Joining the Formula Vee Jet Set
Why Vee ? Why did I choose Vee ? Well here is my reasons/opinions on why you can't beat Vee.
I did a few courses. These two I can recommend :-
- Its racing. Why race at all. Well for the thrill of it. The great thing about racing is that
there are no speed limits, police, speed cameras and other road users who don't share the same urgency as
yourself. Just a bunch of similarly minded people who want to race.
- Its a single seater. I tried saloon cars on racing courses and then I tried a single seater. Wow. The speed
and the impression of speed is great. And then the corners, bye-bye saloon cars. And the thrill of sitting in a proper racing
car (apologies to the saloon car fraternity). For me that was it, I wanted to race single seaters.
- Its cheap. Not cheap, cheap. I love the adage -
"How do you make a small fortune in motorsport". Answer - "Start with a large one".
Motorsport is expensive but we're talking relative. Vee is cheap compared to other categories and particular
when compared to other single seater categories. See the budget section for more info.
- Its a Beetle. This is a single seater racing car where you walk in to Halfords and buy a manual for it.
Large sections are irrelevant and you have to take everything you read with a pinch of salt but hey its a
starting point. And believe me I need a starting point. Also Beetle parts are cheap, right ?
- Its equal. Everyone plays by the same basic, quite strict rules. And the guys who look after the
category want it to stay that way and so the rules remain constant. Thats good when you sell your car a couple
of years later. Your car is still competitive and so its possible to sell the car for more or less what you
bought it for. But why would you want to sell it ?
- Its part of the 750MC club. So you know these guys understand that racing, having fun and keeping the costs
down are what we want.
- Its friendly. A 750MC paddock is a friendly place. Prima donna count is low.
- And you can race at Spa. Not until recently I realised you can race in invitation races in the German series.
These guys race at Zandavoort, Nurburgring, Hockeniem and Spa. So when your bored with Silverstone, swap it for
Spa and be Schuey for a day.
- Its cool. The naffest reason but friends, work colleagues are always impressed when to the question
"What you doing this weekend?" You reply "Ah racing at Silverstone". I thought about doing karting and the
response from many of friends when I asked them if they would help was plenty of shoe staring. Ask them if
they would be interested in helping out a Silverstone and the 6am start becomes no problem.
I did the ARDS course at Thruxton. I hate Thruxton. Never been to the place before and I doubt I'll go back.
Boring and blindingly fast. For a beginner its bewildering to say the least. The track is wide and the corners
gradual. I found it hard to place the car. If it wasn't for a cone on the apex I would never have found it. I don't
know if the cones are there everyday. I am only thankful they were there. I passed the written part easily and
the driving part, although my driving was shakey.
It is a good idea to try before you buy. These are the details of the guys who will hire you a car (assuming they have one available) :-
- Silverstone one day intensive racing course. I am not sure if they still do it. Good course with plenty of
explanation and training.
- Aintree advanced training course. Very good and unbelievably good value for money. 60 laps of a 1 mile track.
Very intensive tution. Well Recommended.
The cost of hire is about 500 quid plus your entry fee, another 100 quid. Its a good idea to have a test if you have never
raced anything before. A test costs about the same as a race to hire the car plus the circuit testing fee.
Mallory is the cheapest at about 70 quid for the morning. Snetterton and Cadwell Park are about 125 quid for a half day.
Don't try to buy Overalls or Helmets by Mail Order. Go to the shop and try them on. It might be hassle going to the shop but it
beats sending stuff back again and again or settling for ill fitting gear. Go for the best you can afford but don't go
overboard. I paid 180 quid for overalls, 160 quid for a helmet, 80 quid for boots and 20 quid for gloves. All bought from
Demon Tweaks with a 10% discount entitled to 750MC members. I would advise to buy whatever feels the most comfortable and
sod fashion and who makes it. Make sure the key word Nomex appears on what you buy and with one eye on racing abroad buy stuff
that is FIA approved.
I bought the minimum amount of equipment to get me racing which I've listed below :-
- Mark Richardson, Owls Hall, Blackmore End, Braintree, Essex, CM7 4DF. Tel 01371 850360
- RSS, High House, Kirton Road, Egmanton, Newark, Notts, NG22 0HF. Tel 01777 870666
- Sheane - John Mitchell, 353 Laburnum Street, Shoreditch, London, E2 8BB. Tel 0171 739 0763
- Spyder Motorsport - Cornerways, Gayton Road, East Wynch, Kings Lynn, Norfolk, PE32 1NW. Tel 0553 840748
Notice the omissions. No spare engine, gearbox etc. I wouldn't know how to fit them...so no point buying them and carting them
around. Bring stuff that you can fit to the car, is not super bulky and if the part broke and you didn't have a spare you would
look a right Charlie. Next year I'll probably buy some spare wheels and tyres. Add them to the list if you can afford them.
- Jack and Axle Stands
- Jerry Can
- Spanners, Screwdrivers, Socket Set and Wrench
- Load of hammers and call the largest one an appropriate name. You will get to know this hammer well.
- Tie wraps, Tape, Nuts n Bolts, Electrical Connectors and Wire.
- A nice tool box to put the stuff into.
- Oil, Brake fluid, Grease and WD40
- Battery Charger
- Torque Wrench
- Impact Driver or a pole to put on the wrench to give those unmovable bolts hell.
- All replacable electrical stuff e.g. points, spark plugs etc.
I bought a book called "Competition Car Preparation" by Simon McBeath. A good book but his list reads slightly longer than
mine and thats for a reason. The book is aimed at the slightly keener/wealthier enthusiast. Something on Simon's list and
that is not on mine is brake pads. I turned up to Cadwell with wafer thin pads and of course I wish I had some spare. But I learnt
two things from that mistake. Do the preparation at home in your garage and not at the race track. And also if you're really
stuck you'll often or not get the parts from someone in the paddock.
Get expert advice. The route I choose for buying a car goes against every known rule for buying a car. I didn't even see the
car before I bought it! The story is thus. John Mitchell imports Sheanes' from David Sheane in Ireland. David had a car
to sell, Karl Lennon's 99 car. He did rather well, finishing 4th in the championship, I think. So
on John's advice I bought the car. John brought it back from Ireland and stashed it in his garage while I found a lock-up.
Seems like madness buying something I hadn't even seen but I trusted John. The morale of the story is people like John
know a lot about the cars history and can tell you whether its even worth looking at. The best place to look at the car
is at a circuit and once you've watched it win the race, buy it and take it home. Don't let the guy take it home because
engines can be changed and the best parts can suddenly fall off. I am not saying that everyone does this but its worth
bearing in mind. If the guy is leaving the formula than he will have spares and very little incentive to keep the
"Demon" engine. But even then he may have promised it to a friend who got an engine that has a blowing up problem.
Well I've built 10 kit cars and have found running a Vee a breeze. A total lie. I am just a humble Software Engineer
who takes his road car to the garage and have hardly ever fixed any car myself. So the perfect pre-requisite
for preparing my own car. I did some evening classes which explained the car and some practical stuff like changing
brake pads. So why with that basic knowledge did I think I could prepare my own car. Firstly, I like a challenge.
Secondly, I am fairly naive, how hard can it be to unscrew a few bolts? Thirdly, the Vee is simple and its a Beetle.
Fourthly, I can get advise from my brother-in-law/race mechanic, Ian or long time Vee man, John Mitchell.
And the good thing about a single seater is all the components are there in front of you exposed. And if they're
not a few screws loosened later they are. And with the Vee a Haynes manual can give you some idea what to do.
Don't get me wrong here I ain't rebuilding the engine, I leave that to a pro. This year we've changed the starter motor,
the wheel bearings, pads and the biggest yet (I think) fixing a misfire. Not too difficult.
How much does it cost? Well with my limited experience I can reveal its costs enough. Its funny after a while
I ignore the cost and just go racing. I do keep a running total spreadsheet. The highlights are below.
||Average Cost per Race
|Petrol to and from circuit and for race car||50
So budget for about 330 quid a race. Tyres about 400 quid a set direct form Dunlop (0121 3844444, ask for the racing divison).
Tyres will last about 8 races but because I drove slowly (well at the start of the season I did) I've done 7 races and 2 tests
and there looks to be a good 3 races left on them. The track, track surface (wet or dry), how the car is set up and how you
drive it (fast, slow, agressively or smoothly) affect tyre wear. Engines need to be rebuilt about every 8 races and that costs
about 700-800 quid.
More info coming soon