Last week I interviewed Steve Oseth of SCCA Pro Racing about the United States Formula 4 Championship and in that interview, we talked about the partnership between SCCA Pro Racing and the new Formula Pro USA. This week I talk to Mark Milazzo, Business Development and Communications Manager for World Speed Inc. as well as the owner of Formula Pro USA and Brent D. Morgan, President and CEO of Exclusive MotorWorks Racing who is helping to organize the series to get a little more insight into what Formula Pro USA is all about.
1. Why was the series started?
Mark Milazzo: The intention is to eventually have a proper FIA F4 Series on the West Coast. It is a great model internationally, but the model can’t work in a country the size of the United States. California, the state we are based in, is 40% larger than the entire United Kingdom! We have many drivers and teams based out west (our region is the largest SCCA Region in the country) and we also have a very strong karting community. If you are a team or driver based out here and need to travel back east for every event it will likely double your budget.
Bent Morgan: Formula Pro USA is affiliated with SCCA Pro Racing and was started to bring the F4 Series to the West Coast. Again, this is a budget-based series to help bring in new talent and up and coming racers into the racing community by providing a top notch, high quality race car and racing series on a very affordable budget. Like Mark stated above, having a series out here on the West Coast benefits racers with a more affordable budget mainly because of less travel costs.
2. You are affiliated with the USF4 Championship. Do you see the series as a warm up series for competitors in the F4 Championship or do you consider yourself more of an independent series?
MM: Ok, I am the communications person for both Formula Pro USA, and World Speed Inc. – this answer will be from World Speed’s perspective: World Speed has been racing in a variety of “springboard” series since our inception in 1991. It used to be just SCCA Club Racing, then Formula Renault West Coast (FTR), currently it is the Formula Car Challenge and Formula Pro USA. Here’s one of MANY examples… Kyle Kaiser, this year’s Indy Lights Champion spent two seasons with us racing in the SCCA and the Formula Car Challenge in a Pro Formula Mazda. When he showed up in the pro series he immediately was in the top 5. The costs to race in that series for one year is approximately $400k. He got two seasons worth of racing and testing in the same chassis for less than half of that. Much of this is due to limited travel, low entry fees, and tire rules. World Speed is currently planning to compete in the 2018 Formula Pro USA series with an eye of moving our 2018 drivers to USF4 or USF3 in ’19 or ’20.
BM: Yes, Formula Pro USA is affiliated with SCCA Pro Racing and follows the same competition rules, uses the same equipment and answers to SCCA Pro.
3. How does Formula Pro USA differ from Pacific F2000?
MM: Completely different cars, but the concept of the series is certainly similar. Limit travel costs and run races on our side of the United States. They do most of their racing in SoCal but come up by us every once in a while. (World Speed has sold them track time in the past and allowed them to race inside the Formula Car Challenge) We have a great relationship with the folks at Pac F2000. Here’s my personal take: If I already owned a Van Diemen Formula Continental (the car Pac F2000 uses) I would race in their series. If I had to buy a car, I would buy a new Ligier (Crawford) F4 car and race in the Formula Pro USA series.
BM: Formula Pro USA (FPU) utilizes the Ligier JS F4, an FIA homologated race car that is raced in F4 Championships around the world. These cars have the latest technology and safety features and are homologated to run in the USF4 Championships. FPU follows the exact same rules as SCCA Pro and the USF4 Championships with regard to the cars and the racing. The cars cannot be modified, and all engines are sealed. We work with the factory Onroak and the engine supplier Honda to ensure compliance.
4. What kind of reaction are you getting from the industry, drivers and teams?
MM: Brent is selling more cars on the West Coast, and we currently have 8 teams in the series. A 9th team is expected to be added shortly (another ex-Indy Lights and Toyota Atlantic team) Again I can give you my personal opinion. I have been in the open wheel racing industry for over 25 years, and when I started to learn more about this car and how the planned series would operate I immediately was excited. I was the Project Manager for the FormulaSPEED, one of the cars in the Formula Car Challenge. The concept for that car (and now the F4) is to limit expensive unneeded performance parts for racers at this level. I was the General Manager of Hasselgren Engineering, the company that managed CART’s Toyota Atlantic engine program. At that time a new engine was $55k and lasted 700 miles. Not even long enough to require an oil change. I love that racers will get an opportunity to use their budget dollars on attending more races instead of buying more rebuilds.
BM: Response has been very positive and exciting. From a racing budget standpoint, they are a no brainer. Where else can you get such a complete package for the price. Our engines are 10,000 KM engines, compared that to what Mark described above.
5. What does the winner of the championship get as a prize?
MM: That is currently being worked on, maybe Brett has some of the latest info?
BM: We are working on a prize package for this year and will announce by the official start of our race season in April.
Ligier JS-F4 Racecar on a shakedown run at Sonoma Raceway
6. Who do you see as your potential market for drivers?
MM: Up and coming karters who are based on the West Coast, and also some serious racing enthusiasts who don’t intend to be racers as a vocation. This is typically what we see in the Formula Car Challenge and I’d expect a similar pattern for the Formula Pro USA series.
BM: Mark, is spot on. We have been selling cars to individuals and race teams with a fairly even split between young Karter’s and racers looking for an exciting and affordable platform.
7. What kind of budget range are we talking about to be competitive?
MM: That really does depend on if you own or lease a car, how much testing you do (and where) and a host of other factors. World Speed hat on again: If you owned your own car and we did all the maintenance, prep, transport, and trackside you could do all the series testing and all the races for approximately $80k.
8. Are the plans to stay strictly Western based?
BM: Our agreement with SCCA Pro, Onroak, Honda, Pirelli, etc. is to cover the Western States and with budget in mind we are concentrating on west coast tracks. We will be racing at Thunderhill Raceway Park, Buttonwillow Raceway Park, Portland International Raceway, Laguna Seca with the final race at Sonoma Raceway taking place during the Indycar weekend at the Grand Prix of Sonoma.
9. Any chance that this series will evolve into USF4 West?
MM: It was the intention from the start, but there is much legwork to do to get the series FIA certified. Brent can answer this with more detail.
BM: We are currently working with SCCA Pro, FIA and our partners to achieve FIA certification. One of the problems is the limited number of tracks that are FIA certified out here in the west. This is a work in progress.
You can get contact and social media information for Formula Pro USA, Exclusive MotorWorks Racing and World Speed Racing on their Motorsport Prospects listings here: