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

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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….”