by Keith Robinson
In 2001 I purchased my first Formula Ford, a 1980 Van Diemen RF 80.
I had raced sedans for many years so a formula car (a dream for many years) was going to be just like driving a big go kart and I was going to show a few people just how fast I could drive – RIGHT!!
I had the car in my garage for a few days; ran the engine, checked all the gears worked, ran a string around the wheels to set the alignment and checked EVERY nut and bolt on the car.
After this Penske like preparation I was ready to set lap records in my first race at Mission Raceway Park!
Through tech inspection with no sweat (lots of BS and ‘bench racing’). Check all fluid levels, warm up the engine, check tire pressures; get in the car. Well, this isn’t very comfortable and it’s a little weird sitting so low (looking through the wheels!), no problem. In pre-grid my adrenalin level goes into the red zone; select first gear and we’re heading for my first history making laps – RIGHT!
After about a dozen ‘blistering’ hot laps flopping around in the cockpit like a peanut in a jam jar I returned to the paddock sweating and exhausted and got out of the car. “So, how was it someone says?”
“Wonderful” I say “fantastic, just like I expected” – RIGHT!
I’m thinking to myself, I can’t drive this thing, this is one of the stupidest things I’ve ever done. I’m almost 8 seconds off a competitive time and I’m scaring myself silly!
That was on Saturday morning. I spent the rest of the weekend making the car more comfortable (very important part of driving a formula car especially) and getting in lots of laps. By the end of Sunday afternoon I had turned a lap ‘only’ three and a half seconds behind the faster guys and I was having the time of my life.
I have another car now (RF 79 #90) better prepared, more comfortable, easier to drive and faster.
I still race sedans and I still enjoy it, but I can tell you there is nothing quite like a formula car, it’s a different world.
Also, because I race both types of vehicle, I can tell you that it is no more expensive to maintain a Formula Ford than a Honda Civic, you should try it, FANTASTIC FUN!