(includes some excerpts from posts in the the "Getting Started" section of apexspeed.com)
The answer to that question is complicated because everyone starts from a different point and everyone has a different goal in mind. Let’s stick with the idea of going club racing in a Formula Ford for the moment.
First thing to do is visit the SCCA website - www.scca.com – and look over the information there. You will see links to your local SCCA Region's website. Listings of all solo, racing, rally and school events can be found either on the SCCA website or by going to your Region’s own website.
Then, before diving right in and joining, go to an SCCA Regional or National race in your area. Spend the weekend at a race event and soak it up, talk with the car owners and drivers, observe the way the event runs and watch especially closely when the Formula Ford cars are on track in qualifying or in the race. You’ll learn a lot and there’s a good possibility you will be bitten by the bug!
|Bob's qualifying runs hadn't gone so well and he found himself at the back of the grid. As the green flag waved, he wondered how he would make it to the front and achieve his dream of a podium finish.|
|Peter Scott's "RACING, The Driver's Handbook" was published in 1984 and except for the effects of inflation on his projected costs of racing, the advice he gave then is still applicable today.|
There are several options when it comes to going to a racing school. The SCCA requires that you attend two weekends of SCCA school or you can attend an SCCA accredited professional school and obtain you license that way. To do an SCCA school you can either buy your own car, rent (or borrow) a car for the two weekends. You will also need approved driving gear, and to be familiar with the SCCA competition rules.
Buying a car straightaway
Many people decide to go right ahead and buy a Formula Ford and take it to an SCCA driver’s school. Purchasing a car at the outset is a significant commitment to the sport and you’ve got to be ready to do all the work the car may require ( or hire someone to do it ) and then maintain it over two rather strenuous weekends involving as much as three or four hours of track time each. (See the Buying a Used Race Car page)
What is your goal?
Ask yourself what your overall goal in racing is. Occasional club racer? Regional racer only? National competitor? National Champion? Professional driver? ChampCar? IRL? Formula One? You may start out with one objective in mind and find that once you get into it, your goals evolve or change completely. The best way to approach it is to take step one and get involved at the Regional level. There are a multitude of Regional race weekends in most of the active SCCA Regions. This will give you a chance to get an idea of what it’s all about and to do so at a reasonable level of cost and time.
The simplest way to get an intense immersion in the sport is to go to a three day professional driver’s school such as the Skip Barber Racing School. It’s a pretty pricey deal – perhaps as much as $2,500, maybe more – but the school provides everything you need – the car, crew, driver’s equipment, etc. The instructors will get you up to speed progressively over the three days and will mix a lot of classroom time in with the on-track time. It will be about the same cost as renting a FF for an SCCA school and you can't beat the amount of track time and skills training you'll get.
You can do the school at fun places like Road Atlanta, Sebring and a host of other great tracks around the country. At the end of the three day school, you will have your Regional license too. The one day introductory course will get you into the seat of a race car but it will only get you a little taste of the game because on-track time is limited and so are the speeds you’re allowed to run.
|A field of Formula Fords at Bridgehampton in 1984.|
If you truly have aspirations of making it to the big time, hopefully, you are starting out at age 15 and you’ve got a few years of karts under your belt! After that, the best alternative is to sell everything you have, move to England and dedicate your life to the dream. Otherwise, an “arrive and drive” championship series is the only way to go – series such as Skip Barber, Jim Russell or a few others. Somebody else worries about the car preparation, you focus strictly on the driving and how you're going to pay for it.
These organizations know talent when they see it, they have the contacts at the next rung on the ladder, scholarships for the series champion, you get coaching after every session; if you're faster than the guy next to you, you know it's the driver and not the car, and if you bend a car, there will likely be another one ready and waiting for you for the next session.
That's a lot better than tweaking your own car for three years wondering if it's you or the car that's slow, finally making it to the Runoffs, and then what?
|The best advice: get a copy of Carroll Smith’s book “DRIVE TO WIN” and read the first chapter called “Follow the Yellow Brick Road”!|
Is there sponsorship available at the Club Racing level? Not really. Almost everyone at an SCCA Regional or National race is using his personal funds, has family support or they might be taking advantage of the normal contingency packages available to pretty much any reasonably well known Club driver. Even in Pro Atlantics, Pro Mazda, F-BMW it is nearly ALL family money or daddy's business paying the bills. Three hundred thousand to nearly a million dollars is the going rate for a ride in one of those series.
Do you have those resources available? If not, and you are not prepared to climb the NASCAR ladder, then buy yourself an FF and start enjoying a lifetime's hobby!
Need some pointers on how to purchase your first car? Read: Buying a Used Formula Ford
Have more questions? Check out our FAQ pages:
Frequently Asked Questions - General questions and answers.
FAQs - Driving - Common questions regarding racing in Formula Ford.
FAQs - Engines - Common questions relating to Formula Ford engines.