Garry Orton: The benefits of competing in US Formula 4

We are now heading towards the tail-end of the 2020 Castrol Toyota Racing Series season and there is plenty we have learned and can reflect on. These new FT60 are every quick cars but it would appear that the step up from Formula Ford to the TRS may be a step to far for some. So, what are the alternatives.

New Zealand Formula Ford rookie Ronan Murphy has decided to head to the States and compete in the Formula 4 United States Championship Powered by Honda. (See Murphy confirms US Formula 4 for 2020)

He’ll be joining the Crosslink/Kiwi Motorsport team based in Texas. Is this a viable option?

Garry Orton

Talkmotorsport spoke with Garry Orton, who runs both Kiwi Motorsport, along with partner Teena Larsen, in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series and Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport in the US where they run both Formula 3 and 4 drivers.

“I think the biggest thing is the cost. F4 in the US is the cheapest in the world, probably about the fourth in the peaking order of ones to do.

“The unique thing about US F4 is the prize money. If you get pole (fastest lap) and win all three races you will generate about $US6k in prize money.

“The other thing is that if you win the US F4 Championship you earn yourself a free ride in US F3. It’s pretty unheard of anywhere else.”

What about the overall costs of USF4?

“A championship, depending on your testing, is about $US150-200k, which is a lot of NZ dollars. But in Europe you’ll spend about $360k Euros.

“Let’s not forget that the cost of living in the US is very cheap compared with many places in the world. Traveling is not too bad and reasonably cheap compared with NZ”

Last week Honda Performance Development (HPD) announced a US Formula 3 drivers’ champion scholarship which will see the title holder race a full season in Indy Lights. The annual HPD scholarship will be used to support the F3 Champion’s chosen Indy Lights team in the following year’s season and will be transferable to any HPD partner team supporting the F3 Drivers’ Champion in the Indy Lights or NTT INDYCAR SERIES.

“This announcement is pretty stunning. I could see 20-24 F3 cars this season in the US. I know if you want to buy a new F3 car there is a two-month delivery time as they have sold the whole lot which has been built and that number is 23.”

The USF3 runs a Ligier chassis with a Honda engine out of the Type R turbo (2 lit turbo).

“It is very comparable with TRS. Very similar, same tyre, engine hp about 300, maybe a little heavier. It is a FIA F3 car so very similar.

Joshua Car, 2019 US Formula 4 champ

“Josh (Car) who won the F4 champs with us last year has got a F3 car which is in our workshop right now which we will help with. That is not our main focus which is now the F4 program. We will most likely be involved with F3 next year after we see what comes of the announcement (from Honda).”

If heading to the USA, there are other options such as the Road to Indy and the USF2000 that Kiwi driver Hunter McElrea finished runner-up in last season.

“It just comes down to budget. USF2000 is nearly double F4. Pro Mazda (the next Road to Indy step) is double the price of F3, so it is just a cost thing.

“Last season in F4 there were about 28 cars. I think this year we will see grids of low thirties.

“For us (Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport), we can own 2.5 F4 cars for the price of a F3 car so the business model has to stack up.

“In 2018 we had all rookie drivers which came back in 2019 and dominated. This season we will have 5-6 rookie drivers. Some of the other teams will have returning rookie drivers so expect them to be quick but we will be ok.”

As with everything there are options for Formula Ford drivers moving forward in their career. The USF4 option has its benefits and Garry Orton is well placed with experience in the category and with the Toyota Racing Series.

Benjamin Carrell

Benjamin Carrell is a freelance motorsport writer and currently edits both talkmotorsport.co.nz. He writes for a number of Kiwi drivers and motorsport clubs. That's when he's not working in his horticultural day-job or training for the next road or mtb cycle race!

http://talkmotorsport.co.nz

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