The top step of SCCA feeder series racing in the US gets underway this weekend, with an exciting grid, a new(ish) track and plenty of incentives for the championship winner. This is our extensive guide to the 2022 Formula Regional Americas Championship.
By Adam Dickinson
Formula Regional Americas begins at NOLA Motorsports Park outside New Orleans, Louisiana, with a slimmed-down start list of 12 drivers that could make this season the most competitive of the series yet.
Four of the top five from last season’s F4 US have been promoted, while there’s a strong crop of drivers returning for their sophomore year of FR Americas. On top of that comes the biggest-name arrival the championship’s seen in years, all fighting for a lucrative rewards package.
With 12 drivers, the grid is equal in size to last season’s opening round and is around what organisers were expecting, although it’s lower than the high-water mark of 2020 when 16 drivers started the season.
One of those dozen will bag 18 FIA Super License points as champion, nearly half the 40 required to qualify for an F1 license. The runner-up gets 14 points, followed by 12 for third and then 10, 6, 4, 3, 2 and 1 running down to ninth place.
That’s not all that’s at stake though. Thanks to the series’ partnership with Honda, the champion can head to Japan thanks to a $600,000 2023 Super Formula scholarship plus an engine-supply agreement.
Last year’s winner Kyffin Simpson turned down that offer in favour of an Indy Lights seat, but the series will be keen for this year’s champion to make use of the opportunity.
The X-factor in the championship is Raoul Hyman. His announcement came out of nowhere but his resumé is to be admired. The 2018 Asian F3 champion was last seen running a full season of FIA F3 a year later, giving him by far the most experience of anyone on the grid.
Despite not cutting the mustard in FIA F3 he should be right up there and will be a good yardstick to measure the rest of the grid by too.
Jason Alder, third in last year’s F4 US championship, showed no nerves when he moved up to FR Americas for the last round of 2021 at COTA. Alder went straight to the top step of the podium in his first outing, and then backed that up by finishing fifth and seventh in races two and three.
He’ll definitely be one to watch and is one of the favourites to take over from Simpson as reigning champion. Both he and Hyman are racing with TJ Speed Motorsports, the team that helped Simpson to victory last season.
Mac Clark is the only driver in this year’s FRA who beat Alder last year, and now makes the jump up with Future Star Racing. Clark was second to Noel Leon in F4 US last season, 20.5 points behind the Mexican and 7.5 ahead of Alder.
He achieved that with supreme consistency, finishing on the podium in nine out of the twelve championship rounds whereas his rival had a six-race stretch with just one points-scoring finish.
It’ll be interesting to see them renew that battle this season, and they’ll be joined by Nicholas Christodoulou, the fourth and final driver in the F4 US championship battle last season.
He finished last season with a run of five top-two places in the last six races, so he’s certainly bringing solid momentum into this season and has been retained by Velocity Racing Development. With all that in mind, he’s definitely worth watching, especially in the early part of the season.
Beyond that, Nick Persing arrived to FRA a third of the way through last season and steady improvements culminated with a podium in the final race. Solid if not spectacular, he scored every time he finished but has moved from VRD to TJ Speed – he’s the best bet for an outsider to upset the predicted frontrunners.
Crosslink Kiwi Motorsport have a big crop of returning drivers: all four have FRA experience, though only one has raced a full season. Dylan Tavella was a winner last season but needs to get more consistent – he only scored points in ten races out of 18 in 2021.
He’ll be fighting for leadership duties with Kiwi Ryan Yardley, who has experience back home in the Toyota Racing Series and impressed in FRA last season despite only featuring in two rounds. He finished on the podium in half his races (one of them runner-up to Alder) and will look to take that momentum into this weekend.
Tavella and Yardley are joined by Cooper Becklin and Kevin Janzen, outside bets to be challenging the top five.
Rodrigo Gutierrez (VRD) has extensive experience in F4 in the US and Argentina, and has showed flashes of speed over that time. However, for someone who’s been racing in single-seaters since 2019, he should’ve done better than 10th last season in F4 US. Finishing one place behind Gutierrez, Hayden Bowlsbey (IGY6 Motorsports) also showed promise last season capped by a third-place finish and a fastest lap in round four.
Finally, the Doran-Kroll Racing duo of Marco Kacic and Alex Kirby are largely unknown quantities. Both have some experience in junior single-seaters, but nothing that makes them stand out or that allows for a good comparison to their competitors.
Six races have made up the calendar for every season of FRA/F3 Americas, guess how many there are this season?
Four tracks return to the championship from last season while Road Atlanta and Brainerd Raceway make way for NOLA Park and the New Jersey Motorsports Park. Both featured in the inaugural running of the series in 2018 but haven’t been seen since.
Another loss to the calendar is the F1 support ticket – the COTA round happens a week after the F1 race. Alder and Christodoulou both tasted victory at the event last season.
That confirms that each round has three races, with the scoring system for each race matching F1 (without points for fastest lap or qualifying). Live streams of the races will be on FR Americas’ YouTube and Facebook pages, all events will have live timing too.
The other notable feature of the calendar is a 2-month, 67-day gap between rounds 4 and 5. This could give star drivers a chance to try their hand at other series (potentially in Europe) during that window but having such a large gap is never ideal.
The full 2022 calendar
|1||1-3||NOLA Motorsports Park (Avondale, Louisiana)||9-10th April|
|2||4-6||Road America (Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin)||19-22nd May|
|3||7-9||Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (Lexington, Ohio)||23-26th June|
|4||10-12||New Jersey Motorsports Park (Millville, New Jersey)||29-31st July|
|5||12-15||Virginia International Raceway (Alton, Virginia)||6-9th October|
|6||16-18||Circuit of the Americas (Austin, Texas)||3-6th November|
Header photo credit: Gavin Baker Photography
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