USF2000 Championship FAQ
1. I’ve been told the USF2000 Championship is a "spec" series. What exactly does that mean? Why are you "spec" and how "spec" are you?
Answer: Nearly every professional training series for open-wheel race car drivers is now "spec" with very good reason. By limiting the ways that money can affect the race and championship outcomes, the focus is more squarely placed on driver performance. Allowing teams to search for performance advantages through technology works fine for Formula 1, but at this level it is unnecessary to achieve our goals, which are to train race drivers and prepare them for careers in motorsports.
"Open" formulas may work in amateur racing because virtually no one fully explores the potential offered by an open rules package, because winning in that arena would not be worth the high cost of doing so. Our championship has real value in winning it, and therefore teams must be constrained.
As to how "spec" we are, we are a one-make championship (Van Diemen) and cars must all run the same engines, dampers, aero packages, brake systems, tires and fuel. There are variables such as options with gear ratios and spring sets, and there are numerous tuning adjustments including ride height, rake, damper settings (bump and rebound, three-way dampers) wing settings, tire pressures, castor, camber, etc. These adjustments require drivers to learn about the car and learn how to dialogue with his/her engineer - all necessary to succeed and move up.
2. Isn’t it dangerous to run ovals with tube-frame race cars? Some people say these cars aren’t designed for oval racing. Why do you run ovals in the USF2000 Championship?
Answer: During the 1990s the USF2000 series ran on ovals ranging from short ovals (under three-quarters of a mile) to superspeedways (1.5 miles). We did more than 40 events in those years, and found the tube-frame chassis to be well-designed for oval racing. There are higher race speeds at which a carbon-tub car may be more appropriate, but for the speeds our cars reach under racing conditions the tube-frame is well designed for the application.
Since the 1990s there have been many safety enhancements instituted for formula car racing, including HANS devices, wheel tethers, side-intrusion panels, head surrounds, bead seats, anti-intrusion suspension, SAFER barriers, etc. The bottom line is that while we definitely take oval racing seriously, as does INDYCAR, our sanctioning body, we are quite comfortable with these cars on the tracks we are running.
As to why we run ovals, if you are a career-minded driver you need to learn how to race and win on ovals. The Mazda Road to Indy ladder – USF2000, Pro Mazda, Indy Lights and the Verizon IndyCar Series - all include oval races, and the Indy 500, the world’s largest single-day sporting event, is held on the oval track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The best place to start learning how to drive a formula car on an oval is in the USF2000 series. Ask Indy 500 winners Sam Hornish Jr., Buddy Rice and many other top drivers who did their first oval racing in our series back in the 1990s.
3. Cost seems to be an issue. Are budgets relatively high in the USF2000 Championship? Why should I choose to spend more when I can race open-wheel cars elsewhere for less?
Answer: It depends on your reason for racing.
If you are a career-minded driver you will want to race where you will be noticed. You will want to race in a series where driver talent is more important than team expenditure. You will also want to win in a championship that is relevant to the current landscape of North American and global motorsports. You will want to race on all types of circuits, including road courses, ovals and street circuits. You will want to drive with a team that has experienced engineering and professional preparation services, and race against other drivers who will help you to develop your competitive abilities.
The issue is cost versus value.
We believe that the value to drivers and teams in the USF2000 Championship is second to none. Sure, you can race for less, but at the end of the season, what do you have?
Aspiring stars of the future should want to race and win in a series that has a clear path in the world of racing. The USF2000 series is part of the highly respected Mazda Road to Indy ladder, which awards the titlist in the USF2000 Championship a scholarship package valued at over $375,000 to help him or her move up to Pro Mazda the following season. This program is closely observed by some of the most influential people in the sport of auto racing. By comparison to the many other options out there, the budget requirements to compete in the USF2000 Championship offers a terrific value.