FIRST Motorsport have launched their 2016 challenger at the team’s headquarters near Charlotte, North Carolina. The team’s car has been named the FIRST Inspire 16 and it will be powered by the Ford Zephyr 146.
Team Principal and Co-Founder Adam Blocker explained the team’s chassis name: “We have decided to name our first chassis the Inspire 16 to align with FIRST’s (who own 50% of the team) goal to inspire young people to passionately pursue careers in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) and think critically and creatively.” Blocker went on to explain why Ford have chosen the Zephyr 146 name for the company’s first Formula Virtual engine: “Ford have decided to name its 2016 engine after the company’s last American designed and built V12 engine, the Lincoln-Zephyr V12 that was produced during the World War II era. The ‘146’ designation refers to the displacement of the engine, which is 146 cubic inches or approximately 2,400 cubic centimeters.”
Arden Hutchinson and Douglas Bacon will drive the two FIRST cars in 2016. Hutchinson left Meteor midseason after falling out with the team in the wake of the announcement of his signing with FIRST. Douglas Bacon missed out on the 2015 season and hasn’t completed a full Formula Virtual season since 2013, when he drove for Westwood.
Hutchinson had the following to say at the launch of the Inspire 16: “I really like the livery of the car, it has to be one of the sharpest liveries I have ever seen on the grid. I can’t wait to drive it around Estoril later this month.” When asked about his expectations for the team, Hutchinson said “I think we can score points early in the season if we get the strategy right and others don’t. It is unrealistic to think that we will have the outright pace to regularly score points, but we could get some chances in the wet or early in the season. Hopefully myself and Douglas can maximize any chances that we get.”
Bacon added: “I am really looking forward to driving a FV car for the first time in a year and a half. Like Arden said we will have to take advantage of the occasional opportunity for us to score points to make this season a success. The only team that we can realistically expect to beat in 2016 is North Star and that will not be easy. And as Adam has said before, this season needs to provide us with a good platform to build from in 2017 and beyond.”
When Adam Blocker was asked about why he and the team decided to go with the livery they did, he replied “Electric blue with black accents looks fantastic on pretty much any car. A Formula Virtual car is no exception. In addition, it also goes well with the colors of our main sponsors FIRST, Ford, and Valvoline.” When asked about the team’s sponsors Blocker added “A large portion of our sponsors were previously associated with FIRST including NASA, Qualcomm, LEGO, Rockwell Collins, Delphi, and 3M. Some of the others like Sonoco and Boeing are companies that have a major presence in the Carolinas. SolidWorks are a great partner to have with the amount of CAD that goes into a modern FV team and Shelby also decided to sponsor us as a result of our tie up with Ford.” The car also prominently displays the American flag on the left side of the airbox and the flag of South Carolina on the right side of the airbox.
The Inspire 16 will make its on track debut at Estoril on May 20th, where it will test alongside FIRST’s FV rivals.