Updated: Aug 4, 2020
The Coronavirus pandemic has changed a lot. Almost everyone has been negatively affected in some way, but ironically it may also have just made this the best time ever to become involved with Formula Ford racing in Scotland.
Formula Ford 1600, to give the series its full title, has been around for over 50 years north of the border, and the formula has changed little in that time. The recipe of a small steel tubular chassis, a Ford Kent 1600 engine mated to a 4-speed gearbox, spec all-weather tyres, simple suspension systems and no aerodynamic downforce results in a genuine gem of motorsport; both in terms of affordability and competition. This is single seaters as they are meant to be.
It is well documented that Formula Ford in Scotland has struggled to reach the grid numbers of its heyday recently, with the nadir being cancellation of the 2020 championship due to the need for the SMRC to prioritise the biggest classes in the limited track time available. But this in itself has given rise to the ideal opportunity for new talent to join the grid and those who have may have lost the bug to re-discover it.
The affectionately-named 2020 Scottish Formula Ford Renegade Cup (click for more info) is the result of passion, collaboration and initiative in these unprecedented times. Three events, each totally unique, will give competitors a comprehensive sample of the Formula Ford experience whilst requiring a fraction of a full regular season’s commitment.
Round 1 at Oulton Park – racing at the Historic Sports Car Club event in a separate class as part of the Heritage Formula Ford final – gives drivers the chance to experience the fast and flowing Cheshire circuit at a fraction of the cost which would usually be involved. Opening-up a Formula Ford around the full International layout will really set your pulse racing!
Round 2 is arguably the best opportunity for newcomers to sample the speed and thrill of Formula Ford. As part of the Super Lap Scotland package, lots of track time (practice, warm-up, qualifying and the final super lap shootout) is on offer without the pressure of a race weekend and wheel-to-wheel combat, but still allowing drivers to prove their worth against others in the time-based competition.
The final Round, hosted by the Knockhill Motor Sport Club brings everything drivers will have learned in Rounds 1 and 2 together in a full race weekend. With qualifying and two race sessions – the second of which being for the prestigious David Leslie Trophy – Round 3 of the Renegade Cup gives competitors the full Scottish Formula Ford experience.
So, who is the Renegade Cup perfect for?
With no car age restrictions or prior experience requirements, the short answer is; EVERYONE! but in general, there are three types of potential Formula Ford driver in Scotland;
Those who used to race and may even still have their car, but haven’t had the motivation to ‘come out of retirement’ yet.
Those who simply love single-seater motorsport in all its forms and who want to experience the unparalleled thrill of driving an open cockpit single-seat racing car around a track at high speed, without needing to travel all over the UK or invest in an elite car or championship.
Those drivers who are aiming at a professional career – even targeting Formula One. Starting in kart racing is the obvious first step, but then what? FIA Formula 4 is touted as the next rung on the ladder, but with budgets north of £100,000, is that a realistic next option for the majority?
Which category do you fall into?
For us, it is number two. We never seriously targeted progression through the motorsport ranks, but having watched F1 together for years, Dad and I have always been in love with single seater racing. Without the time or budget to travel far and needing the wheel-to-wheel competitive element to motivate us, the Scottish Formula Ford Championship is an ideal fit.
But everyone is different. Let’s look at why the Renegade Cup – and Scottish Formula Ford in itself – is where you should be focusing your energy if you see yourself in one of these three groups.
I have a car.
Great! You’ve done the hard bit – now let’s get your out on track in it. As you know, nothing compares to the thrill of racing an open-cockpit single seater. It’s certainly better than sitting stationary in your car whilst it's in the garage…
There are many reasons why you may have let the racing bug go recently, but what better way to rediscover it than the Renegade Cup. If Knockhill is daunting, then come to Oulton Park. If the danger of wheel-to-wheel combat is putting you off after a long time out of the seat, do the SLS event. If you want to be part of the sports heritage and history, enter the David Leslie Trophy weekend.
There’s something for everyone on offer in 2020 so make now the time that you dust off that old racing car and revive your passion!
I love the idea of single seaters, but Formula Ford must be really difficult to get into.
That’s exactly what we thought! The world of cars seemed so daunting to a small team who were used to karting locally, but I think our story speaks for itself: If you have a passion for single seater racing you can not only live your dream without excessive traveling or unlimited finances, but be successful at it too.
We’ll get into the real cost of competing at the end of the article, but Formula Ford 1600 is genuinely an accessible and enjoyable form of motorsport for those whose passion lies in single seaters. What’s more, they are very simple and user-friendly machines. There is no need to be a mechanical whizz to run one of these.
Turn your dream into reality now by taking this unique opportunity to sample the world of Formula Ford in Scotland. There literally has never been a better time, so what are you waiting for?
I am looking for a professional motorsport career. Why should I choose Scottish Formula Ford?
So you’ve raced in karting and you feel the time has come to step your career up a gear. What’s next? If you are lucky enough to have the £100,000 plus budget required to jump straight into Formula 4 then that is fantastic and good luck to you. But for the majority of driver’s this is where the dream ends as the harsh reality of finance kicks-in.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Scottish Formula Ford is:
Affordable in a genuinely accessible way – not just ‘affordable’ because it costs less than the next step on the ladder (see the financial breakdown at the end of the article).
The absolute best foundation to learn how to drive a single seater racing car and understand the importance of mechanical grip, weight transfer and momentum control.
A hot-bed of wheel-to-wheel multi-car pack racing without the safety net of bodywork to lean on. This is where race-craft and millimetre-perfect precision are learned.
Simple. There are no complex engine electronics, no sophisticated suspension systems, no intricate aerodynamic aids, and no Haynes manual required to understand the cars. If you can run a go-kart then you can run a Formula Ford without the need to employ a team of professionals.
A proven first-step. Senna, Schumacher and Button are just some F1 world champions to have used Formula Ford as a stepping stone. Even considering the Scottish Championship itself, drivers like Jonny Adam, Rory Butcher, Ciaran Haggerty and Sebastian Melrose have all used the series as a foundation to learn their craft and forge a career.
Recognised and connected. The opportunities presented to budding professional drivers by networking within the championship and the doors which it can open are numerous. Well-known and established routes from Formula Ford into both the National Series as well as other forms of motorsport are in place.
Whichever way you look at it, Scottish Formula Ford is the best place for the country’s young drivers to learn the fundamental skills needed to launch a successful racing career.
Even if your motivations are a mixture of these, or something different altogether, if you love single seater racing and you want to begin an amazing journey in the sport, Scottish Formula Ford is the place to start!
The big question – How much does it cost?
Motorsport is expensive. There is no sugar-coating the fact. Overcoming that hurdle at any level is one of the biggest challenges of our sport and deserves a whole different article all to itself! But if your passion and target is single seater car racing then Scottish Formula Ford is undeniably the single most affordable and accessible way to reach that goal.
But the cars look so different to everything else at Knockhill – they must be very expensive, they look like real racing cars!
This is a common misconception and absolutely not true. If someone was to tell you that a season budget for Scottish Formula Ford was £7,500, you’d probably look at them rather sceptically. If that person then went on to say that you could win the championship on such a budget, you’d likely turn away and walk off laughing. But guess what – that person is me and it is the truth.
If you’re still reading then the first thing I need to point out is that figure is a bare-bones number and that our actual racing budget for the year can be a bit more. I’m obviously not going to divulge our finances to the world in detail, but things like damage repairs, overnight accommodation and promotional work all add to this. However these additional costs will exist for any racing series (and damage repair can be significantly more in other classes). But for someone looking for a baseline running figure for a year of Scottish Formula Ford, £7,500 is the number to have in your head. If that sounds too good to be true, let me break things down:
Admin & entry fees: £2,600
By far the single highest essential expense is the administrative aspect of the sport. It is by all means essential as obviously you can’t race without a licence, a membership or paying an entry fee and not something you as a driver can control. But at just over £2,500 for a whole year’s worth of racing and testing – that’s a lot of track time for your money by any measure.
As anyone in the motorsport world knows, the easiest way to gain extra performance is to fit new tyres. At over £500 a set, the cost of these can quickly mount up.
In Scotland, however, a tyre limit has been in-place for many years, being capped at three sets for dry weather in the past two years. This is a massive leveller performance-wise as it means that those with extra money cannot simply buy performance and tyre management is a key strategic element to the series (something else to add to that list of skills drivers take from the championship).
In reality, if budget is very tight, you could realistically do a full season on two sets (and the more rain we get at Knockhill the longer the tyres will last), so there is an easy saving to be made here at the detriment of performance. But even with no wet session tyre limit, we completed our title-winning 2019 season having purchased only three sets of tyres for the whole year.
Engine Rebuilds: £2,000 - £3,000 (periodic)
The Kent 1600 is a reliable and robust unit which has been the engine of choice in Formula Ford since its inception, but it does need to be maintained and the frequency of this will depend directly on the mileage you do. If you’re only racing in Scotland five or six times a year, you could conceivably race two years between builds, but eventually you will need to plan £2,000 to £3,000 extra for these essential maintenance events. But even a single large £3,000 rebuild averaged across two seasons is £1,500 per year – that’s less than your admin and tyre fees each year to keep the beating heart of your racing car running smoothly.
You obviously cannot run a racing car without fuel and the cost of this will vary depending on exactly how much running you do in a season as well as what the price at the pumps is. But as a guide, £900 is enough for a year in Scotland.
Certain consumables are essential to a season. Whereas some wear and tear can be patched-up if you are on a limited budget, things like brake pads and the odd rose-joint replacement are essential and cannot be skipped. Again, £800 is a good estimate for your starting budget.
And that’s it! If you want to race a single seater in Scotland (or anywhere in the UK for that matter), I’d suggest you will struggle to find a way of doing so at a 13-round National championship level for just £7,500 as your budget.
The elephant in the room is of course the initial cost of buying your car. This is not insignificant (it’s a racing car after all!) but some savvy negotiation and research can lead to a bargain. Even a cursory glance on racecarsdirct.com as I write this has turned-up one 2015 rolling chassis on the market for £10,000. The advert also offers to include a spares package (always extremely useful) and a fresh engine for a total of £15,000. For a complete single seater racing car which will not depreciate and is ready to give you a full season of enjoyment in Scottish Formula Ford, that is not to be sneezed at.
Remember as well that we are talking about an accessible single seater category. When the alternative is in the hundreds of thousands of pounds and you examine just what you're getting for your money here, I think the true value-for-money in Scottish Formula Ford speaks for itself.
I hope this article has been useful. Whether you are considering dipping your toe back into the Formula Ford world, wishing you could live your dream of racing for real in a true dedicated single seater race car, or embarking on a professional motorsport career path, Scottish Formula Ford should be at the top of your priority list.
If there’s thing I have learned from our time in motorsport it’s that you need to grasp every single opportunity that comes your way with both hands. You never know where it might lead and that place will often surprise and delight you. The 2020 Scottish Formula Ford Renegade Cup is waiting. Reach out and take it!
To find out more about the Scottish Renegade Cup visit the Scottish Formula Ford Facebook page here:
If you are interested in joining the series, contact Neil Broome:
Neil@bandbconsulting.plus.com or on 07946 584415
Alternatively, you can contact the Jordan Gronkowski Racing Team and we'll do our best to help: