• F4 – The path to greatness

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    MIKE POTENCIANO

    If you Google F4, you will get the popular Taiwanese boy band which was formed after the rise of Meteor Garden back in 2011. This might have been the path to greatness for F4’s Jerry Yan, Vanness Wu, Ken Chu and Vic Chou, however, this is not our way in motor sports.

    Our F4 is short for Formula 4, which has taken the racing world by storm. In Britain, the long standing Formula Ford has been replaced by the modern, carbon fiber chassis technology employed by F4 and is now seen in Italy, Germany, China and now in South East Asia.

    Last year, F4 came over to our shores and was warmly received by our motor sport community. The best thing was the very successful showing of our Filipino drivers, come hell or high water. This year, we are fortunate that F4 will again come back on October 20-22, 2017 at the Clark International Speedway.

    Made possible through the efforts of the F4 Official Fuel and Lubricants-Petron and the Meritus Team of Peter Thompson, this year’s edition promises to be much tighter and very exciting with new drivers coming to town. Let’s trace the brief history of F4 and why this looks like the best steppingstone to higher formulas.

    F4 history
    Anyone that follows motor sports will find the ladder going up to F1 to be very complex and too expensive. If one would like to become the best formula driver, it is so confusing to pick from the many single seater series out there: GP2, GP3, F3, etc. Even the step up from karting is already a maze and there should be a better way to do it. Assuming you have sorted out on what formula to join, you will fall flat on your back when you find out the financial requirements needed to race!

    Thus, our governing body for 4 wheeled motor sports, the FIA, decided in 2014 to streamline the way to the pinnacle of racing, Formula 1. With this optimistic goal, F4 was born to be a cost effective way to higher forms of racing and it became widely accepted almost immediately. There are now 12 global F4 series and we are part of the F4 South East Asian Championship. The next steps were to go to F3, F2 and if your good enough, F1.

    FIA’s President Jean Todt said, “FIA Formula 4 is a great initiative, because this discipline represents the missing step between karting and F3 today. Formula 4 creates a synergy between the FIA and the training of the talent of tomorrow, in a championship which matches control of costs with the highest levels of engineering and safety.”

    The best graduate of F4 is the Belgian-Canadian, Williams F1 driver Lance Stroll, who recently took a top 4 qualifying spot in the Italian F1 GP recently. This just shows that the format works and the extraordinary drivers can reach F1 immediately.

    Specs and format
    To keep the costs down, F4SEA has the tried and true, one make formula with a new composite chassis, a 2.0 liter, 160hp engine and slick tires. The F4SEA has arrived and drive format where the Meritus Team provides all the mechanics, race engineer and driver coach coming from its impressive roster of veteran drivers. Just Google racing champion Earl Bamber and you will know what I mean.

    The data taken by the car’s data loggers is shared to all drivers by the driver coaches to help everyone improve their times. This is such a vital component for new drivers to improve their performance so they can see where others are braking, turning in and their exit speeds in every turn. It’s like having your own group of professional race drivers showing you how to drive!

    FIA has also put a limit on the race budget required to run a full season at a very reasonable 100,000 Euros for 30 races in F4SEA. Testing is also allowed on a per day basis and can determine if you like it or not, before committing to a full season. There are 6 races per leg and gives the driver a full schedule during the weekend.

    There are 3 sets of new tires for each leg with fuel and lubes all provided for by Meritus. There will be RM36,000 for the Event Champion in each round and a total of RM1,000,000 prizes given to the series winners at the end of the year. This is really worth looking at if you have the talent!

    2016 F4
    Last year’s race marked a special moment in our motor sports history as it marked the return of international formula racing in the country. Unfortunately, the F4 Philippine leg happened in the middle of a typhoon and was very wet. In fact, the last race was canceled as floodwaters prevented the start of the race and the light was fading in the end.

    Our drivers, karter Gabe Tayao and supercar racer Angie Mead King, performed above our expectations by taking 1st places each and podium finishes too. This made Tayao 3rd overall in the end of 5 races behind Indian Akash Gowda and New Zealander Faine Kahia. The people who braved the rains to watch the races all came out inspired by these events and we hope that we can see another superb display of Filipinos this year.

    Bigger and better
    This season promises to be bigger than before with Petron onboard. There is a lot more interest from drivers and F4 will be the support races to the Malaysian F1 GP on September 29-October 1. This first round will sadly see the last F1 race in Malaysia and will be a fitting goodbye to herald the 2nd year of F4 in the region.

    Round 2 will be at Clark on Oct 20-22, followed by Indonesia-Nov. 24, Thailand-Jan. 12, Thailand-Jan. 12 and then back to Malaysia for the final round on Feb. 9. We will eagerly follow the F4 series especially our round here in Clark.

    Hope you all mark your calendars and make sure you bring all the family, as it will be a treat for all! Godspeed and Mabuhay!

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