The world of single-seater racing has undergone a radical change since September 2015. It was the month when the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States announced the arrival of FIA Formula 4 car racing in the U.S.
Initially, there were fears that Formula 4 would never attract the kind of attention that other automobile racing events arouse on a daily basis. And those fears weren’t without a reason.
North America hosts a number of automobile racing events. Many of these events—Formula One, Indy Car, NASCAR, and drag racing—have embedded themselves deeply into the U.S. culture. It will be an uphill task for any new contender to compete, even if it was backed by the International Automobile Federation (FIA, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile).
Two years later, in 2017, those fears seem exaggerated. Formula 4 is proving to be more popular than anyone imagined.
“No one — not Honda, not the Sports Car Club of America, not even the FIA — could have guessed that there would be 33 Formula 4 cars on the grid at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the F4 second-season opener,” reports Autoweek.
That’s a respectable number, especially when seen in the context of the current car racing landscape in North America.
What has led to this sudden surge in interest?
An emphasis on driver development and the cars themselves. Let’s have a look at them one at a time.
Why Are Racers Taking Up Formula 4 Car Racing?
FIA Super License
Drivers performing well in an F4 series earn points that count toward an FIA Super License. In 2017, the winner of the F4 U.S. Championship earns 25 points, while the runners-up gets 18. To get the license to drive an F1 car, drivers must earn 40 points over a three-year period.
Low Cost of Practice
Formula 1 is an expensive sport. A big reason for introducing Formula 4 was to cap costs at 100,000 Euros a year. That translates to approximately $117,500 a year.
Road to More Prestigious Races
Last year’s champion, Cameron Das, is a typical case of what happens to the winners of F4 races. He won eight races in a row, moved to Europe, and participated in the 2017 BRDC British Formula 3 season.
Formula 4 racing is an affordable stepping stone for young drivers seeking to break into the upper echelons of open-wheel car caring. And the cornerstone of this affordability is the Formula 4 car.
A Typical U.S. Formula 4 Car
Cost and performance are considered in the manufacturing and running of a Formula 4 car. The SCCA provides a whole set of recommendations to buyers looking for a Formula 4 car.
F4 chassis are made from carbon-fiber and are robust. To be FIA compliant, they have to meet certain homologation requirements. U.S. racers can get such a chassis from Crawford F4-16. It’s a domestic manufacturer.
Right now, Honda’s F4 powerplant is the standard engine used in almost all the F4 cars in the U.S. It is ECU sealed, and detuned to meet the FIA-mandated output of approximately 160BHP. The engine can be leased on a yearly basis.
The SCCA recommends tires from Pirelli’s engineers. These latest tires used in Formula 4 cars are developed for junior single-seater drivers in Milan.
F4 cars participate in FIA Formula 4 championships. The cars are curtailed for power, with the ultimate goal of increasing driver’s skills. The cars are comparatively low-cost to run, especially if the SCCA’s recommendations are adhered to. And the winners can go on to their way to make a career in F1.