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How Fast Is A Formula Ford Car?

Formula Ford cars are fully-fledged racing cars. They have been designed for speed and competition. For many years it has been considered the first step out of karting into the world of racing cars. But many have actually been left wondering how fast a Formula Ford car is.

Formula Ford cars have a top speed of 150 MPH. They can reach 0-60 MPH in about 3.9 seconds and feature 1.6L Ford Ecoboost engines that can put out 140 horsepower. Formula Ford cars can lap faster than Ferrari road cars on most racetracks.

Formula Ford cars are surprisingly fast when you start comparing their lap times to other cars. Bearing in mind that the minimum age limit in most Formula Ford championship is around 15 years, this is a huge step up from karting.

Technical Specifications

Formula Ford cars basically look like smaller versions of a Formula 1 car. They are open wheel race cars which also feature an open cockpit. Unlike most modern race cars, the Formula Ford cars are mostly built from steel rather than carbon fibre. This makes the cars much heavier, but it also keeps the costs down. Despite steel being the heavier material for building the body of the car, the total weight of a Formula Ford car is still extremely light at 410 kilograms. This makes them extremely nimble and fast in cornering (much like a go kart).

Most Formula Ford cars have a 1.6 litre Ford Ecoboost engine. Some US versions might feature Honda engines though. These engines, despite being quite small can generate around 140 horsepower. The light weight of the car means that the power to weight ratio is quite high (219 kw/kg to be exact).

The car features a 6-speed sequential gearbox, which is either a paddle shift or a stick shift depending on the model of the car and how old it is. It’s a proper race car gearbox so the gear changes are quick and smooth. The clutch however is extremely sensitive, and if you are a young driver just coming out of karting it can take some time to get used to.

These cars might look a bit slower when you compare them to others on a racetrack, but inside the car you can definitely feel the speed and the power that these cars can produce. The cornering speeds are where these cars really impress. The wings and aerodynamics of Formula Ford cars allow them to produce a ton of downforce at high speeds.

Comparisons

A good way to really see how fast a Formula Ford car is to compare them other cars that we know are fast. Luckily for us, there are a ton of cars that have lapped the same circuits as Formula Ford cars have.

Let’s start with the Formula ford car’s “successor” and closest competitor, the Formula 4 car. Formula 4 cars are quick and have been brought in as the first logical step out of karting, rendering Formula Ford cars ‘outdated’ in a sense. 0-60 times on these two cars are very similarat just under 4 seconds for both.

When you compare lap times between the two though, you can see a bit of a difference. Donnington Park in the UK have hosted both Formula Ford and Formula 4 races, so it’s a good place to look at comparing the two cars. Formula Ford holds a lap record of 1m06.151, whereas the Formula 4 lap record is set at 1m07.75.

As you can see it is extremely close between the two cars. However there has never been a direct comparison done between the two cars under the same conditions, so it can be said that there are different variables to consider such as the driver’s ability, weather conditions and track conditions.

So, let’s take a look at how Formula Ford car’s lap times compare to modern supercars that we all know and love. This research has been done on British racetracks with a Formula Ford 1600 car. Below is a graphic that shows the circuit, Formula Ford car lap time, and its closest competitor based on lap times.

RacetrackFormula Ford Lap TimeCompetitor Make and ModelCompetitor Lap Time
Castle Combe1:10.511Ferrari 458 Speciale1:11.90
Anglesey Coastal1:11.179Mclaren P11:11.179
Anglesey International1:33.028Mclaren P11:34.25
Brands Hatch Indy0:49.694Noble M4000:52.60
Oulton Park1:47.327Porsche 911 Turbo1:57.55
Thruxton1:22.955Honda NSX-R1:32.12

As you can see the Formula Ford cars hold up quite well compared to modern day supercars, which is certainly unexpected when you compare the stats between the two cars. A junior tier racing car can beat the likes of Ferraris, Mclarens and Porsches around a racetrack.

Why Are Formula Ford Cars So Fast?

So how can a car with so little power be faster than Ferraris and Mclarens? It might seem like a strange concept, but it is most likely the fact that these cars have so much power that it actually slows them down compared to the Formula Ford car.

Supercars might power past the Formula Ford car on a straight, but they need to shed off all of that extra speed before the corners in order to actually stay on track. On the other hand, the Formula Ford car can use that speed through the cornersrather than braking and losing it all because of the downforce it gets from its wings.

Formula Ford cars are also a lot lighter than supercars, which makes them much nimbler and faster through corners, and it allows them to keep their average speed high enough to be able to beat the supercars over the course of a full lap.

In a plain drag race, any of these supercars would destroy a Formula Ford car. In fact, the drag race would be over within 4 seconds. But if you throw some corners into the mix, the Formula Ford car is able to utilise its main strength in this fight, which is its high cornering speeds.

Most racetracks do not have straights that are long enough for supercars to play into their own strengths which is their power and top speed. However, if you were to take a Ferrari 458 and a Formula Ford car around a power circuit like Monza for example, the Ferrari would be faster due to the long straights and less focus on downforce.

It’s the same reason as to why Formula 1 cars are so incredibly fast. Their wings and aerodynamics mean that they can corner at insane speeds. Formula Ford is simply on a much smaller scale. However, these cars are still incredibly fast when you compare them to the supercars that we know are incredibly quick.

What To Expect When Moving From Karting

If you are used to driving cars Formula Ford cars will feel quick. But they will be manageable because of the fact that you are used to how cars handle and how gear changes work. It might just take a couple of laps for you to find your limits in the car.

However, if you are a 15-year-old just making your move up from karting it can be really daunting. It’s a whole new challenge when it comes to driving a Formula Ford car. You have a lot more power under your right foot, you need to focus on gear changes, and you need to get used to car dynamics rather than kart dynamics.

Formula Ford cars have been compared to karts in their handling model because of the faster cornering speeds, but they are still considered cars and you definitely cannot drive it like a go kart. You will need to be much smoother with your steering and throttle application.

When you move up from a kart that has 32 horsepower to a car that has 140 horsepower it is quite a big jump. These cars do not have traction control either, so it’s important to be careful with your right foot and try not to spin the wheels too much.

The speed difference will frighten you a bit at first, especially if you have only driven karts. It’s important to remember to slowly build up to your limits. You won’t impress anyone by pushing as hard as you can on your first testing session. Get used to the car first, and then build your speed up from there. If you push past your limits too early and crash, it can ruin all your confidence in the car.

Gear changes and clutch work are arguably the most difficult part to get used to for drivers just moving up out of karts. You will most likely have had very little (if any) time in working with a clutch and gear changes. On top of that, a Formula Ford car with its racing gearbox has a much more sensitive clutch than a standard road car does.

It’s important to take your first few sessions in the car to get used to the clutch and changing gears. Make sure you know what gear you need to be in for what corner. Most drivers can adapt quickly and before you know you’ll be changing gears like a pro.

Final Thoughts

When looking at the technical specifications of Formula Ford cars they seem like they would actually be rather slow. However, when you factor in that they are extremely lightweight and they are very aerodynamic, it’s easy to see how they can be so fast.

In some cases, they can lap faster than most modern supercars such as Ferraris, Porsches and Mclarens. However, in a straight drag race, a Formula Ford car would finish last every single time. It’s their amazing cornering speeds and ability to carry their speeds though turns that makes them so incredibly quick, much like a go kart.