The Scene in the UK
This week is a bit of an “odds and sods” kind of article as I take a look at a number of goings on in the world of young drivers and developmental motorsport.
In the UK’s Junior Saloon Car Championship, Will Dyrdal was crowned 2017 champion after being the most consistent through the 2017 season. He finished 14 points clear of second place finisher Ethan Hammerton.
Meanwhile Tom Gamble took the 2017 Ginetta Junior title after an action packed finale. Full details can be found here. One thing to note is that five places remain in the Ginetta Junior Scholarship so if you would like to race in the championship, this is a good option to explore.
The 2017 Formula Ford Festival
Another fiercely fought Formula Ford Festival took place last weekend at Brands Hatch in the UK and after a close battle Joey Foster emerged victorious by just a tenth of a second over Keith Donegan. The Festival is to me one of the highlights of the junior racing calendar, much like the Macau Grand Prix. It’s nice to see a truly global selection of racers competing in this prestigious event and it proves the continues relevance of Formula 1600 to driver development.
I have some more details about the new F3 Americas that I talked about two weeks ago. The series will debut with 5 race weekends held in conjunction with the US F4 Championship featuring a 30-minute free practice and qualifying session followed by two thirty-minute races. There will also be two external test sessions, one held prior to the opening round and the other mid-season. This gives a total of two hours of track time per race weekend although SCCA Pro officials have indicated that this will probably increase in the future. Details of the prize packages have also been released with the championship winner and runner-up receiving a $200,000 USD scholarship towards either the new F3 International Championship being launched in 2019 or LMP3. SCCA Pro also announced that the US F4 prize fund has been increased from $40,000 to $100,000 USD.
So what does this mean in the short term? Well the benefits of being part of a FIA ladder system are obvious as F3 and F4 are global championships with all that conveys when it comes to the issuing of super-license points. And as Formula 1 moves aggressively to promote the brand in the United States, especially with a US-based team now in Haas, this can only benefit American (and Canadian) drivers interested in eventually racing in Europe and F1. But two questions remain. Is the track time adequate? Twelve hours in the seat compared to 39 hours in the current FIA European F3 championship and thirty-one hours in Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup is a big difference. Perhaps the comparison is best made to the BRDC F3 Championship where drivers there get about the seat time and will also presumably be part of the same new FIA regional F3 series concept.
And what about the prize fund? It is hard to determine how helpful that will be as the new F3 championship that will race alongside F1 in 2019 has not launched yet but it is hard not to see it as a bit on the miserly side compared to the Mazda Road to Indy program. Of course it is early days yet but we will have to see if the series can attract the same sort of commitment from Honda that Mazda gives the Road to Indy program. One thing we may be seeing an increase of is North American drivers involved in more lateral movement between the two programs to determine the best fit for their goals and budgets. Overall this competition can only be good for driver development assuming that running costs are kept in check.
The Chris Griffis Memorial Test
Speaking of the Mazda Road to Indy, the annual Chris Griffis Memorial tests took place last weekend with a number of new young guns from the karting ranks joining the tests as teams on all three rungs of this development ladder evaluated the talent for 2018. USF2000, Pro Mazda (introducing their brand new PM-18 chassis) and Indy Lights all took to the track with a number of new and graduating drivers from all over the globe for a total of 40 drivers testing the Indycar-sanctioned waters. It is always a great way to cap the 2017 season and 2018 looks to be a great one in all 3 championships. The full result from the weekend should be available by the time you read this at http://www.indycar.com/RoadToIndy.
Finally, progress on Motorsport Prospects is gaining speed as I continue to work on some technical issues and build up the foundation of the site before it is officially launched. A new Log-in and Registration set up has been implemented that will make it much easier for users to join the site. Currently there are 51 single-seater teams and 37 single-series loaded on the site with more to come. As I continue to add teams and series in other types of motorsport I will be adding the brand new premium categories. These categories will contain listings for everything from young driver scholarships and development programs, management and PR companies, fitness and legal professionals and a host of other services that will enable young drivers (and their parents) to comprehensively review what is available to enable them to advance in their motorsport careers.
That is it for this week. Next week I will discuss in a bit more depth what I have planned for Motorsport Prospects and how it will benefit you.