Q. What is the best way to learn about road racing?
A. Road racing is a complex, multifaceted endeavor and like any venture with so many varied aspects, learning about it takes considerable time and effort, a high level of curiosity and a fair amount of individual initiative. Probably the best way to learn a lot in a short time is to go to an SCCA Regional or National race and spend the entire weekend watching the races and talking to the participants, all of whom will be glad to share their enthusiasm with you. (Although almost all SCCA races are 'non-spectator' events, guests are generally welcomed or, alternatively, temporary memberships can be purchased.) If you find an SCCA member who lives nearby, ask if you can come over and look over their car and chat about racing. In almost every case, you will be welcome to look closely at their car and ask about any aspect of racing. You might also volunteer to be on the crew for the next race. There are also a number of books on racing that can provide a lot of insight into what is involved and how it works. (see the BOOKS, MAGAZINES AND ARTICLES page.) If you’re serious about getting involved, join the SCCA and you’ll receive the monthly SCCA magazine “SPORTSCAR” which has a broad range of information in it every month. You will also receive your local SCCA Region's newsletter or magazine. There are also a number of smaller clubs such as those on the east coast - EMRA, Formula Pro and FRCCA - which are a viable alternative or supplement to the SCCA activities. Refer to their respective forums on the apexspeed.com website - THE forum website for all open wheel classes.
Q. What are the sub-classes of Formula Ford?
A. Last year the SCCA changed the formal name of the class to Formula F when another engine was allowed into the class. (The name of the other engine starts with an "H" !) Strictly speaking Formula Ford (FF1600) has three "sub-classes' of cars, Formula Ford, Club Ford and Spec Ford with the first two being the most prevalent while Spec Ford is a west coast class which includes chassis from about 1975 up through 1982. For the rules as they apply in any given Region, consult the respective Race Chairman. Club Ford was born in about 1982 and was based on the British "Pre-78" class which was a way to allow cars which had been ecliped by the burst of technology at that time to be competitive in the new class. When Club Ford was created, hundreds of older, outclassed cars that were no longer competitive against the newer, faster, more aerodynamic cars, could compete for their own silverware and as a result, cars which had been collecting dust in garages were brought out and raced again. They also became more valuable. The Club Ford rules, although they can vary by Region, typically call for cars with outboard suspension on at least one end of the car and in many cases, a "spec" tire is also required - a tire made with a harder compound and a longer life. The Spec Ford class is a "between" class that allows cars from about 1979 through 1982. In 1983, the Swift came along and, basically, obsoleted every other car out there. So Spec Ford is a way to allow for fully inboard suspension cars to compete and win - without having to beat the Swifts and other cars like them. Club Ford is a popular class and although prices rose as the class became more viable, cars can still be found at reasonable prices. Tire bills are lower - or, at least thay are supposed to be. So it's a very attrative class to race in. The engine rules and all other preparation & safety rules are the same for all three classes. The best way to get an idea of what might appeal to you is to get to a race weekend and see what the makeup of each class is in your Region, talk with the racers themselves and go from there.
Q. I have heard about AJ and Mario but who the heck is Briggs? And who are Max and Lance and Masten?
A. America has a tremendous racing history – now a full one hundred years of it - and so there is no shortage of fantastic individuals, incredible innovators and amazing champions who deserve to be recognized for the heros they were. One of the great pleasures of the sport is getting to know about some of these guys. The great Briggs Cunningham built several race cars and ran them at Le Mans. He was also a New England Region Member and in his spare time, he won the America’s Cup sailing his own boat. Max Balkowsky built the string of cars known as “Ol Yaller” and with them, he beat exotic Italian cars regularly! Lance Reventlow built the Scarab’s in the late 50’s and set a new standard for American race car construction. Masten Gregory was the first great American driver to move to Europe and pursue GP racing full time. He also managed a podium finish in his first GP! So, there’s a lot of history there and it’s all worth reading about. If you’re racing in SCCA, you’re carrying on that history.
Q. How much does it cost?
A. Now THIS is one tough question! A famous quote about the cost of racing is this: “Speed costs money. How fast do you want to go”. First, let it be said that auto racing of almost any variety is not cheap. It costs money to equip yourself and it costs money to maintain the car, go to the race weekends, pay race entry fees, etc. If you wreck the car or blow the engine, you’ve got much larger expenses to take care of and your local insurance agent isn’t going to be any help. The most important thing to know is that racing can be done fairly economically under certain conditions. In very general terms, driver equipment and schooling can cost $1,000 to $ 3,000. Race cars can cost between $3,000 and 30,000. Race weekends (including all costs, entry fees, hotels, gas and also tires and wear and tear) can cost between $400 and $2,000. A typical season of, say, one test day and five races will cost between $2,500 and $8,000 or more. A “blown” engine can “cost” between $500 and $5,000 to repair – it all depends on the type and quality of car you are driving.
Q. Do race cars appreciate or depreciate?
A. Some do, some don’t. A well maintained car in a popular racing class can easily keep its value over a few years. Uncompetitive cars or those in classes that are becoming less popular can drop in value. If they are abused or “thrashed”, they will definitely drop in value. Some cars do actually appreciate if they are rare or if they are especially competitive in their class. I know people who have always sold cars for as much or more than they paid originally. To truly find out about race car values, follow the sport for a few years and ask a lot of questions. Watch the classified ads in SportsCar and other publications. Talk to racers with experience.
Q. How much in the way of equipment and tools are needed?
A. There is a standard list of equipment that is needed if you want to be able to do the things you need to do to the car between races and at race events. (see list at the end of this section) The list includes essential items that you can't do without and non-essentials which, although they can make the job easier, are not absolutely required to go racing. Today, more so than previously, everyone seems to want to have every single tool and machine known to man at their disposal but it is not mandatory to do so!
Q. Where can I race?
A. In New England, the three prime venues are the fabled Lime Rock Park in Lime Rock, Connecticut – a 1.5 mile road course with a long history and a very challenging layout; New Hampshire International Speedway in Louden, New Hampshire. NHIS includes a 1.6 mile long road course on the same site as the one mile NASCAR oval; Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York is a world famous former Grand Prix circuit. There are two courses – one, the “Short Course” is the original GP 2.4 mile track and with an extension, there is a “Long Course” of 3.5 miles. In addition, there are tracks in Pocono Pennsylvania, Summit Point, West Virginia and a few others. All these tracks hold SCCA Regional and National races.
Q. Are all racers motorheads?
A. No, thank god.
Looking for answers on amatuer race driving? See Driving
Or perhaps about the Kent engine? See Engines