Single-seater racecars are considered the pinnacle of motorsport. Whether on the world stage of F1 or the US-centric Indy series, it does not get much more exciting nor faster than these open-cockpit racers.
However, to make it to this level requires a long, often arduous progression usually starting with karts, and eventually culminating in a drive in a proper racecar.
Who's who of racing
Formula Ford has long been the breeding ground for single-seater talent worldwide. If a young driver has any designs on reaching the pinnacle of the sport then he/she will have, at some point, competed in this category, which reaches back to the early 1970s.
The list of people who have competed in and won in this feeder formula include Jenson Button, Mark Webber, Eddie Irvine, Ayrton Senna and Michael Schumacher.
Within the local context, if a driver succeeds in Formula Ford there is no next step up into a wings-and-slicks formula. Invariably, local drivers head to Europe to make the transition to fully fledged downforce-generating cars without any prior experience.
Locally, the series has had its ups and downs, going through periods of popularity and then diminished fields as other categories are the flavour of the moment. But all that is about to change…
Wings, slicks and prize money
The local Formula Ford Association, in conjunction with title sponsors Investchem, is introducing a new spin on the Formula Ford class for 2017. The current crop of cars will be fitted with wings, front and back, to emulate the type of race machinery that drivers can progress to in Europe.
Typically, there's no prize money in local racing. Drivers compete for the chance to get recognised for their talents, perhaps to gain a sponsor and, ideally, to win a race seat overseas. For 2017, there is real prize money up for grabs in the series.
The overall champion will win R250 000 plus a Formula Renault test. Second place wins R125 000 and the third-place finisher will receive R62 500.
"Updating the car modernises the appearance and brings it up to a global standard," says Ian Schofield of Investchem. "Racing is expensive, so we've not only introduced prize money for the championship but also looked at reducing costs. One of these measures is the change to a more durable tyre. This means close racing remains a part of the series going forward while still giving the Investchem Formula 1600 an appearance close to its overseas counterparts."
National championship status
The renewed category will be run as part of the national circuit racing championship, colloquially known as the Extreme Series. The eight round series will be broadcast on television and the eventual winner will be crowned national champion.
If you think you have what it takes to be a single-seat champion, email: [email protected]