Here is the announcement from Adam Blocker:
“I am pleased to announce Arden Hutchinson as FIRST’s lead driver for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. He will drive the number #73 car for us. In his short time with Meteor this season, Arden has outperformed his teammate in both qualifying and the race. Despite this, Meteor decided to drop him for the last few rounds which did not go over well with Arden. As a result, he was open to becoming a part of this exciting project. With the experience Arden has gained from his year as a test driver for Ingram and as a race driver for Meteor this season, I am confident that he can excel for our team in the upcoming seasons.”
Arden Hutchinson was available for comment, and he had this to say about the move to FIRST:
“When I was dropped for a few rounds by Meteor, it became clear that I was not a part of their long term plans. Considering this, when Adam and his team offered me a lead drive for the next two years I couldn’t turn it down. I think that they [FIRST] are going about their preparations in the right way. I cannot say too much about it, but I know that 2016 will be a struggle and we will not score many points. I am confident, however, that FIRST and Ford will put together a strong package for 2017. FIRST are in Formula Virtual for the long run and I am committed to making a name for myself with them. I would like to publicly thank Team Principal Adam Blocker for the opportunity and I will do my utmost not to let them down.”
After making his announcement, Adam Blocker also answered several questions from journalists in attendance:
Question: Is this your first time coming to the Canadian V-Prix? What do you think of the event so far?
Adam Blocker: “I have attended the Canadian V-Prix once before as a spectator. This time I am attending to run FIRST’s FV2 team, which is itself another tool to prepare us for next season. In terms of my opinion of the event; I think it is one of the most exciting races anywhere in the world. The fans in Montréal are very knowledgeable and passionate, the circuit punishes small mistakes, and the build up to the race in the city is absolutely incredible. This event should be on the bucket list for any motorsport fan.”
Q: We just heard the announcement of your future driver Arden Hutchinson. When can we expect more announcements about FIRST’s plan for the upcoming season?
AB: “We will shortly announce our second race driver, at least one youth academy driver, our chassis name, and Ford’s 2016 engine name. This will be done shortly after these things are finalized, which may be before the United States V-Prix but it just depends. I can announce that Firestone will be supplying FIRST with tyres from the 2016 season on wards.”
Q: Why did you and your team choose Firestone over Michelin? Michelin teams have dominated the 2015 season so far.
AB: “Our engineers think the performance gap between Firestone and Michelin is very small. The 2015 Michelin domination has mainly occurred as a result of all of the top teams choosing Michelin over Firestone, not necessarily because they have a superior tyre. Both are respectable companies and both would make fantastic technical partners, but it is easier for use to collaborate with Firestone as we are both based in the United States. This means we can have face-to-face meetings away from the race track a lot more often, which should improve results.
Q: Can you give us any hints about the identity of your second race driver for 2016?
AB: “Not today. Like I said that will be announced once everything is confirmed. We are still in negotiations with other teams and are also looking at free agents.”
Q: What qualities would you like FIRST’s second driver to have?
AB: “The main two qualities I would like in FIRST’s second driver for 2016 are experience and a low cost. As a new team, we are not prepared to spend a lot of money on a second driver right now. At the same time, we would like someone that has plenty of experience that we can rely on to develop the 2016 and 2017 cars. Fortunately for us, there are a few drivers that meet this criteria.”
Q: As an American team, is FIRST looking to specifically recruit American drivers?
AB: “The short answer is no. We are trying to look at drivers objectively to decide which will best suit our plans for the future. My answer is a bit different for young drivers. Here, one of the goals of FIRST Motorsport is to promote the American automotive industry and young American drivers. So we are more likely to support a young American driver trying to make it to FV, but ultimately any future race driver of ours will have to prove that they are the best choice for the team regardless of nationality.”
Q: Last question. What are your personal goals for the team going forward?
AB: “It is difficult to set goals for the team without even starting a race yet. For the first year I would be happy with at least one point. I am not expecting much from 2016 except to build a solid platform for 2017 and beyond. I can’t give any goals beyond that except to say that I would like to win the Constructors’ Championship with FIRST and Ford one day. That is a goal that I know will take more than at least three seasons to achieve and it will be incredibly difficult to beat the likes of Franklin, Rossi, Liverpool/Mathershaw, and Downton in any year. But like the famous saying goes: ‘Shoot for the starts and you’ll at least make it to the moon.’ Thank you very much everyone and enjoy the weekend in Canada as well as the United States V-Prix!”
FIRST’s driver line up is half full and half empty. Arden Hutchinson will be the lead driver and he will drive with Firestone tyres on his #73 Ford powered FIRST chassis. But who will partner him? Expect the answer to that question to be answered within the next month or so.