Q&A: Robert Clarke on FIA Formula 4 in the U.S.

Clarke (center, with beard and glasses) on F4. Photo: Tony DiZinno

MotorSportsTalk spoke with both Robert Clarke, president of SCCA Pro Racing and Stefano Domenicali, president of the FIA Single Seater Commission, in further detail about the newly launched F4 championship in the U.S.

Clarke’s answers are below, with Domenicali’s to follow in a separate post. The full transcript from last weekend’s press conference at Circuit of The Americas is linked here.

Robert Clarke, president of SCCA Pro Racing

MST: Why begin another ladder, or what is it about the current (Mazda Road to Indy) ladder that isn’t working in your opinion for the time to be right to install F4 in the U.S. now?

RC: You have to look at the total package of what Formula 4 offers. There’s no other series… if you take a look at the brochure, there’s 10 components that make up an F4 program. Yes, there are cars out there that maybe aren’t as contemporary as this one. Definitely not at this price point. Cost of operation is nowhere close. The support and the brand of having the FIA is huge. It gives drivers an aspirational component of shooting for Formula 1 and IndyCar… it’s multiple ladders, not a single ladder. The marketing that will be driven … each of our three partners have made significant commitments to market the program. It’ll bring awareness to drivers and series in general.

The fact we’re looking at regionally based, makes cost of operations much less. You’re not dragging around the country. We’re with other pro racing series, Pirelli World Challenge, Trans-Am, which are headliners in a sense, not like an IndyCar… the problem with tying in with IndyCar, drives up hotels and infrastructure costs.

MST: Is the goal then to run primarily on sports car weekends only?

RC: Yep. Obviously with the Mazda Road to Indy, they’re locked in with IndyCar. We’re not running with them. But at this level, it doesn’t need to be at that high of a level, that headliner-type event. Doing races with Pirelli World Challenge is a more appropriate paddock. It’s more European. Has a sporty, contemporary feel to it. We think that this will work well. It combines sports car and open wheel cars.

MST: Given SCCA and World Challenge’s relationship has been, I don’t want to say strained, but certainly tested the last few years, will the F4 announcement help to strengthen these two entities?

RC: I do think so, yes. It will strengthen it with Trans-Am as well. Definitely we’ll have events with Trans-Am. Greg Gill (interim CEO, WC Vision) and I shook hands on a deal with PWC this next year. This’ll be good, we think.

MST: Any hints on timing or location of the 2016 schedule?

RC: Considering our late introduction, we’re looking at late-April to mid-May timing for first event.

We have our favorite (venues). We’re trying to piece it together. It’s a new series with new drivers, new teams, and we want even spacing between events to adjust.

MST: How has Formula Lites prepared SCCA for this introduction?

RC: The F Lites car is actually in many respects more advanced than this. It’s got everything from the gearbox to the suspension, the wings, the front and rear crash structures, the underfloor, are all further developed. Higher performance parts. Every part. It’s not just the total car. All have to meet the FIA requirement. So crash damage is something affordable and understood. As opposed to more expensive trick parts.

MST: At that price point ($51,600 for chassis and engine), how many cars do you think you can attract?

RC: We think the potential is huge. Our budget projection is for 15 cars. We believe the potential is more like 20 to 30. If so, that would only go to increase our payout and awards.

IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta: How to watch, start times, schedule, entry list

AUTO: NOV 13 IMSA - Motul Petit Le Mans
David J. Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Start times, TV schedule: The IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship will conclude the 2022 season this weekend with the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta, which also will mark the end of the line for the DPi class.

The premier Daytona Prototype international category, which started in 2017, will be replaced by the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) class with its LMDh cars that will establish a bridge to Le Mans.

For the third time in four years, an Acura will be crowned the champion in DPi as the No. 10 of Wayne Taylor Racing holds a 19-point edge over the No. 60 of Meyer Shank Racing.

Last year, WTR’s No. 10 entered the season finale with a 19-point lead but lost the title to the No. 31 Cadillac of Action Express.

Full-time WTR drivers Filipe Albuquerque and Ricky Taylor (who will be joined by Brendon Hartley in the No. 10 this weekend) have a series-leading four victories this season. The MSR duo of Tom Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves this weekend) won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and have five runner-up finishes this year.

Championship scenarios in the other four categories:

GTD Pro: Points leaders Matt Campbell and Mathieu Jaminet will clinch the title by starting in their No. 9 Pfaff Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 R.

–GTD: There are 140 points separating the top four teams with Roman De Angelis and the No. 27 Heart of Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT3 leading by 45 points.

–LMP2: John Farano is first in the driver standings by 33 points over Dwight Merriman and Ryan Dalziel. In the team standings, the No. 52 PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports leads by 19 points over the No. 8 Tower Motorsport (Farano’s team).

–LMP3: No. 54 CORE autosport drivers Jon Bennett and Colin Braun lead by 83 points over the No. 74 Riley Motorsports of Gar Robinson.

With the 10-hour race requiring an extra driver, several stars from other racing series have been added. In addition to Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay will serve as third drivers in Chip Ganassi Racing’s pair of Cadillacs.

Jimmie Johnson also will be making his last DPi start in the No. 48 Ally Cadillac with Mike Rockenfeller and Kamui Kobayashi. Petit Le Mans could mark the last start in an IMSA prototype for Johnson, who has said limited inventory likely will keep him out of the GTP category in the Rolex 24 next year.

Here are the start times, starting lineup, schedule and TV info for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta (all times are ET):

Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta start times, schedule, TV info

When: Saturday, 12:10 p.m. ET

Race distance: Ten hours on the 12-turn, 2.54-mile road course

TV: Noon-3 p.m., NBC; 3-10:30 p.m., USA Network. Peacock, the NBC Sports App,and NBCSports.com will have streaming coverage of the event from flag to flag beginning at noon. Leigh Diffey and Dave Burns are the play by play announcers with analysts Calvin Fish, Townsend Bell, James Hinchcliffe and Brian Till. The pit reporters are Kevin Lee, Hannah Newhouse, Dillon Welch and Matt Yocum.

IMSA.com live TV qualifying stream: Friday, 3:35 p.m. ET.

IMSA Radio: All sessions are live on IMSA.com and RadioLeMans.com; SiriusXM live race coverage will begin Saturday at noon (XM 207, Internet/App 992).

Forecast: According to Wunderground.com, it’s expected to be 63 degrees with an 85% chance of rain at the green flag.

Entry list: Click here to see the 48-car field for the IMSA Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta

Daily schedule IMSA Petit Le Mans

Here’s a rundown of the Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia:

Wednesday, Sept. 28

9:30 a.m.: Mazda MX-5 practice

10:25 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup

12:30 p.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

1:15 p.m.: Mazda MX-5 practcice

2 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup practice

3:30 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

Thursday, Sept. 29

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge practice

9 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup qualifying

9:50 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

11:40 a.m.: Prototype Challenge qualifying

12:10 p.m.: Michelin Challenge practice

1:50 p.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 1

2:55 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

5 p.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 1

6 p.m.: Michelin Challenge qualifying

7:30 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

Friday, Sept. 30

8 a.m.: Prototype Challenge race

9:50 a.m.: Mazda MX-5, Race 2

10:55 a.m.: Porsche Carrera Cup, Race 2

1:10 p.m.: IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race

3:40 p.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship qualifying

Saturday, Oct. 1

9:15 a.m.: IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship practice

12:10 p.m.: Petit Le Mans