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Anyone here try Formula Mazda?

Discussion in 'F1' started by sherpa23, Mar 18, 2004.

  1. sherpa23

    sherpa23 F1 Veteran
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    I am thinking of picking up a used FM car just to have some fun at the track. I can get one for abotu $18k through a friend. Anyone have any thoughts, positive or negative? Any feedback is greatly appreciated.
     
  2. Schatten

    Schatten F1 World Champ
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    Not in my budget, but about a year and a half ago, I inquired with the FM guys at Motorsport Ranch. Some of the FM owners do their own work and can budget an entire year of racing for ~10K, which would include entries, gas, consumables such as pads/tires and a few minor incidentals. Some of the other guys would spend a lot of dough letting the guys there at MSR (forgot their name, but they also sell FM's) maintain and store their FM's. New, at the time, they said, ~$40K.
     
  3. FLATOUTRACING

    FLATOUTRACING F1 Rookie

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    Ryan,

    Check with Ferrarichatter Will Haney (WCH) he's raced them for a few seasons and has also done Formula Continental. He can give you a pretty acurate rundown.

    Regards,

    Jon P. Kofod
    www.flatoutracing.net (new site)
     
  4. writerguy

    writerguy F1 Veteran

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    #4 writerguy, Mar 18, 2004
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 7, 2017
  5. Schatten

    Schatten F1 World Champ
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    Thanks Jim. That would be them. Incredibly nice guys.
     
  6. writerguy

    writerguy F1 Veteran

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    Was out for a meeting with Jack Farr the other day and picked up the info.... Just works out sometimes.
     
  7. Gary(SF)

    Gary(SF) F1 Rookie

    Oct 13, 2003
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    First question: What is your experience level? Unless you have some time in some pretty fast track cars you're going to be over your head in this machine. They are VERY fast, ground-effects race cars that don't forgive many mistakes. If you are highly experienced, disregard the comment, and enjoy the hell out of it!

    Gary
     
  8. WCH

    WCH F1 Veteran
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    Formula Mazda IMO has been a great way to go one step above entry level formula car racing. Not as sophisticated as a continental, but also not as complex or expensive to run. The engines have been bulletproof IMO, people go several years between rebuilds.

    As with all cars, I'd recommend, if you want to race it, that you check to make sure car counts in the FM class in your area are sufficiently high to make the racing fun. In the East, the FMs seems to show up as a group at the same races, partly because there has been an amateur series that awards $$ and prizes. There are at least a few pro FM guys in Colorado; for example, I know that Jon Brownson, of Breckenridge, runs in the FM pro series.

    FMs are inexpensive now because, as you may know, all of the pro teams have had to switch to a new model car and are unloading their old cars.

    FMs vary quite a bit, and whatever you buy, you should get an explanation from the owner as to updates and service. I imagine every car in the US has had the rollar upgrade of a few years ago, but you need to check. I'm sure there have been others - I have been out of FM for a couple years, and am not current. Data acquitision packages, for example, can range from nonexistent to top of the line Motec. Some gearboxes are "blueprinted," which for most people may make no difference whatsoever. Ask whether the car has been reframed, or the frame repaired - as I'm sure you know, it can be tough to align a car if the frame isn't just right.

    I feel the FM is a fairly forgiving car, and will allow you to gain confidence without biting you. I find that people coming to the FM for the first time tend not to like the gearbox, but eventually get used to it. The pricncipla cost of running the car is the tires. Crash damage can be repaired relatively quickly and inexpensively. Several years ago I had a huge crash at Road Atlanta, almost slightly left of head on into a concrete wall at a pretty good clip. I wasn't hurt at all, but the entire left side of the car, both corners, the side pod and radiator and everything else, were stripped clean: $9,000. Yes, that's a bad day at the track, but the crash probably would have totaled a sedan, and would have cost a fortune were the car made of carbon fiber.

    My bottom line: do the research as you've been doing, check with a couple prep shops (I'll look for one in CO), make sure you get a solid car ... you'll have a blast with it. I did.

    You may have trouble reaching anyone right now, all the FM folks are here at Sebring for their first pro race fo the season.

    One last caveat: if you are young and hoping to advance in racing, I might not pick the old FM, there are many alternatives to consider.

    Some websites:

    www.starmazda.com

    www.racersedgemotorsports.com (prepped the championship winning cars in the pro series for the last two years)

    http://pub8.ezboard.com/bformulamazdaforum.boardStatsLink
     
  9. sherpa23

    sherpa23 F1 Veteran
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    Thanks for the comments, guys. WCH, you have been especially helpful. I will not race but probably drive it every couple of weeks.

    As far as my driving experience: I raced karts as a teenager, then did a couple of short tests in a Formula Ford car, I did three off road rallies (time sped distance), and dabbled in some other things. I am not too bad with a motorcycle on the track either but I am far from being exceptionally good.

    I will do a drive in the car (maintained by Euro Sport here in Denver) before I commit to anything.

    I love the new Formula car but I am not paying that kind of money for something that I will use so seldom.
     
  10. Gilles27

    Gilles27 F1 World Champ

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    Ryan, I've done lots of lapping and some racing in the Mazdas, and I think the smartest idea is to do a track test like you're planning. Like Will said, they are forgiving, but with a lot in reserve so as you won't outgrow it any time soon. Definitely a fun car, and I'm sure once you get a taste, you'll be itching for some SCCA weekends. Let us know how it goes.
     
  11. WCH

    WCH F1 Veteran
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    "Euro Sport here in Denver"

    I believe Euro Sport runs a couple pro FM cars, including my friend Jon Brownson's. Good luck, go fast ....
     
  12. sherpa23

    sherpa23 F1 Veteran
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    Well, I drove the FM today. I drove with a bit in reserve so that I wouldn't crash or anything but fast enough to get an idea of the car. The gearbox did take a little getting used to but after about 20 minutes, I was able to downshift without the clutch pretty easily (I am a right foot braker). And instead of trying to do all out fast laps I just concentrated on taking sections of the track pretty fast, that way I could digest a little more of what the car is about. Even with cruising on some sections, I went faster than I go on my Ducati out there. I found the car to be pretty forgiving for the most part although I tend to be a pretty smooth driver

    Overall, I really like it but I am a little taken aback as to how serious the car is. I was thinking of getting it and not racing but I don't think that's an option. I think that if I bought this car I would have to race in our regional series, which is pretty good. And that brings me to what I am debating. I don't have enough open wheel experience to go out there and really take it to other guys on the track. The conclusion that I am coming to is that I should just do a year of karting and pick up one of these old FMs in November or so and race it next year in the regional series. That will also give me time to do my racing schools and get some more time in the FMs as well.

    Will, btw, I met your friend Jon Brownson today. I also met Mickey Gilbert. They were both super nice guys. They were going to test their new Pro Mazdas today. Man do those cars look awesome.
     
  13. rob lay

    rob lay Administrator
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    You might PM or email FC user Kverges, he races both SM and FM.
     
  14. Gilles27

    Gilles27 F1 World Champ

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    Small world. Mickey was my instructor at Gingerman when he was driving with ProOne, back in '99 or 2000. He probably wouldn't remember me now, but if you talk to him again, tell him Jack Stanley says hey, and I still follow his name at the races.
     
  15. WCH

    WCH F1 Veteran
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    Ryan, glad to hear you enjoyed the car. Jon's a good guy.

    I guess my advice would be to just jump into the FM. It's not nearly as "serious" a car as a lot of others out there, and I think it's a good learning tool.

    You have to go at your own pace, of course, so just my 2 cents. You can hardly go wrong with karting, that should be a blast.

    Good luck, Will
     
  16. Gary(SF)

    Gary(SF) F1 Rookie

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    Ryan -

    That's the point I was trying to make with my earlier post. The FM can be a pretty intimidating car if you don't have open wheel experience.

    Gary
     
  17. sherpa23

    sherpa23 F1 Veteran
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    Gary,

    It's not the driving that's intimidating. The driving part was easy. The car was fast and pretty easy to go fast. My times were pretty decent for first time in the car. The intimidating part for me is the set up and the wheel to wheel competition.

    I have no experience with setting up a car and these FM's are made as a development car which places the emphasis on drivers learing to set up cars. I would think that set up makes a big, big difference. I have no experience with that.

    The other part is the wheel to wheel. It has been a while since I went wheel to wheel in an open wheel vehicle and it was karts.
     
  18. kverges

    kverges F1 Rookie

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    I highly recommend going to the Jim Russel racing school at Sears Point. Their school cars are the FM predecessor and that will help you get up to speed. Practice a bunch in the car before racing it so you have a good feel for control. The car can be manhandled quite a bit.

    It is cheap compared to FC and FA, but cheap it is not. Tires at $600 a set are fast for at most 2 races and the gearbox requires inspection every 4-6 hours of operation. I did much of the work myself and had to rebuild my gearbox and engine last year, too, so I spent probably $20K or so racing FM, doing much of the work myself.
     
  19. brent Lachelt

    brent Lachelt Formula 3
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    Ryan, I raced Formula Mazda in the mid 80's before going to the Toyota Atlantic Series. I found that as far as the cars go I was much more comfortable and safer in the Atlantic car. I was in a qualifying session at Riverside in 1989 and a guy was kiiled in a formula continental. It was not a Russell car , but it was a tube frame car and I always felt safer in a monocque chassis. A friend of mine broke his neck in a Formula Russell car at Laguna Seca in 1986 at the pro race. In watching those cars they always seemed like there was too much motor for the chassis. They were always so twitchy, always on the edge. However, that being said I know that they are very cheap to maintain. Wouldn't race one though.
     
  20. rob lay

    rob lay Administrator
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    Anyone know the difference between what FM was back in the 80's vs. now?
     
  21. brent Lachelt

    brent Lachelt Formula 3
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    Rob, My understanding is different body work and tires, but other than that it is pretty much the same chassis and motor.
     
  22. FLATOUTRACING

    FLATOUTRACING F1 Rookie

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    From what I gather that is correct. Pretty much unchanged.

    Will H. would be the one to also chime in on FM (old one) vs. FC. I have briefly tested both and was more comfortable in the FM, but my friends who race both say the FM is antequated and a pig compared to a FC car, which ain't exactly ground breaking in design either.

    I think the new Fran Am car is the best one out there but that series is struggling with getting enough cars.

    The new FM car is much more advanced than the old one with a carbon fiber composite tub which I believe meets FIA's new standars. It has a form of traction/start control, you can lean out the fuel, and do other nifty things with the new Renisis engine which makes close to 250 hp.

    I think the new FM Pro series basically put the Barber Dodge car under. They say it's on sabatical for a year but I wonder if it's gone for good.

    Regards,

    Jon
     
  23. WCH

    WCH F1 Veteran
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    Mar 16, 2003
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    "Rob, My understanding is different body work and tires, but other than that it is pretty much the same chassis and motor."

    Brent, this is completely, absolutely wrong. The new car is completely new. Check starmazda.com for the specs of the two cars, or I believe racersedgemotorsports.com. I have no affiliation with FM in any way.

    I agree that the old FM was inferior in some respects to FCs, particularly an FC like the current Zetec powered machine, which remains one of the best cars I've ever driven. The only thing the old FM had over FC was cost and reliability. The old FMs were pretty bullet proof.
     
  24. WCH

    WCH F1 Veteran
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    New FM pics from Sebring:
     
  25. WCH

    WCH F1 Veteran
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    More. Waiting on the grid, and post-race gearbox inspection.
     

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