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CAMS defends decision to turn promoter
Governing body CAMS says it must invest in Formula 4 for the good of the sport
26 Feb 2015
THE Confederation of Australian Motorsport (CAMS) is defending its decision to become a series promoter for the all-important Formula 4 talent-development open-wheeler championship that gets underway this July.
CAMS – the controlling body for most local motorsport – took over control of the new series when its tender process left it without a suitable promoter last year.
While CAMS controls the major championships in Australia, it does not normally manage, promote and take on the financial risk, leaving that to third parties.
But when it came to Formula 4, a global Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA)-driven feeder series designed to replace Formula Ford with a more modern and relevant race car that is cheaper to run, CAMS decided to manage and promote it.
Given the investment required to purchase a full grid of 20 race cars that will be leased out to teams, as well as run the events, it was not a decision that was taken lightly, according to CAMS general manager Michael Smith.
“I don’t want to over emphasise it, but it is probably the most important strategic decision that we have made as a sport in 10 to 20 years,” he told GoAuto.
Mt Smith said CAMS, which represents 55,000 members, decided it had to stump up the money and take on control of the series.
“We came to the conclusion that for the series to be run according to our objectives, especially at a low cost, we needed to do that ourselves.” Formula 4 will not only be used to help young drivers develop and display their skills, but provide further assistance. Each winner of the yearly championship will receive a Road to the World prize, which CAMS describes as “substantial financial support” (around $200,000) to progress to the next race series on the path to their chosen category.
Some CAMS members have expressed concern at the body investing in Formula 4, but its chief executive Eugene Arocca said the decision makes sense.
“To members who may be concerned, we say, this is good for sport and if it is good for sport, in the long run, you get a return on the investment and then it goes back to them,” he said.
“We are getting more revenue, more opportunity, more government support to funnel back into the sport.” By owning the cars, CAMS has a greater level of control and is able to apply more pressure on teams who might not abide by the parity rules and keep costs down.
“Taking the car away from them is the ultimate punishment,” Mr Arocca said.
CAMS expects a three-car team could operate a Formula 4 car for a seven-round season at a cost of around $170,000 per car (including the leasing fee). It added that this is less than what the leading teams spend to run Formula Ford or Formula 3 cars.
CAMS motorsport development general manager and veteran racer Cameron McConville has discussed budget details with the teams that have signed up and says rules governing how many staff members are employed at race meetings can be introduced.
The FIA enforces price caps on all the spare parts available for Formula 4 cars and the engines are designed to operate for three years before they are rebuilt by Walkinshaw Performance.
“We want the running costs to be south of $200,000 (a season),” Mr McConville said. “We don’t want to hear people spending $230,000 to $240,000 to do a season.” Formula 4 cars have wings and slicks, unlike Formula Fords, as well as carbon-fibre tubs, a fast-shifting automated transmission and an technically advanced engine with a pre-set maximum power figure of 120kW.
Different countries run different engines, including the 1.4-litre turbo from Fiat Abarth, a Geely 2.0-litre, a Toyota 2.0-litre and a Ford 1.6-litre turbo, which is being used in the Australian car.
The Formula 4 series will run as a support category for the V8 Supercar Championship, with 21 races spread over seven rounds this year.
CAMS has appointed four major sponsors and signed leases for 13 cars so far, but expects more to be on the grid for the opening round at Townsville that starts on July 10.
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