Full transcript: FIA Formula 4 U.S. announcement at COTA


AUSTIN, Texas – The new FIA Formula 4 U.S. series was announced Thursday at Circuit of the Americas. MotorSportsTalk will have additional content from one-on-one interviews with Robert Clarke and Stefano Domenicali to come in the coming days.

In the meantime, here’s a transcript (done by my MST colleague Daniel McFadin) of today’s announcement from the press room, featuring the following key stakeholders:

  • Stefano Domenicali, President, Single Seater Commission, Federation Internationale de l’Automobile
  • Marc Sours, Sr. Manager/Chief Engineer, Honda Performance Development
  • Robert Clarke, President, SCCA Pro Racing
  • Catherine Crawford, Aerodynamist/Sr. Project Manager, Crawford Composites
  • Bobby Rahal, President, Road Racing Drivers Club
  • Katherine Legge, Driver, DeltaWing Racing, Grace Autosport

SD: “I think today is a very important day for motorsports. I think it’s very important for the FIA international federation. Furthermore, it’s very important because I think motorsports in the United States is huge … I think this is the chance where we can start the connection between the international federation and what is relevant in this fantastic country. I think that today, to explain to the ones not so familiar with what is happening in the formula world in the FIA. We created a step…toward the growth of the young talent that started their career from karting, and then we thought it was important to give them a stable and very good path to the pinnacle of motorsport. And the F4 is the first half…to make sure the pyramid is clear, current and we want to give the chance to the talent, in this case, from this country, to make sure they’re given the chance to compete and to grow in a framework that is very, very professional. Very, very clear in terms of organization, and very,very clear also in respect to what investment is needed in the first half of this ladder to enter in this part of competition.

“I think that is really the relevancy of what is … today. I remember when we had the first meeting, not so many months ago, it was in May because we were all together in Indianapolis, the people I want to thank with my heart later on. I say ‘wow,’ we are here in September to announce this wonderful opportunity for the young talent that are here in this country. In such a short time, I’ve very, very thankful for the job that has been done by all the parties in this project, because it is something that had been done with a great passion, with a great professionality. This is something on the FIA side we see the first step in the connection with what had been, this is my personal opinion of course, something not to connect with the FIA and to this fantastic movement that is in your country. Once again, an incredible day.

“This category is going, very, very well all around the world. We have already many, many championships. I can give you some examples. We can see that in Australia, Japan, Italy. In Mexico, they’re going to launch this year at the Formula 1 event next month. In the Middle East, in Europe.

“So, the attention toward this first half of the growth…is growing.

“It’s all the best for something that should be a great success, and will be a place where older talent and younger talent can show who they are and compete in the future with talent from all the different countries.

RC: “I can say this is the launch of Formula 4 for the United States Championship. This is something the SCCA has been working on for nearly a year. It’s a very significant announcement. One, I want to thank the relationship we’ve developed with the FIA. This is a relationship that existed with some distance, but now, we’re kind of joining hands and working on something collectively that hasn’t happened in many years, I think since the early Formula One races. So this is truly a historic moment.

“I would also, as Stefano said, I would like to thank Nick (Craw) and the entire ACCUS organization, they have been fundamental in helping us navigate through this. They’ve been a phenomenal sounding board for me to work with and has ultimately led to the success of this program.

“Many of you might be thinking, just what we need is another ladder series open wheel series. And the answer is, it is. F4 is exactly what this country needs. Because F4 is not a car. F4 is a program, a very comprehensive program which we’ll outline in our discussion this morning. It’s a program that is very well conceived from the FIA to attract new, younger drivers into Motorsports in a way that provides them with a contemporary, modern product, a very affordable means of operation. It gives them marketing support and other things that we will identify. F4 is perfect from that point of view. Another key point, is that F4 is ideal for SCCA Pro Racing. The F4 and SCCA Pro Racing are on a mission to change motorsport and F4 isn’t just the ladder into open-wheel racing. We are providing a ladder for SCCA to re-establish itself in the vein of USRC, K&N, Formula 5000….SCCA is known arguably for some of the best motorsports this country has ever seen. Formula 4 will provide the ladder for us to re-establish that position in the marketplace. You are going to see a new SCCA.

“The Formula 4 program, the strength of that program, comes from as with any business relationship comes from your partners. The stronger partners, the stronger the relationship, the stronger the results. We have world class partners in Honda, Pirelli and Crawford Composites.

MS: “The company I represent, Honda Performance Development, was started in 1993 to be Honda’s racing company in this continent. Since then, we’ve been racing in open wheel consistently since 1994. One of our long-term goals to grow the participation of open-wheel racing, so the FIA has that same goal with its creation of the F4 and the SCCA shares that same goal in bringing F4 to America. So we’re pleased that they’ve selected us as an engine partner. It’s a perfect marrying of goals across the partnership. The engine that we utilized is the modern K20 engine that is being used in the European Type R. We’ll decontent it, as the FIA’s requirement is for 160 horsepower output.

“We’re also pleased to continue to broaden our partnership with Crawford Composites. We’ve started working with them Formula Lites program and this gives us another path to work with them and partner with them on a more cost effective racing platform.”

CC: “I’m the engineering manager, senior project manager and aerodynamicist of Crawford Composites. The most important thing for is is that we’re all racers. The company was founded by my parents and my father (Max) who’s been racing forever, so everything that we do has been geared towards racing. Not only that, but it’s also…the quality that we put out, which we’re very, very proud of. It’s a complete validation for us at the company to be chosen as a partner for the FIA, for Honda, and the SCCA. It’s very important and shows that all the work that we’ve done has culminated in something special. The F4 program is a natural progression for us after the FL (Formula Lites) 15, we can take all that knowledge that we gained from that program…that is a wonderful car as hopefully Katherine can tell you later. We can take that knowledge and although the F4 has a larger price cap than the FL 15, we can take the suspension and those kinds of things and scale it. We have some change to make….but overall the car is going to be quite similar to drive and it’s going to be a quality piece, which is what Crawford does. The testing schedule that we’re looking at, the car has already been started…we’re going to have the testing schedule start around mid-October.

“Hopefully Katherine (Legge) will drive it for me again, as she has the FL 15. We haven’t put out all the specs, but obviously the specs are given to us by the FIA for the F4, so we generally know what those are…will be more affordable for people that want to get on the ladder and you’ll see as we unveil it, there have been some special attributes that you can follow this through with as we’re talking about the ladder series. We’re very excited about that.”

BR: “Happy to be president of the Road Racing Drivers Club. If you don’t know what that is, it’s the organization that’s over 60 years old now and an organization that really included the greatest drivers in the world in the many decades since then, in 1952 was when it was first started. The famous symbol of the steering wheel is our symbol and during the 50s and 60s the RDC was dedicated to improving the safety of motorsports and actually providing driving schools for other drivers the SCCA in particular, which most every one was in those days.

“Obviously since that time, Skip Barber showed up…and things like that and they do a fantastic job and it really became incumbent upon the organization about 10 years ago to really figure out how we were going to be relevant to the sport of auto racing in the future. We concluded that the best way was if you looked at our membership list there were people that were professional racing kind of drivers or people that were very good amateur racers that were also very, very good in the civilian world so to speak, marketers and bankers and PR people, you name it. We felt that the way we could leave our imprint on the sport was do everything we could to help young people make the grade from karting into racing and to explain to them and provide video of what you needed to do to go find a sponsor, what you needed to do to prepare yourself mentally and physically in order to success in motorsports. Since that time we’ve gone online, which the number that access our site around the world is pretty staggering, from places even like Afghanistan and Iraq, place you might not think would be accessing our website and then they are.

“It’s been popular in large degree thanks to the support of the FIA, and Honda, which I suppose that’s why I’m here, is that connection. Of course now with this new car, it really fits into what we’re trying to do, which is once again, to help people make the grade from karting to the next stop of open-wheel racing or whatever it is they might want to do. This is exciting.”

KL: “I’m probably one of the lucky ones, since I got to drive the car. I’ll start from the beginning and hopefully I won’t rattle on too long. I first met Catherine (Crawford) in 2012 and she was one of my engineers at the 500 and I was blown away by her professionalism and attention to detail and that has definitely carried over into this car. When I drove it, first of all when I looked at it, I thought, ‘That’s a really good looking car…I wonder if drives as well as it looks.’

“Like I said, it’s phenomenal. It’s so much fun to drive. It does exactly what it says (on the ten?), I wish there had been a series like this when I was going up through. I started in Formula 4 1600 without the wings on, then I went into Formula 10 and did a couple of races in Formula 3 and worked my way through. If there had been a jump like this Formula 4 car from going out of karting into open-wheel, I think it would have made me a lot better, a lot quicker, if that makes sense.Everything we did to the car when we tested, it does what it’s supposed to do which is unusual. There haven’t been cars that were built to this standard in a very long time in my opinion and I’ve driven quite a lot of different cars. I think I have one of the most diverse careers of any racecar driver ever. Like I said, it was fun to drive, it is probably the best entry level series that i can think of from a driving standpoint, because it teaches them exactly what they need to know and it teaches them how to be smooth, which is going to be close racing an most important, as I can definitely attest to, it’s going to be affordable. Whether you guys know or not the hardest part about racing is actually putting the budget together to go racing. We don’t all have rich daddies unfortunately.

“I keep having a go at mine for not being (rich)!

“There’s so much you can do with it, which I was super impressed with. You can put bigger tires and a bigger engine in and it will still be an amazing step up the ladder.

“It’s an amazing engine package, they’ve done a quality draw as they always do.”

RC: “Next year, 2015, the five events, 15 races, there’s three races at every event in the series. Those will be geographically, mostly focused on the east side of the country if you draw a line through Road America and COTA, basically east of that.

“Starting in ’17 and ’18, in ’17 it’ll go up to seven events and 21 races and ’18 will go to eight events and 24 races moving towards the West. Ultimately, we have a vision of maybe in the old Atlantic days, we had an East and West championship, in order to keep it original and the cost of competition down, that might be a start directions, so that’s in consideration.

“Of course the affordability of the product we have not talked about that. This car, a running car, on wheels, ready to roll, is $51,600. That’s 40 percent less than a contemporary chassis. It’s unbelievable. It’s a contemporary carbon tub, built to FIA specifications for driver compartment and crash testing. Paddle shifts, sequential shifts, data acquisition, camera, contemporary Honda engine with direct fuel injection and efficiency on the best Formula 1 variety Pirelli tires. This is an outstanding product at an unbelievable price. We believe the price is the biggest hurdle for new drivers to get into full-sized cars. This will do it.

“That combined with a number of other attributes that FIA brings. The fact that drivers are eligible for FIA super licenses is another key component. In 2017, there will be an international F4 championship. There will a F4 world champion that will bring the leading drivers of each nation together to compete in a final.

“No other platform can offer these….

“We are working with established alliances with WKA, the World Karting Association and SKUSA …work relationships we’ve already reached that agreement with WKA and we’re in that continuing discussion with SKUSA to provide an alliance which will driver karters, graduating karters into our program and at the same time, motivate drivers to pursue karting that will allow them to accumulate the skills that will allow them to prevail in Formula 4.

“Part of what is required as part of the F4 campaign is a comprehensive marketing and promotional campaign to give drivers recognition to make these things visible and give them awareness. That requires money and support.

“It’s the cooperation of partners like Honda, Crawford and Pirelli that make that possible. We’re looking for a title sponsor, if there are any out here, we’re ready and willing and a very affordable and very attractive program with broad exposure on every car…

“We’re working with schools to provide drier development, not just in the sense of on-track driver development but in the sense of what Bobby and Katherine talked about in developing the entire package. Physical training, mental training, race strategy, the way to present yourself, to sell yourself to sponsors and all that ,That is a package. Part of the F4 package.

“Track time. As I mentioned, three races at each race event. Three hours of on-track time. Three races with two practice sessions. It’s all about getting young drivers the experience they need. The best way to do that on on-track.

“Award and incentives. We’ll be announcing in the coming weeks…an awards and incentive program that will rival all ladder system series programs currently. It will be lucrative every race on the weekend. All podium finishers will receive cash rewards. There will be a champions of the week that will receive a cash reward. And at the end of the season, the champions will receive a lucrative payout for them, which will increase each year as we grow the series….”

‘Baby Borgs’ bring special Indy 500 bonds, memories for Marcus Ericsson, Chip Ganassi

Ganassi Ericsson Indy
Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner

THERMAL, Calif. – Winning the Indy 500 is a crowning achievement for driver and car owner, but for Chip Ganassi, last May’s victory by Marcus Ericsson had meaning even beyond just capturing one of the world’s greatest sporting events.

When Ganassi was 5 years old and growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, his father, Floyd, attended a convention in Indianapolis in 1963. Floyd went to Indianapolis Motor Speedway to tour the track and visit the former museum that used to stand next to the main gate on 16th and Georgetown.

Ganassi’s father brought young Chip a souvenir from the gift shop. It was an 8-millimeter film of the 1963 Indy 500, a race won by the legendary Parnelli Jones.

“I must have watched it about 1,000 times,” Ganassi recalled. “More importantly than that, something you did when you were 5 years old is still with you today.

“I was 50 years old when I celebrated my Thanksgiving with Parnelli. It dawned on me that something I did when I was 5 years old took me to when I was 50 years old. That’s pretty special.”

Ericsson and Ganassi were presented with their “Baby Borgs,” the mini-replicas of the Borg-Warner Trophy, in a ceremony Feb. 2 at The Thermal Club (which played host to NTT IndyCar Series preseason testing). The win in the 106th Indy 500 marked the sixth time a Ganassi driver won the biggest race in the world.

Ganassi will turn 65 on May 24, just four days before the 107th Indianapolis 500 on May 28. The 2023 race will mark the 60th anniversary of the victory by Jones, who is now the oldest living winner of the Indianapolis 500 at 89.

Jones wanted to do something special for Ericsson and Ganassi, so each was given framed photos personally inscribed by Jones.

Parnelli Jones (Steve Shunck Photo For BorgWarner)

“Congratulations Marcus Ericsson and my good friend Chip Ganassi on winning the 2022 Indianapolis 500,” Jones said in remarks conveyed by BorgWarner publicist Steve Shunck. “There is no greater race in the whole world and winning it in 1963 was by far the biggest thrill in my life.”

Ganassi’s relationship with his racing hero began 60 years ago, but the two have shared some important moments since then.

It was Jones that signed off on Ganassi’s first Indianapolis 500 license in 1982. Jones was one of the veteran observers who worked with Ganassi and other rookie drivers that year to ensure they were capable of competing in the high-speed, high-risk Indianapolis 500.

When Ganassi turned 50, he got to celebrate Thanksgiving dinner with Jones.

“We’ve been friends over the years,” Ganassi told NBC Sports. “He wrote me a personal note and sent me some personal photographs. It really says what this race is all about and how important it is to win the biggest auto race in the world.”

Michelle Collins, the director of global communications and marketing for BorgWarner, presented the “Baby Borgs,” first to Ganassi and then to Ericsson.

“More special is winning the Indianapolis 500,” Ganassi said during the presentation. “It’s been a big part of my life. I want to call out my buddy, Roger Penske, and thank him for the stewardship of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and what it means to us. It’s about the history, the tradition and, to me, it’s about the people that have meant so much in my life.

“Thanks for the trophy, Marcus.”

Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi hold their Baby Borgs while posing with the Borg-Warner Trophy (Bruce Martin).

The Baby Borg presentation also came on the birthday of sculptor William Behrends, who has crafted the Bas-relief sterling silver face of each winner on the Borg-Warner Trophy since 1990. The “Baby Borg” presents each winner with a miniature of one of the most famous trophies in sports.

“I have to thank BorgWarner for everything that has happened since winning the Indianapolis 500, including the trip to Sweden,” said Ericsson, who took a November victory lap in his native country. “I’m very thankful for that because it’s memories that are going to be with me for the rest of my life.

“To bring the Borg-Warner Trophy to my hometown, seeing all the people there on the city square on a dark day in the middle of November. It was filled with people and that was very special.

“I’m very proud and honored to be part of Chip Ganassi Racing. To win the Indianapolis 500 with that team is quite an honor. It’s a team effort and a lot of people worked very hard to make this happen.

“Our focus now is to go back-to-back at the Indy 500.”

If Ericsson is successful in becoming the first driver to win back-to-back Indy since Helio Castroneves in 2001-02, he can collect an additional $420,000 in the Borg-Warner Rollover Bonus. With Castroneves the last driver to collect, the bonus has grown to an astronomical amount over 21 years.

Ericsson is from Kumla, Sweden, so the $420,000 would have an exchange rate of $4,447,641.67 Swedish Kronor.

“It’s a nice thing to know I could get that if I do win it again,” Ericsson told NBC Sports. “But the Indianapolis 500 with its history as the biggest and greatest race in the world, it doesn’t matter with the money, with the points, with anything. Everyone is going to go out there and do everything to win that race.

“It’s great to know that, but I will race just as hard.”

Marcus Ericsson points at the newest face on the Borg-Warner Trophy (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

A popular slogan in racing is “Chip Likes Winners.” After winning the 106th Indy 500, Ganassi must really love Ericsson.

“It doesn’t get much bigger than that, does it? I’m very thankful to be driving for Chip,” Ericsson said. “He likes winners and winning the Indianapolis 500, it doesn’t get better than that.”

When Ericsson was presented with his Baby Borg, he stood off to the side and admired it the way a child looks at a special gift on Christmas morning. The wide-eyed amazement of his career-defining moment was easy to read and met with delight by executives of BorgWarner (an automotive and technology company that has sponsored the Borg-Warner Trophy since its 1935 debut).

“I noticed that immediately and I was watching him look at it wishing I had a camera to capture that,” Collins told NBC Sports. “But maybe not because we always have our phones in front of us and it’s nice to take in that moment as it is. That is what makes the moment well worth it.”

Marcus Ericsson (Bruce Martin)

Said BorgWarner executive vice president and chief strategic officer Paul Farrell: “It’s very special to have the big trophy that has been around since 1935 and to have a piece of that. Hopefully it’s something that (Ericsson) cherishes. We think it’s special, and clearly, Marcus Ericsson thinks it is very special.”

The trophy process begins shortly after the race as the winner has the famed Borg-Warner Wreath placed around his neck, and the Borg-Warner Trophy is put on the engine cover. The next morning, the winner meets with Behrends, who has been sculpting the faces on the trophy since Arie Luyendyk’s first victory in 1990. Later in the year, the winner visits Behrends’ studio in Tryon, North Carolina, for a “Live Study.”

The process takes several more steps before the face is reduced to the size of an egg and casted in sterling silver. It is attached to the permanent Borg-Warner Trophy and unveiled at a ceremony later in the year. Ericsson’s face was unveiled last October during a ceremony in Indianapolis.

That’s when it hit Ericsson, a three-time winner in IndyCar after going winless in Formula One over 97 starts from 2014-18.

“Until then, it was strange because you are so busy with your season right after the Indy 500 you don’t really get much time to sit back and think about what you had accomplished,” Ericsson said. “It was the offseason before I really realized what I had done.”

The permanent trophy remains on display at Indianapolis Motor Speedway but has been known to travel with the winning driver on special tours, such as the Nov. 3-7 trip to Sweden.

“It’s been incredible to see the amount of interest in me and the IndyCar Series and the Indy 500,” Ericsson said. “The trophy tour with the Borg-Warner Trophy we did in November really made a huge impact in Sweden. I was on every TV show, morning TV, magazines, newspapers, everywhere. People are talking about IndyCar racing. People are talking about Marcus Ericsson. It’s been huge.

“I was back in Sweden last month for the Swedish Sports Awards and I finished third in the Sports Performance of the Year. Motorsports is usually not even nominated there, and I finished third. That says a lot about the interest and support I’ve gotten back home in Sweden.”

Ericsson continued to reap the rewards of his Indianapolis 500 victory last week at the lavish Thermal Club, about a 45-minute drive from Palm Springs, California.

Earlier in the day before the Baby Borg presentation, Ericsson, and Chip Ganassi were among the 27 car-driver combinations that completed the first day of IndyCar’s “Spring Training” on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile road course. The next day, Ericsson turned the test’s fastest lap.

The 32-year-old still seems to be riding the wave, along with his girlfriend, Iris Tritsaris Jondahl, a Greece native who also lived in Sweden and now lives with Ericsson in Indianapolis.

“Today, receiving my Baby Borg, it was another thing of making it real,” Ericsson said. “It’s not a dream. It’s reality. To get the Baby Borg and bring it home. My girlfriend, Iris, and I are house hunting, looking for a house in Indianapolis. It will definitely have a very special place in our new home.”

Marcus Ericsson and girlfriend Iris Tritsaris Jondahlc share a kiss at the Baby Borg presentation (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

Ericsson told NBC Sports his most cherished trophy before getting his Baby Borg was for his first NTT IndyCar Series win in the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix in 2021.

“It was such a huge win for me and such a huge breakthrough for me and my career,” he said. “After that, it catapulted me into a top driver in IndyCar.”

The Brickyard win was another level for Ericsson, who moved to Ganassi in 2020.

“Marcus kept himself in the race all day,” Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull told NBC Sports. “Anybody that ran a race like Marcus ran, maybe you deserve the race win, but you don’t always get it. Marcus did everything that it took, and we are really, really proud of him.”

Ericsson also proved last year to be one of the best oval drivers in the series, a much different form of racing than he experienced until he came to the United States.

“Racing in Europe and around the world, I always liked high-speed corners,” he explained. “It was always my favorite. I always had this idea if I go to IndyCar and race on the ovals, it is something that would suit me and my driving style. I was always excited to try that. When I came to IndyCar and started to drive on ovals, I liked it straight away. It worked for me and my style.

“The first few attempts at Indy, I had good speed, but it was always some small mistakes that got me out of contention. I learned from them. I’m very proud I was able to pull it off, but it was a lot of hard work behind that.”

Michelle Collins of BorgWarner presented Baby Borgs to Marcus Ericsson and Chip Ganassi at a ceremony also attended by Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull (Mike Levitt/LAT Images/BorgWarner).

The victory in the Indianapolis 500 is etched in history, as is Ericsson’s face on the trophy.

“It’s such a special thing,” the driver said. “The BorgWarner people and IndyCar and everyone at IMS, I get to experience so many cool things since winning the Indy 500. It’s a win that keeps on giving. It never ends. It still does.

“I can’t wait to get back to Indianapolis, the month of May, as the champion. I still have to pinch myself. It’s a dream, for sure.”

Ganassi doesn’t have to pinch himself — all he needs to do is look at his collection of Baby Borgs.

His first Indy 500 win — as a team co-owner with Pat Patrick — came in 1989 with Emerson Fittipaldi’s thrilling duel against Al Unser Jr.

In 1990, Ganassi formed Chip Ganassi Racing. Juan Pablo Montoya won the Indianapolis 500 in 2000, Scott Dixon in 2008, Dario Franchitti in 2010 and 2012 and Ericsson in 2022.

“It’s a feather in the team’s cap for sure just to have our representation on the Borg-Warner Trophy with five other drivers,” Ganassi said. “It’s a testament to the team, a testament to Mike Hull that runs the team in Indianapolis. I just feel really lucky to be a part of it. It’s great to work with a great team of great people.

“Just to relive that moment again and again never gets old; never goes away. I’m really lucky to be in the position I’m in. It’s an honor to represent the team with the great people that it took to bring Marcus across the finish line. He and I get to celebrate events like this, but it’s really about the people at Chip Ganassi Racing in Indianapolis that pull this all together.”

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500