|The Winning Formula

I took some holiday this February during a rare ‘quiet time’ at Formula Fast. Having been flat out since opening, we haven’t had much of a chance to rest, so not long after we’d finished hosting our first ever British Championship, I grabbed the opportunity to accept an invitation from our former owner-turned-Toro Rosso Chief Race Engineer Phil Charles, to spend a week with his family in Faenza in Italy.

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I left Formula Fast in Ollie’s capable hands, with strict instructions not to spend more than 3 hours a day vlogging, and trotted off to grab the next plane to Italy.

Faenza is a beautiful old town in the Ravenna province of Italy, near Bologna. It has a lot of history, and none more so than with Formula 1, as it is home to Red Bull’s sister team Scuderia Toro Rosso. If you can’t remember back that far, Toro Rosso was formed when long-established Faenza-based team Minardi was sold to Red Bull.

It was subsequently rebranded ‘STR’ with the aim of ‘developing the skills of promising drivers’ for the larger Red Bull Racing. In this respect the team has been very successful, most notably for making reigning world champion Sebastian Vettel the face of Mark Webber’s dartboard.

Wet and wild: the new STR8 at Misano

Our esteemed chief Phil Charles left Formula Fast for STR in 2013 to take the position of Race Engineer for Jean-Éric Vergne. This wasn’t his first time in F1 – he was one of the youngest Race Engineers for Renault F1 back in their glory days. He obviously did a good job at STR, as within a year he was promoted to Chief Race Engineer and now presides over both Vergne, and F1’s newest and youngest competitor Daniil Kvyat.

Phil, his wife Hannah (my other ex-boss), and their 2 year old daughter Primrose (the real boss of the family) had lured me over partly with the exciting possibility of being able to sneak into a Toro Rosso test day at Misano, a few miles down the road, just a day after arriving.

Unfortunately the conditions couldn’t have been worse for the team. Cold temperatures, increasingly heavy rain and well publicised challenges with implementing the new, smaller Renault engine brought on by this year’s regulation changes meant that track time was limited, but the laps we did get to see were impressive with fast newbie Kvyat coaxing his turbocharged rocket around a very slippery track.

Apart from STR, the place was deserted, and Hannah, Primrose and myself were pretty much the only ones there, wildly cheering every time we heard the car fire up successfully.

Phil had described the day as being very similar to a quiet karting test session, and it certainly brought back memories of my own racing experiences in the junior classes of MSA British Championship Karting in the UK. Standing in a wet paddock, hearing a madly-revving vehicle slide past every so often, watching a team tinker with setup and looking forward to my turn all felt very familiar.

I thought at the very least a drive of the STR8 would be on the books for me at Misano, but – alas – despite me waiting patiently on the sidelines for several hours, racesuit on, helmet fastened and wellington boots equipped, I was told very politely by a nice man from the team that my services would not be required that day.

Who says big noses aren't sexy?

Luckily, I get over disappointments quickly, and as a result had a fantastic day which included a tour of the garage in full test mode, meeting Daniil Kvyat in person (lovely guy) and enjoying some first class hospitality from an exceptionally friendly team.

The equipment and personnel thrown at a relatively small test session was truly astonishing – the garage alone had stacks of servers, computers and monitors throwing up huge amounts of data for the engineers to analyse.

There was a separate room just for the engineers, all 15 or so of whom were either huddled over laptops or poring over parts of the car. I even got to see the controversial ‘nose’, and I can confirm it is every bit as prominent as my own (substantial) nasal protuberance.

The day also highlighted some very interesting parallels between a team like Toro Rosso and ourselves which I think are a good formula for success in any enterprise.

  • The equipment used was top notch. A smaller team like Toro Rosso can’t necessarily afford the same gear as the bigger teams, but they sure do invest in the things that count. From their wind-tunnel in Bicester to the gear used at the races themselves, it’s all there for a reason. Formula Fast similarly invested in some superb Sodi GT5 karts a few years ago which are a key part to our guest’s experience. Supporting this is our state of the art Clubspeed Timing system which allows live timing, online registration, and (before the end of the month) online booking.

 

A small team with big ambitions...

  • I was blown away by how welcoming the team was. I’m sure this isn’t always the case in F1 – and I know that it isn’t always the case (very unfortunately) for every kart circuit in the UK. We make every effort at our track to make all of our guests feel welcome and looked after: for them it makes all the difference.

    And from someone who wasn’t a full on F1 fanatic before, I am definitely one now. If we manage to convert someone into a lifelong karting fan during their time with us, our mission is accomplished.

  • This is all nothing without a cracking team behind you. Toro Rosso have invested money and time into employing the very best personnel to drive the team up the championship standings. From the Chief Race Engineer to the driver, everyone is highly trained, motivated and committed to working hard to make the team a success.

    I’m proud to say that the same applies to us. Most of our team followed us from our previous Banbury location, and with a substantial racing background themselves, our workforce are a bunch of ‘fast’ enthusiasts keen on delivering a great motorsport experienc.

Based on today’s F1 result – with Vergne and Kvyat placing 9th and 10th respectively – Toro Rosso have battled through a tricky winter transition to create a new car with great potential.

I’m confident Formula Fast have a winning formula for a successful 2014 and beyond in Milton Keynes. We’ve just been ranked the #1 attraction in Milton Keynes and Bucks on Tripadvisor, so if you haven’t already, there is no better time to emulate your racing heros in a quick little single seater than now – give us a call and we’ll arrange your very own racing experience.

And in the meantime, I’ll be waiting in my wellies for my turn in the STR8…

Phil Stanley
Managing Director

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