NOVEMBER 1, 2004

A strong rival for GP2

The Austrian finance company Superfund has announced plans for what will be known as Formula Superfund in 2005. This has grown out of the Euro3000 series but will have a brand new car in 2005, called the SF01. This has been designed by a British company called Force 10 Technology and will be built by Raceprep in Littlehampton.

The Superfund car has been designed to run on both road courses and ovals (and Superfund will have one oval race in 2005) and although it has been testing for only a month the performance is impressive. The cars are powered by a revamped version of John Judd's V10 3.5-litre engine which was designed in 1991 but has been increased to 4-litres and is designed to produce 700hp and be rebuilt ever 1800 miles. The cars will be run on wide slick tyres.

"There are three main objectives," says Martin Schneider, the Head of Motorsport Development at Superfund, "to have powerful cars for the drivers, reasonable budgets for the teams and exciting close racing and good entertainment for the fans. We noticed there was a big gap between Formula 3000 and Formula 1 and we felt there was a market in between and that is where Formula Superfund fits in."

The SF01 was designed to be light, fast, easy to use, hard-wearing and without electronic devices to push up costs. The intention is for the cars to have a long life cycle. The car was developed with 150 hours in the Southampton University windtunnel and will be run on wide slick tyres, which it is hoped will make overtaking easier. The test programme began a month ago with Karl Wendlinger doing the driving. Others to have tried the cars are Alex Lloyd, Jonny Reid, Vincenzo Sospiri, Bruno Spengler and Alexandre Premat. Superfund says that it will run only 20 cars and in order to keep down costs teams will only be allowed to test for five days before the start of the season. After that the only testing drivers will get be able to do is two 45 minute sessions on the Friday of each race weekend. There will be 10 events, including one oval race, scheduled for August 14 at the Lauzitzring.

The events will include a Lucky Seven qualifying shoot-out on Sunday mornings in which the top seven runner in Saturday qualifying will have a shot at pole position. In the races there will be one mandatory pit stop with a tyre change of all four tyres. In order to make it clear to fans whether the cars have changed tyres or not there will be two different sets of wheel rims: one silver and the other black. The cars will all start on silver rims and then switch to black as the race develops.

The first batch of 10 cars will be ready in February with the second batch arriving in mid-March before the season kicks off with a test in April. Superfund says that the new series will be broadcast in 15 countries with 500 hours of live coverage in the course of the year. There is a $1m prize fund which will mean $100,000 per race.

Perhaps the most interesting point about the launch is the emergence of Force 10 Technology Ltd., a company set up in 2000 by John Travis, a former Lola and Penske Indycar designer, and Paul Cherry, who used to run Tom Weiringa's Sigma Automotive CART team before it went out of business in 2002. There is speculation that Force 10 Technology is the likely supplier of a new Champ Car chassis in 2006 when the current Lola package will be replaced. Kevin Kalkhoven is rumoured to be close to buying Cosworth Racing from Ford to ensure the series has engines in the future and the SF01 would be a good basis from which to design a new Champ Car.