"Why the FFDA Series is the best regional series."
Comment by Robert Guhde 10/14/11
The state of SCCA racing is not good. Regional attendance is way down. National attendance is down but not as much. The budget minded racer who wants great competition in a formula car has very few options. The Hoosier Tire Formula First Series is the best option which is why I call it the best regional series in the United States. Quite a claim, but letís see if I can back up that assertion? Letís start with the fact that the series is run by the same drivers and owners who participate. You canít get any more democratic than that. Every idea a participant has is listened to and seriously considered. The parent group is called the Formula First Driverís Association. It is a serious group not an ad hoc assemblage. We are a Wisconsin based 501 C3 not-for-profit corporation. We can legally sign and execute contracts. We have a governing board, a charter, volunteer staff such as a point keeper, a webmaster, and we have a budget we can use to purchase niceties. We are not a sanctioning organization but our goal is to organize a broad regional series. Our plan is that we eventually will run at least five of these series in different parts of the country. We might actually be able to do this in two other regions next year.
We are not a PRO series, nor one of those series that funds prize money out of inflated entry fees. Our entry fee is what everyone who goes to the race will pay. To be a member just requires that you pay a $25 annual membership fee (May 1 to April 30). For that minimal amount you receive great value. You have staff working in your interest. We work to get sponsors, we hold award ceremonies; buy promotional materials and trophies run our own website atwww.formula-first.org. We plan our series, work with the organizers to get our own race group, and optimally scheduled group and if possible member discounts on practice days. Every race that has a real competent announcer gets drivers bios and information on FST history and technology.
Each year it is labor intensive to determine our final schedule so that towing costs are held to a minimum. In the past drivers could just go to their local tracks and always have 6 or 7 formula vees or Fords to race with. Gone are the days when you can do this at the regional levels. In the FST series you are almost guaranteed a respectable field and great competition. The price is that everyone must tow a bit farther. Tow distances are mitigated because almost all of our races are doubles. Furthermore we look very closely to bring the total tow distance down for the entire group of participants. We do this by calculating a distance equity number for all potential drivers. The lower this average number, the less towing for everyone. The series takes everyone into account. Of course drivers at the extreme edge of our region will always be worse off but that is why we are pushing for more regional series.
The rules package you read in the SCCA GCR is not stagnant and inflexible for the series. What controls the rules are realities. These manifest themselves in a few series specific rules. If a new connecting rod is coming through that is a few grams lighter because a new forging die is put in place them we can have a series specific rule. If a track requires a muffler the overall length rule is relaxed to accommodate. Remember too that the rules were written by veterans of the formula vee class. They knew it was a pain to charge transmissions three times a season. It was expensive to allow massive amounts of machine work in engine internals. It was also un-cool to have drum brakes and way inconvenient to be forced to use relic link pin beams and it made things really expensive when you donít have a spec tire.
The social side of the series
Race weekends are enjoyable for FFDA competitors. Most weekends are comprised of racing, a short business meeting, award ceremonies and meals. When a fellow competitor has a problem, groups have descended on the car in need and the job was done. People are always willing to give advice. How do I read my AIM data? How do you install the spring pack in a beam? What alignment setting do you use at this track etc. The series administration makes every effort to make the competitive experience an on- track only event and insure that the off track experience is one of conviviality. We also assign one of our members to each race weekend to make sure that the FST participants are appreciated by the organizers of the event and make sure they are comfortable and can take care of their needs at the track. In the past our series had a bad experience when several competitors had driven ten hours but were not allowed into track because gates were closed at 10am. This will never be repeated again because we have learned to ask all the right questions before settling on a venue.
Sponsors Prizes and Contingencies, Discounts
I n 2011 and 2010 the series has been sponsored primarily by the Hoosier Race Tire Company. Hoosier is on board with the FFDAís concept that the series goals should foster competition; reward participation at all levels and to encourage the up and coming competitor. Most emphatically the FFDA is not a PRO series with prize money but it fulfills the test of a serious amateur racer series. Our sponsors help in this process by providing gift certificates, parts, race chemicals, contingencies and even clothing to all participants. All competitors can buy the spec Hoosier Tires at a 20% discount. Each race winner (2 per weekend normally) and each runner up wins a free Hoosier tire. At each award ceremony every race entrant is eligible for a random drawing for an additional tire. Thus on a typical double weekend six tires are given away. Moreover the racer who fulfills a minimum number of finishers but scores the least amount of points is awarded a free set of Hoosier Tires. They should get a lot better next season.
One only imagine going to an SCCA regional race and needing a spare motor or transmission. That will only be possible when just the right competitor shows up so most of the time you just go home. This rarely occurs at FFDA races. At most FFDA races our largest vendor shows up carrying a spare engine and transmission. Several other drivers carry spares too. The most oft destroyed FST part in crashes is the front beam. This stoat part absorbs a lot of shock and sacrifices itself. There are basically two kinds of beams, one that is set up for inboard shocks and the other which is set up for outboard shocks. Interestingly both types of beams are brought along to each series race as spares. Therefore the individual racer does not need to worry about dragging these parts along. Itís not that they are supplied free of charge but the single competitor does not need to carry these parts. Thus they can use a smaller trailer and save many petrol dollars in towing costs.
Multi sanction body approach
The FFDA works mainly with SCCA as a sanctioning body but not exclusively as of the 2011 season. When an opportunity develops with another sanctioning body that will result in cheaper entries, interesting race venues, series and equipment exposure opportunities the FFDA will work with other bodies. In doing so, the FFDA will not compromise on either an insurance or race staffing issues. Both must be at the SCCA level to be acceptable. We believe that by embracing this broad perspective we can get the best deals for our members and can present our series more broadly.
The FFDA Hoosier Tire series is no ordinary regional racing series, rather it is a broadly based non- professional series. Winning is, of course, the ideal, but participation at all levels is rewarded and acknowledged. As in any series worth its salt, there will be those jousting for the lead, a substantial mid pack and even those at the back. Our goal is no matter what pack you are in that you are racing with someone, enjoying yourself, enjoying the benefits of drafting, late braking, not buying tires every weekend and just having a great experience at the place I like best---The track.