Joining the Formula Vee Jet Set

Why Vee ?

Why Vee ? Why did I choose Vee ? Well here is my reasons/opinions on why you can't beat Vee.

Courses

I did a few courses. These two I can recommend :-

ARDS course

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.

Car hire

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) :- 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.

Safety Gear

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.

Spares and Tools

I bought the minimum amount of equipment to get me racing which I've listed below :- 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.

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.

Buying a car

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.

Mechanics

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.

Costs

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.

Item Average Cost per Race
Entry Fee100
Petrol to and from circuit and for race car50
Tyre wear50
Engine wear90
Spares40

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

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