). The series folded at the end of the 2006 season, despite the fact that the Zetec package was growing. In 2006, after a two year debate, the SCCA decided to allow the Zetec engine to be used in club competition. This development led in part to the creation of the new series: the F2000 Championship.

In 2005, prior to the disappearance of the Cooper Series, Bob Wright and Al Guibord got together to run in the SCCA Runoffs at Mid-Ohio in the Formula Continental Class. The two were avid race drivers and they were both closely following the current state of affairs in the F2000/FC world. The two just happened to be discussing the situation over a beer one night and in the process they came up with numerous ideas on how to improve the series. At the time it was just small talk. The two drivers joked back and forth about starting a F2000 Pro series for 2006. That all changed when Bob made a call to fellow racer Mike Rand, who had/has 30 years experience managing race tracks and series. For those who don’t know, Rand was the manager of Lime Rock Park for many years, and he helped start the Barber-Saab Pro Series for Skip Barber. He also added his experience to Virginia International Raceway by helping to build and develop the track. After receiving the phone call from Bob, Mike was excited by the idea of the new series and seemed to think they could make it work. The trio got together, with the idea of modeling a new Pro series after the Formula Motorsports Series created by Dan Andersen and Mike Foschi, creating the F2000 Championship in January of 2006 with the assistance of Bob Shaeffer of Frisby Tire. Shaeffer, who had been involved with F2000 racing previously, helped bring in Hankook Tire as a series sponsor. After working tirelessly to get the series set-up, they now had a Pro series with the same rules as their club counterparts. Their first year as series administrators was tough,… averaging a measly 15 cars per race. In 2007, they continued on with Hankook Tire as a primary sponsor and managed to schedule a race alongside ChampCar at the Cleveland Grand Prix. They averaged slightly more than 30 entries in their second season. In 2008, the series signed a deal with Hoosier Tires. Showing even more improvement in 2008, they averaged about 35 entries with a season high of 41 at Watkins Glen.

The current F2000 Championship cars are powered by a 2000cc Ford engine which is run on 110 octane racing fuel. The chassis is a flat bottom, tubular, space frame: typically manufactured by Van Diemen, Mygale, Citation or the Piper which has become increasingly popular. The cars put out approximately 150 horsepower. Drivers and teams have a choice of two different engine packages(listed below), which are built to meet the rules set forth by the SCCA FC (Formula C) class. The powerplant utilizes a 4-speed gearbox with interchangeable ratios.
(photo: Zetec Engine/http://www.f2000championshipseries.com)

The two engine options for the current F2000 Championship Series are listed below. Although I’ve been told that the Zetecs will have a new map and restrictor for 2009, the Pintos will be allowed to use a new aluminum head. The options from the 2008 championship are listed below…

1) 2000cc Ford NEA, four-cylinder, single overhead cam with crossflow cylinder head using a Weber 32-36 DGV carburetor. (This engine is a variation of the Pinto/Capri power plant.)
2) 2000cc Ford Zetec twin cam 4 valve, electronic fuel injection, w/restrictor plate & Pectel T2 ECU mapped by the series. (This engine is a variation of the Ford Focus ZX3 power plant.)

The overall weight of the car and driver used to vary by engine package (a driver utilizing the Pinto package had to cross the scales with a weight of 1,210 lbs. A driver utilizing the slightly heavier Zetec engine, had to cross the scales with a weight of 1,240 lbs.). In 2009, all cars will have to weigh in at 1,220 lbs. The weights listed above are considered a wet weight, meaning it must be met by the driver/team after qualifying or racing with fuel in the car. The cost of running in the F2000 Championship varies from team to team, but the average driver spends approximately $100,000-$150,000 USD.

Past U.S. F2000 Champions
2006- J.R. Hildebrand (Indy Lights)
2005- Jay Howard (IndyCar/Indy Lights)
2004- Bobby Wilson (Indy Lights)
2003- Jonathan Bomarito (Atlantic Championship, Rolex GT)
2002- Bryan Sellers (Rolex GT)
2001- Jason Lapoint (Raced in Atlantic Championship)

Past F2000 Championship Champions
2008-Anders Krohn (Undeclared for 2009)
2007-Cole Morgan (Star Mazda, Undeclared for 2009)
2006-Matt McDonough (F2000 Championship)

Fun Facts:

  • Jimmy Vasser was sponsored by LucasFilm during his 1990 campaign.
  • Bob Wright(Series Founder) has been racing cars since 1974, he started in sedan/productions cars prior to making the move to Formula Ford and then finally into the F2000 ranks.
  • Alan Guibord (Series Founder) won the Sunoco Hard Charger Award at the 2005 FC SCCA Runoffs (advancing 10 positions), he finished 16th after starting 26th.
  • Mike Rand (Series Founder) currently races Formula Fords and was a 1972 formula car champion..
  • The series currently has two Canadian teams: Brian Graham Racing of Innisfil, Ontario and Audette Racing of Boisbriand, Quebec.

Past F2000 Drivers
(feel free to add to this list via the comments section below)
Alex Barron
Wade Cunningham
Joey Foster
Aaron Justus
Memo Gidley
Johnny Herbert
Sam Hornish, Jr.
Jay Howard
Eddie Irvine
Andy Lally
Buddy Rice
Ayrton Senna
Dan Wheldon
Greg Ray
Sam Schmidt
Steve Knapp
Guy Cosmo
Scott Maxwell
Robby McGehee
Jason Bright
David Besnard

Take a ride with 2008 F2000 Champion Anders Krohn at Road America

For more information on the F2000 Championship, please visit their official website here.

To view F2000 races, visit Speedcast Productions.

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The Formula BMW program began in Germany with the Formula ADAC Championship, which was run for ten years (1991-2001). ADAC stands for Allgemeiner Deutscher Automobil-Club e.V, which is regarded as Europe’s largest automobile club. BMW became the engine supplier for the Formula ADAC program, which was initially set-up to help aspiring race drivers progress from the karting ranks to cars. Eventually, BMW Motorsport wanted to take the series a step further and increase their commitment to the program. They in-turn created a new car/series known today as the Formula BMW series. The new car made its debut at Hockenheim in 2002 and is referred to as the FB02 race car.

The race car itself was designed with very specific adjustments for the drivers, offering them a feel for setting up a race car and the effect of making changes. Safety was a very high priority for BMW when creating the FB02, the cars were sent through numerous static load tests on the monocoque (cockpit) and dynamic crash tests on the nosecone until certification was given by the FIA Institute or the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile. The FIA’s main objective, as stated on their website, is to promote improvements in the safety of motorsport. They currently sanction series such as the Formula One World Championship, Formula 3, World Rally Championship, and the World Touring Car Championship. The engine powering the car actually comes from the BMW K1200RS motorcycle, offering a displacement of 1171cc. The powerplant features an inline four cylinder, 16v DOC, which makes roughly 140bhp at 9,000 rpm. The race car offers a six-speed sequential gearbox plus reverse, and weighs in at about 1,026lbs without the driver. The chassis itself is designed by the United States BMW group (Designworks/USA) in association with BMW Motorsport and Mygale. Michelin supplies all the tires for the series; utilizing both slicks and wets. (photo: http://bmw-motorsport.com/)

After the success of the Formula BMW program in Germany in 2002, the company decided to expand its development program across three continents. The expansion worked in stages, with the series first offering a championship series in Asia during the 2003 season, before expanding to four series in 2004. Germany, Asia, the United Kingdom, and the United States were offering a Formula BMW program during the 2004 season. The United States championship was known as Formula BMW-USA until 2008, when the name was changed to Formula BMW-Americas offering the series to both North and South American competitors. In an effort to be more efficient, the series made a few other changes for 2008. Formula BMW is currently offering three series: Formula BMW-Europe, Formula BMW-Pacific, and Formula BMW-Americas. Each championship utilizes standing starts similar to that of Formula One. The top drivers from each championship meet for a final showdown at the end of the season, known as the World Final. The winner of the World Final is promised a Formula One test drive with BMW-Sauber. The cost of running Formula BMW-Americas ranges from about $280,000 to $320,000 USD.

Drivers who wish to participate in Formula BMW must meet a set of standards. They must be at least 15 years old but not older than 24 years of age(without written approval from the series organizer), and must not have competed in any international racing series other than karting. They must hold an International racing license no higher than Grade C, and are required to complete a Formula BMW licensing program at one of the circuits used by the series. The licensing course is typically held in Valencia, Spain. FIA International racing licenses are graded from A to D, with a special super-license above A. The drivers participating in the series are exposed to some of the top team owners in the world during their season, racing alongside the likes of the American LeMans Series, Grand-Am, IndyCar, and the Formula One World Championship. Another perk to participating in Formula BMW is the Education and Coaching program, which consists of a series of comprehensive seminars that provide young drivers with the long term skills required in the world of motorsports. The seminars cover driving techniques, car set-up, fitness and nutrition, as well as public relations and sponsorship.

Past Formula BMW-Americas Champions

2004-Andreas Wirth (Atlantic Championship)

2005-Richard Philippe (Formula 3 Euro Series)

2006-Robert Wickens (WSR, F2)

2007-Daniel Morad (Atlantic Championship, A1GP)

2008-Alexander Rossi (Formula BMW)

Fun Fact: Most Wins in a Season (Formula BMW Americas)- 11 (Alexander Rossi)

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For more information on the Formula BMW Americas; Click Here.

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The Skip Barber National Championship wouldn’t have been possible without the efforts and creativity of John Barber III (Skip). Skip graduated from Harvard University with a degree in English, but his true passion was racing. He began his racing career during his Ivy years at the age of 22, driving in the Sports Car Club of America(SCCA). During his time with the SCCA, he won three consecutive National Championships. His next big accomplishment came in 1969 and 1970, where he won two consecutive Formula Ford Championships. The following year he became one of the few Americans to make a start in a Formula One race. Between 1971-1972, John Barber entered in 6 Formula One races driving for Gene Mason. After delving into the world of racing, he felt that racing, like most sports, is a very coachable activity. With this new thought process, he created the Skip Barber School of High Performance Driving in 1975. In 1976, he created the Skip Barber Racing Series and renamed the school; the Skip Barber Racing School.

The Skip Barber National series wasn’t created until 1999, it was designed as a cost effective stepping stone for the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The series, originally named the Formula Dodge National Championship, was created as a one-off championship race for the Regional Series victors. During this time period, the National series followed in the footsteps of the “then” premier Barber Pro Series. The Barber Saab Pro Series originally utilized a 16v turbocharged Saab engine placed on a Mondiale chassis. In the late 90’s, the Mondiale chassis was replaced with a Reynard chassis powered by a V6 Dodge engine. With the new engine/chassis package in place, the series name was changed to the Barber Dodge Pro Series. The series was tightly aligned with the Champ Car World Series. After the bankruptcy of Champ Car in 2003, the Skip Barber organization announced the retirement of the Pro Series, elevating the Formula Dodge National Championship to the premier series run under the Skip Barber banner. In late 2006, Skip Barber decided to join Mazda in an effort to create a ladder system for junior formula drivers, once again changing the name of the series to the Skip Barber National presented by Mazda. As part of the current ladder, in place by the MazdaSPEED Development team, the champion of the series is awarded a funded ride in the Star Mazda series. The cost of a season in the Formula Dodge National Championship is advertised at $45,000 USD, but actual cost is most likely much higher when crash damage/repair is taken into account (should you be so unlucky).

The current Skip Barber National cars are referred to as a Skip Barber Formula 2000. The cars are set-up on a mild steel space-frame chassis, powered by a modified SOHC 2.0-liter 4 cylinder Mazda engine utilizing a 5-speed sequential gearbox. The car itself weighs in at 1,250 lbs (wet) and produces roughly a 150hp. The car can reach speeds near 135mph and is capable of pulling around 1.5 G’s. It doesn’t offer much down force, but does utilize a front and rear wing. The cars are maintained and transported by Skip Barber Racing, utilizing BF Goodrich g-Force racing slicks and wet tires. It’s hard to consider these cars true race cars, but they are fun to drive and are perfect for teaching drivers the basic skills required for success at the next level. The Formula 2000 car offers a perfect transition for drivers looking to make the move from karts to cars.

Past Skip Barber National Champions:
1999-Ryan Hunter-Reay (Champ Car, A1GP, Grand-Am, IndyCar)
2000-Anthony Simone (NASCAR Canadian Tire)
2001-Julio Campos (Stock Car Brazil)
2002-Grant Maiman (Raced Formula Renault)
2003-Raphael Matos (IndyCar)
2004-Marco Andretti (IndyCar)
2005-Gerardo Bonilla (American LeMans Series LMP2)
2006-Jonathan Goring (IMSA Lites)
2007-Joel Miller (Star Mazda)
2008-Conor Daly (Star Mazda)

Fun Facts:
Most Wins in a Season: 6 (Grant Maiman, Anthony Simone)
Most Poles in a Season: 8 (Gerardo Bonilla)
Most Career Wins: 8 (Gerardo Bonilla)

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For More Information on Skip Barber Racing: Click Here.

(photo: http://www.skipbarber.com)

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Junior Formula 101- Stars of Karting

Posted December 29, 2008 at 12:47 pm Junior Formula 101 Comments

Without getting into the fragmentation of karting in the United States, we will stick to one series; the Stars of Karting. The Stars of Karting series was founded in 2000 by Hollis Brown and Bryan Herta. The late Hollis Brown was an incredible spokesperson for the sport of karting and had more than 30 years devoted to the sport. Bryan Herta, who raced in the Indy Racing League until 2006, can still be found driving go-karts today along with his American LeMans Series efforts. Hollis and Bryan had a long standing friendship prior to creating the Stars Series, Hollis helped develop Herta’s career and was actually a karting sponsor for Bryan in the eighties.

Originally named the CART(Championship Auto Racing Teams) Stars of Tomorrow, the series took off in 2002 under the guidance of Fred Marik, who was the executive director of NAKA (North American Karting Association). The following season (2003), Bobby Rahal bought into the program becoming a co-owner alongside Herta. The duo put a new management team in place and separated from NAKA. The series was sanctioned by the World Karting Association and the SCCA (Sports Car Club of America). The series also brought in Snap-On Tools as a primary sponsor, Snap-on has been a huge asset to the program and remains the primary sponsor for the series today. The new management team also decided to put CIK rules in place in an effort to follow the standards set in European karting. The series officials wanted drivers in North America to race under the same rules and equipment as their overseas counterparts. It didn’t take long for the karting community to take note of the name “Stars of Tomorrow”, the name seemed to create a notion that top level karters were merely there to move up the motorsport ranks rather than being noted as professional drivers in and of themselves. In 2004, the series underwent a name change, the series would now be known as the Snap-On Stars of Karting. The new name seemed to make everyone happy, maintaining the link to the motorsports ladder for drivers wishing to advance, while still proudly representing current karters as stars of their prospective sport. In late 2004, Bobby Rahal, Bryan Herta and current president Paul Zalud announced a new affiliation with the Indy Racing League. Undergoing yet another name change, the series would now be known as the Snap-on Stars of Karting: presented by IndyCar.

The series was initially created to help pave the way for young aspiring race car drivers, providing a pathway from karts to cars, while still maintaining the top tier level of competition in go-karts. In order to keep things simple, I am going to focus on the 125cc ICC Shifter Kart class for multiple reasons. In North America, the ICC class is largely regarded as the top level of kart racing, unlike Europe where the KF1 or the direct drive class of Formula A have long been referred to as the top level in karting. In recent years, North America has had a significant growth to the direct drive ICA program and they are now beginning to put some focus on the KF package as a cost effective replacement, but it is safe to say that the ICC class is still the most prestigious class here in North America. The other reason I’m focusing on the ICC class is that I’m a little biased, if you catch my drift.

The ICC (Intercontinental C) class is a shifter kart class. The karts have a six-speed sequential gearbox and put out roughly 40-45 horsepower. The weight of the kart varies from driver to driver, but the required weight after a race for kart and driver is 380lbs. The horsepower to weight ratio is closer to that of an IndyCar than any other junior formula series we cover. The ICC karts are capable of pulling nearly 3 G’s and a top speed somewhere around 120mph…give or take. The chassis are far more complex than most realize, offering adjustments ranging from caster/camber, front and rear ride height, axle stiffness, torsion bars, various spindle degrees, various wheel compounds (ex. Magnesium, Aluminum), seat struts, seat location, wheelbase, toe…etc. These karts are far from your typical amusement park ride, they are a true racing machine requiring a capable driver and tuner for maximum output. The cost of running the Stars of Karting ICC class ranges from $25,000-$100,000 USD. The latter would make for an adequately funded season as some spend even more. Privateers often spend even less than the fore mentioned $25,000 but are rarely competitive at this level.

After researching the series, I must say I’m extremely disappointed in the promotion of past champions. This is a very prestigious title that should be promoted on the STARS website.

Past STARS ICC National Champions:
2001-Scott Speed (Raced in Formula One, currently racing in NASCAR)
2002-Ron White (Raced in Star Mazda series)
2003-Bobby Wilson (Current Indy Lights driver)
2004-Alex Speed (Stars of Karting)
2005- Alex Speed (Stars of Karting)
2006-Gary Carlton (Stars of Karting)
2007-Gary Carlton (Stars of Karting)
2008-Mike Vincec (Stars of Karting)

**disclaimer** This info was put together using various sources, for first hand info on the series…please visit the Stars of Karting Official Website.

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