By Will Silk
It has taken some time, but 2011 will mark the debut of a new series of racing on North America’s West Coast called Formula Pacific. The concept of Formula Pacific began when Bill Huth, owner of Willow Springs Raceway in Rosamond, California conjured up a vision of an inexpensive formula series that could offer close, competitive racing on a limited budget.
The concept initially was tagged as the K-Sport Racer, which paid tribute to the fact that the chassis was much like a large kart frame in that there would be no suspension in order to keep costs to a minimum. Rick Goodwin was contacted based on his profound chassis experience in Super Karts. Rick started his career in the mid-1970s racing short track motorcycles and designing his own frames. By the early 1980s, Rick was building Super Karts, a kart which used a small bore racing motorcycle engine for power. Rick then spent the better part of the 1990s building ultra-light aircraft before returning to the race kart, motorcycle, and car scene and starting his current company called Fastline Chassis. Rick then set about designing a chassis to meet the vision that Bill Huth had spoken to him about.
With prices having escalated in the Super Kart ranks over the years, Bill’s concept was to take advantage of what the common racer could easily acquire; so Bill decided that this new formula car would be powered by the awesome little Yamaha R6 sport bike engine. This choice insures a number of factors in that engines can easily be obtained on the second hand market for sometimes less than $1000, parts and technical support is easily available, and the engine comes with factory listed performance data such as maximum power, torque, and rev limit which can be used to govern the series.
Now that Bill had the formula for the mechanical items established, he turned to Dale Estes to assist in crafting the concept into a spec racing series to be run at Willow Springs. Dale Estes is no stranger to racing, having grown up with his father racing at Indianapolis in the 1950s, and later working for his Dad in the family operated Lamborghini distributor. Dale has piloted some incredible cars as well, having driven a Porsche 935 at the 1978 Fuji 1000km Race, among many other racing accomplishments. In recent years Dale has been active in Super Karts and his Anderson 250 TZ Yamaha Super Kart set the track record on the full 2.5 mile road course at 1:18.197 @ 115.104 MPH with Ronnie White at the controls, and the record still stands to this day.
The Formula Pacific Series now had all the key people it needed to move forward. Dale has set about bringing a number of component suppliers onboard to back the fledgling formula. Wilwood Brakes, AIM Data Full GPS Track Mapping Steering Wheels, Ron Davis Radiators, Hoosier Tires, Douglas Wheels, OMF Bead locking, Motul Oil, PJ1 Products, NGK, Speedway Motors Seedy Bill Smith, Sprocket Specialist, 530 EK Chain, and Tillet Seats are fully in place to lend component support and resourcing to this new open wheel formula.
While things are still coming into place for this series, the initial reports look promising indeed, with a rolling chassis being built in Washington State to full series specification for just $12,500USD. Estes and Huth figure that for a mere $1000-$3000 more, a racer can obtain a used Yamaha R6 600cc drive train and perform the installation work to have a running car. That was the basis of the entire concept that Bill first envisioned, to have a small formula style machine that would be extremely thrifty to run and maintain.
To keep the racing competitive and focused on the driver’s abilities, the R6 engines will be closely scrutinized to insure they remain virtually stock in all aspects. Dale Estes comments, “We plan to have a post race chassis dyno check for all competitors. Gearing will be specific to the series since it will only be run at the Willow Springs facility. There will be a heavy and light class set up. We are also opening a new sales and parts department here at the track under the main tower off the front straight.”
A testing prototype has been constructed and is powered by the more powerful Yamaha R1 1000cc drive train. The reason for using the R1 drive train in the test mule is two fold. First, the higher power and torque output of the R1 engine will insure that the chassis is up to handling the riggers of racing with a 600cc R6 engine spinning at 16,000+ rpm. Secondly, it will potentially open the door to a new series for competitors who want to move up from their R6 powered vehicles after 2011; the transition being accomplished simply by replacing the engine, not the entire machine.
“This prototype Formula Pacific should out run our old Super Kart record, again with driver Ron White. We will start full testing on the 2.5 mile road course here at the end of the month. I have invited some Radicals up here, it should be very interesting. This is going to be a great series, and prove very affordable,” comments Estes. Four time 500cc Motorcycle World Champion Eddie Lawson has performed some developmental testing of the new car; as Lawson has become an avid Super Kart racer since retiring from the two wheeled GP scene in 1992, and offered to give some feedback on the new machine.
The 2011 schedule is still getting lined up, but it appears that the Formula Pacific Series will start running in May in conjunction with one of the Willow Springs Motorcycle Club races, with a seven race series planned for the year. During a time that sees many economies struggling around the globe, you can bet that Bill Huth’s new Formula Pacific Series is going to be watched very closely by race track owners and sanctioning bodies across globe as its success could just prove to be very profitable while allowing the racer to continue to enjoy the sport on a modest budget.