Concord, North Carolina -- FIRST Motorsport have launched their 2017 challenger at Charlotte Motor Speedway in an event that was open to the public. The team’s car has been named the FIRST Transform 17 and it will be powered by the Ford Zephyr 168. The team had a presentation ceremony in one of the speedway’s showrooms to reveal the car and then let race drivers Arden Hutchinson and Douglas Bacon each do some laps around Charlotte Motor Speedway’s road course layout. FIRST used Arden Hutchinson’s car in the presentation ceremony and Douglas Bacon’s car for the on track running.
Before unveiling the car, FIRST Motorsport Team Principal and Co-Founder Adam Blocker explained the chassis and names: “We have decided to name our second chassis the Transform 17 as a reflection of the goals of the team in 2017 and FIRST’s global objective. If the Transform 17 is successful, it will transform our team into a points scoring midfield Formula Virtual team from a backmarker team. The name also reflects one of FIRST’s primary goals as an organization: to transform young people into aspiring engineers, scientists, and mathematicians that can help reverse the decline of the United States in these fields.” Blocker went on to explain why Ford have chosen the Zephyr 168 name for the company’s second Formula Virtual engine: “Just like last season, Ford have decided to name its newest FV 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 ‘168’ designation refers to the displacement of the engine, which is 168 cubic inches or approximately 2,750 cubic centimeters.”
Blocker then thanked and listed the team’s sponsors for the new season: “Of course, none of this project would be possible without our sponsors and partners. The first of these are FIRST and Ford, who have each committed 100% into this project and are a joy to work with on a daily basis. I would like to thank many of our sponsors from last season for sticking around for this season. This includes 3M, Delphi, LEGO, NASA, Shelby, SolidWorks, Sonoco, and Valvoline. I appreciate the loyalty and support from all of these organizations, and I hope that we will continue to represent them well on and off of the track. We have also picked up some new sponsorships for this season. We previously announced our new partnership with the Skip Barber Racing School, and I very much look forward to those driver camps and having a go myself at one of their racing schools! I would like to welcome three more new sponsors: Dairy Queen, Goodyear, and iRacing. I can’t wait to get some free Blizzards from Dairy Queen and some free content from iRacing! I am an advocate for burgers and ice cream as well as sim racing, so I am all for Dairy Queen and iRacing. Goodyear has come on board because they are the new universal tyre supplier for Formula Virtual.”
Shortly after, Blocker, Technical Director Seth McCormick, and race drivers Arden Hutchinson and Douglas Bacon took the covers off of the Transform 17.
The Transform 17 retains the bright blue and black livery that FIRST have used in FV2 and in their debut season of Formula Virtual. Interestingly, the grabber blue shade that is used this season is the same that Ford uses on its performance road cars. The Transform 17 also proudly displays the American and South Carolinian flags, just like its predecessor. These have been moved to the rear wing endplates to allow the FIRST and Ford logos to be more prominent on the airbox and engine cover respectively.
Seth McCormick had the following to say about the Transform 17: “FIRST and Ford have both made tremendous strides from where we were last season, and I hope that the performance of our 2017 package reflects our progress. I can’t wait until pre-season testing and then Australia to see how fast we are relative to our competitors. We certainly hope to be fighting for points for the duration of the season, but particularly at the beginning of the season. The engineers in Charlotte and Detroit have done all that they can do, now it is up to our drivers and race team to get the maximum out of the package that they have produced.”
Arden Hutchinson and Douglas Bacon also weighed in on the team’s new car and upcoming season before taking to the track to do a shakedown demonstration run. Asked what he looked forward to most in 2017, Hutchinson said “I really just want to get some results that show that this team is going in the right way. I want to motivate the engineers and myself to keep pushing, and the best way to do that is to score some good points scoring results early on. All of us in the team had a long 2016 that was filled with a few bright moments, but was mostly filled with hard work and little reward. I want to change that this season.” Bacon, after being asked that same question, responded with “I want to have my best career Formula Virtual season in terms of points. I don’t know how much longer I will be racing in Formula Virtual so I will savor every moment of this season and try to help take this team to the next level or ‘transform’ it as Adam keeps saying. I look forward to competing for points every race and hopefully getting a few very strong results that will help us in the constructors’ and that will put a smile on our faces. We have all put in a lot of hard work to get through the teething stage of this project in 2016, and we all hope to get some real results this season to show us that we aren’t wasting our time, that this project really can go somewhere. I am also really anxious to get a first taste of the car here in a minute. I hope it is fast and I hope that everyone that has come out today will enjoy the fastest car to ever drive around Charlotte Motor Speedway!”
Hutchinson was the first to take to the track, and got the car up to speed for the first time. The Ford engine’s high pitch deafening scream echoed around the facility, particularly on the oval portion of the circuit. Hutchinson drove conservatively, ensuring that everything was working properly and that the engineers got valuable data from the first run. He did put in a few hot laps at the end of his run to get an idea of the car responds at the limit and to put a smile on everyone’s faces.
Bacon, who has previously raced sports cars around Charlotte’s roval configuration, was much more aggressive. After taking a few laps to get familiar with the car, he gave the fans their money’s worth with some hot laps, a few powerslides, and some doughnuts on the front straight. The crowd appreciated the performance from their home hero and gave him a standing ovation when he climbed from the car on the start/finish line.
The car will be seen next in group preseason testing at Estoril, where the team will begin to get an idea of how their new car compares to the cars of their competitiors.