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Factory Five-NASA Challenge Series
2005 Pre-Season Status Report by Dave Smith


The 2005 Racing season is getting underway!  The tough New England winter (worst in memory) has made all of us nearly insane.  We are excited beyond words about the coming warmth, races, smells of gasoline and fresh cut grass, and all the things that come along with the promise of a new season.  There have already been some great warm-up races around the country and 2005 holds promise to be the best year ever for Challenge Series Pilots and spectators.


I wanted to take a moment to personally put this upcoming season in perspective.  So much of what we do at FFR is driven by passion and the series is one of the things I am most passionate about.  I want to describe the things we have to do in the near future, but also remind all of us how far we’ve come and maybe be a bit of a cheerleader for some folks who have dedicated a huge amount of time to building this series.


Before I get to the brass tacks of a status report, I wanted to give everyone some big picture perspective on the magnitude of the accomplishments to date. 


What we have all done together is to have started an amateur racing series that is today one of the fastest growing in the world!  Factory Five Racing is a small company with very limited budget.  For every dollar we have made selling racing products in the series, we have invested 10.  That investment rate is slowing and we hope to be break even this year or by 2006 (that’s pretty cool).  Many of the things that we haven’t done yet are a direct result of the size and financial abilities of the company. 


They say nine out of ten small businesses fail and all of those nine were restaurants.  Well, when it comes to successful, profitable and well-attended racing series, the numbers are more like 999 out of 1,000 that are doomed.  Think about every article you’ve ever read about a new racing series and how many of those are around today!  The fact that the series is growing and vibrant is nothing short of a miracle! It is a miracle that has been born of passion, friendship and a true commitment to a special lifestyle. 


The original design goals were well though out and supported by good execution.  Our 2004 Coordinators meeting highlighted the fact that as the series grows we have to continue to change the way we do things.  A good example of this is technical inspection and rules.  The original design goals were to encourage fair and even rules.  Every year the series grows, the accuracy, enforceability and clarity of those rules becomes ever more important.  While in the first year there was more focus on car counts and full fields than there was emphasis on post-race tech inspection.  The fact that the first two years of racing saw nary a protest was a testament to the fellowship, camaraderie and good vibes of those early racers. 


As the series has evolved the cars have become more safe, better handling and more predictable.  The recent change to Bilstein Shocks is only the latest effort, in line with changes like the three-link suspension and others, designed to make the cars handle better and more neutral at 10 tenths pace.


This year will be the best ever!  We’ll see more drivers and full fields, we have a well thought out schedule and Nationals Plan that was finalized early before the season started.  The racing action on the track should be intense as the cars are the best handling and performing chassis/cars we’ve ever fielded.  We have new partner companies and exciting new ways for guys to get into the series with new “arrive & drive” programs.  Our sanctioning body NASA is more committed than ever to helping the FFR series and better rules and enforcement will make things more fun.  The great crew of local coordinators are identified and funded, we have contracted with a new ad agency to launch new advertising and develop series identity. 


The team here at FFR, along with great help from a lot of really great customers and racers has accomplished a huge amount over the winter.  There are items that are still being worked on feverishly as we approach the warmer weather and the full racing schedule. 


As we begin the 2005 season I want to ask all of you to continue on the strong foundation that has been laid by the hard work of so many people.  Let’s have an exciting and safe season and let’s continue to build this special race series into the dream that so many talk of, yet so few enjoy.


Review, Accomplishments and Plans

It’s hard not to brag when you consider the results of the work we’ve all done together.  True enough there is a mountain of work that we still face to continue building the series, but here is a review of what has been done recently.


Regional Coordinators and Annual Meeting

Back in November 2004, the FFR Challenge Series Coordinators traveled from all over the U.S. to meet for the weekend to develop a plan for the upcoming season.  The meeting was hugely productive and laid the groundwork for some great ideas to come to fruition.  This year we are fortunate to have this group identified, funded (sponsored by the factory), and most importantly, well staffed. 

By providing crucial contacts in the field and at races, the regional coordinators are one of the biggest reasons why the series is growing as quickly as it is. 

New Series Website,

The new web site is up and running!  Dave Borden, former 2002 National Champion and all-around good guy has been working to get news and events, driver’s bios, and important data up and on-line.  Dave has been doing a great job and deserves all of our thanks.  Especially cool are the track records and the developing track tours.  In these sections we can compare lap times and get to know different tracks before we run ‘em.


What to look for:  More of this!  Dave is working on getting more and more content to the site and making sure that race coverage is virtually same day.  Thru the year the points standings should be real-time accurate.


RaceCar Bulders

We started a racing series without a car.  Thinking that anyone can build their own car, we accidentally handicapped the series by not indentifying a reliable, consistent and reasonable source for compleyed race cars.  With BDM (Bryan Dobyns Motorsports) we have a place where guys can go to get completed cars, built by racers, for racers. 


Other shops can build challenge seires racers., by Dobyns gives us a single source for consistency. 


Product Design:  Safer, Faster, and more Reliable:

Today’s chassis and suspension is light years ahead of the first versions we shipped more than five years ago.  We have upgraded the shock absorbers recently to make the cars more neutral and easier to drive. 



It has been more than a year since FFR engineer Jim Schenck began working with the team from Bilstein.  Initial work at the Bondurant School was followed by track testing last year and into this year.  The new shocks are better, faster and stronger.  We are offering them as a cost upgrade (means we’re not making money) and the truth is they last longer and are therefore less expensive to run than the older Pro-Shocks. 


The current Challenge cars are being built in the new Mk3 welding jigs.  The bodies are negligibly different and the over-all design (notwithstanding shocks) is unchanged from 2004.


What to look for:  Not a lot of consideration is being put toward design change.  NASA is strongly looking at requiring an SFI standard head restraint system (like Hans device).  The cars are really fast, safe and strong.  Solid crash experience and track time tells us to leave the design alone.  The future may include a look at a low cost sway bar set-up, and some design ways to make tech easier to do and enforce.


Full Competitive Fields:

In 2004 the FFR Challenge Series races were in some regions the largest race groups at each event.  This year, based on sales for the last two years expect to see full grids and races with 15-25 cars in regional events!


What to look for:  A fun Nationals at VIR this year with even more cars and the possibility of larger media/cable TV exposure.  Every day brings another racer to the grid and drivers are staying with the series.  One of the biggest things we can do is to start the process of investigating SCCA homologation as a GT-2 class car.  This would open up the car to more races and events.  At this time we’ll be focusing on NASA events and work towards doing this with a customer/coordinator on a small scale.


New Ad Agency/Promotion:

We have dedicated some money to a new ad agency to help us develop the appropriate image for the series.  Check out some drafts of the series logo by clicking here.  We are working on new ads for the series and new placement in the correct media locations, magazines, etc.


What to look for:  Series decals and drivers patches before Mid-Ohio races (with luck), new adverts in magazines within the month.


Contingency Programs/Related Programs:

With precious few engineers available for developments outside the new GTM supercar project we have not worked on any corporate contingency programs.  We have shied away from giving prize money because we’re cheap bastards… Truth is we want to avoid the element that prize money brings and we want to foster fellowship in the series. 


Marcus Motorsports is bringing “arrive and Drive” programs to reality.  What a huge presence these guys are at a track with 6-8 rental cars in a fleet that is professionally serviced and supported. 


What to look for:  Contingency programs, special events and other promos will be a “catch-as-catch-can” thing.  If something falls in our lap we’ll capitalize on it but without dedicated resources we are at a snails pace.

If you’re looking for a fun and exciting way to race, we hope you check out a FFR-NASA Challenge Series race near you.  If you are in the Series, let us know what we can do to help, and we look forward to seeing you at an event soon. 

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