FIA Formula 4 revealed for North America

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AUSTIN – FIA Formula 4 has been something in the works from an international level for several years. It now is about to have its place in North America, thanks to SCCA Pro Racing, Crawford chassis, a Honda engine and Pirelli tires.

The full release regarding the series’ launch – held today at Circuit of the Americas – is below:

The Sports Car Club of America, in conjunction with the Automobile Competition Committee of the United States, today 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.

“Along with the FIA, SCCA Pro Racing sees the cost of racing equipment and operations as significant limiting factors in open-wheel racing participation,” said Robert Clarke, President of SCCA Pro Racing. “The model for F4, based on a simple, yet contemporary vehicle, with strict price controls, is designed to entice new young drivers from karting into cars. We are excited about bringing this opportunity to the United States and the aspiring young racer.”

The F4 United States Championship will join FIA Formula 4 championships already established in Australia, China, Germany, Italy, Japan, Northern Europe and the United Kingdom; with other new championships soon to be launched in Mexico, Southeast Asia and Spain.

“Given the global reach of Formula 4, it is both natural and essential that the category arrives in the United States,” said Stefano Domenicali, president of the FIA Single Seater Commission. “By introducing Formula 4, the hope is that more Americans get experience that proves valuable as they look to develop their careers. On behalf of the FIA, I must thank everybody at ACCUS, SCCA Pro Racing, and their partners for bringing FIA Formula 4 to the United States.”

The series will utilize the new, American-built Crawford carbon-composite chassis and Honda K20 C1 2.0-liter engine, producing the FIA-mandated 160 PS (158 bhp). Pirelli PZero racing radial tires complete the package, now undergoing FIA homologation, which will meet the FIA price cap of US$45,000 for the chassis, including paddle shifters, data acquisition and camera. The Honda engine will carry a one-year lease price of US$6,600. Tires will be priced at approximately US$250 apiece, with a maximum allotment of six tires (three front, three rear) per race weekend.

“We are extremely honored to be selected as the United States F4 chassis manufacturer” said Max Crawford, President, Crawford Composites. “We have been designing and manufacturing carbon chassis components and complete carbon chassis for over 25 years for the highest level of motorsports. To be involved in this program, with partners like Honda and Pirelli, that focuses on attracting youthful energy and talent to open-wheel racing, is very exciting. We look forward to building a strong program together with SCCA Pro Racing and our partners.”

“We are pleased to partner with the FIA and SCCA on the launch of the United States F4 Championship series, which further reinforces Honda’s long standing commitment to open wheel racing in America,” said Steve Eriksen, vice president and COO of HPD. “The new Honda K20 engine will provide a fun, reliable, and cost-effective solution to power the dreams of racers honing their skills for a future in racing.”

“I would like to thank the SCCA and partners for their support in selecting us to supply the tires for this championship,” said Rafael Navarro, vice president, communications and motorsports, Pirelli Tire North America. “This series is a logical next step for Pirelli, and is consistent with the company’s philosophy of promoting young talent. We look forward to working with the partners to build a successful and visible program that helps develop and propel future generations of competitors.”

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 US$115,000 in 2016.

“Formula 4 and our continued FIA relationship represent our vision of the future for SCCA Pro Racing, one that will enable young drivers to become the top echelon of racers for tomorrow,” said Lisa Noble, SCCA president. “Embracing F4 and our dedicated Series partners gives SCCA Pro Racing the next step toward building that vision with a very exciting and modern race car package and the F4 United States Championship.”

NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E and Ian James set to race ahead of electric motorsports’ curve

James McLaren Formula E
NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team
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As Formula E enters their ninth season and McLaren Racing is set to compete in last year’s championship winning car, Ian James is passionate about pushing electric motorsports forward at a critical stage as race technology begins surpassing that of the street cars.

Midseason, McLaren acquired the assets of the Mercedes-EQ team as they were already on their way to winning a second consecutive championship. With those assets in place and coming off a successful debut in the Extreme E series, James is set to usher in a new era in electric car racing.

Last week’s announcement that Jake Hughes will join Rene Rast behind the wheel of the NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team was the last piece of the puzzle.

McLaren’s electric portfolio is building with the Formula E team coming one year after they entered the Extreme E rally series in 2022 with Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour. There were a lot of lessons to learn in that series with growing pains during the first three of five rounds. Rounds 4 and 5 were a completely different matter with the team crossing the finish line first in Chile before being assessed a time penalty.

In the final round in Uruguay, they scored an elusive podium.

“McLaren kicked off the season in Extreme E at the beginning of this year, so our first [electric] race took place Neom, actually out in Saudi,” NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team Principal James told NBC Sports. “At the time, we were in very early discussions about opportunities with the Formula E team. I actually went out there to meet with Zak [Brown, CEO McLaren Racing] and that was my first taste of Extreme E.

“Since the transition, I joined them in Chile in Atacama Desert, and then Uruguay last weekend. [The second-place finish was] a lovely way to round out the season. The fact that they got that podium. It was very well deserved. It’s a great team and a great series actually. It’s just so very different from anything else. The team’s done a great job in getting set up, and it’s nice now to, we’re trying to use that momentum that we’ve got from Uruguay to get us into next season when it kicks off next year, which will be great. I think we’re mid-March is looking like the first race, so a little bit of time to get things prepped for that.”

 

James McLaren Formula E
The NEOM Mclaren Racing Formula E Team was created through the acquisition of last year’s championship team from Mercedes-EQ. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Synergies exist between the single seater and rally series. Lessons learned about battery power and sustainability in the electric SUV carry over so long as one is mindful of keeping focus on the individual needs and nuances of each series.

Especially now that electric racing technology has caught up, and is ready to surpass, the existing technology that has gone into building street cars.

When internal combustion engines gained the upper hand soon after automobiles were invented, racing paced alongside. The pressure of competition pushed the development of their commercial equivalents. The same has not necessarily been true of electric cars. Street cars were not designed to undergo the same stress as racecars – and that vulnerability showed up on the racetrack.

“Formula E has come along a long way,” James said. “I think one of the most notable developments is in the battery technology. In Gen 1, you had the drivers jumping from one car to another car midrace because the battery technology and capacity simply wasn’t where it needed to be to do the full distance. That obviously changed in Gen 2 and we saw a power increase as well to the 250 kilowatts.

“Now going to Gen 3, we have 350 kilowatts in a smaller battery. But that means that we’re relying on the regeneration of energy and for that reason, we’ve got also the opportunity to regenerate on the front axle as well as the rear axle now. So, there’s all sorts of things that are developing in the right direction.

“In terms of throttle response, actually, we’re now in a situation with electric racing and the motors that it’s instantaneous. And one of the advantages of electric over combustion engine is that the torque is instantaneous as well, so that gives you a lot more room to play with.”

No matter the power source, racing has always been about resource management. Drivers and teams select tire strategies they believe produce the fastest elapsed time and fuel conservation comes into play.

On one hand, electric racing is the same, but there is a critical difference. With the battery as both the power source and an integral part of the engine, there are multiple reasons to manage it.

In electric racing, the brain of the car is the software – and that is where James sees the greatest room for advancement.

“As we are working with our drivers and engineers – and start to look at functionality to improve our efficiency and our performance, that’s something we’ll continue to push because that development is open throughout the season,” James said. “That’s going to be our focus going forward and provides enough of a challenge for us to get our teeth into.

“What’s going to be fascinating is as Formula E continues, is to really look at which areas of development on the car are going to be the most relevant and ensuring that we can focus on those together with the manufacturers so we continue and use the series as a platform for technical development that can then feed back into the road car side of things as well.

“At the end of the day, that’s what motorsports always been, a very powerful tool for, and I see Formula E as no exception.”

James McLaren Formula E
Jake Hughes and Rene Rast were chosen for their ability to drive fast and execute the necessary strategy for energy management. – NEOM McLaren Racing Formula E Team

Selecting Rast and Hughes as McLaren’s Formula E drivers was not simply because they know how to drive fast. James believes both drivers have the mental aptitude to execute energy management strategies throughout the race and squeeze maximum performance.

“As with many other motorsports, you’ve got a certain amount of energy that you’re able to deploy during the race and the management of that energy is absolutely crucial,” James said. “What we’re seeing typically in electric motorsports now is the hardware side of things. The efficiencies that we’re seeing in the powertrain as a whole, they’re getting up to the sort of 96%, 97%, 98% efficiency, so the gains that you get through that further and further become more marginal.”

With much more room for improvement, software is a different matter. To make the best decisions, the drivers need data, and that is where James believes McLaren Formula E will make their greatest impact.

“And then you really switch that focus to the software and that’s where you’re going to see the most the most improvement and the most gains,” James continued. “It’s then using that software to ensure that you’re deploying the energy in the most efficient manner during race, and thereby giving the driver the most performance. And that’s something which is incredibly complicated, but I find it a fascinating area to work in.

“The benefit of being involved in racing is you can really push the envelope in a way that you can’t do on road cars. And I think that that’s where that value comes in. It means that you accelerate the development a lot quicker. We will get ahead of the curve – and we are getting ahead of the curve now – and that will mean that the electric motorsports remain part of the overall development process.

“The key to that is also making sure that the racing’s exciting and fun for the fans. If we can, we can tick both of those boxes, then it’s got a very bright future ahead of it.”