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Formula Blue Review: Back to the Future

Formula Blue Review: Back to the Future

The Formula Blue class is referred to as many as old school. The IAME engine came around years ago before the Rotax engine took the karting World by storm. In particular UK Karting. In more recent years it’s been of course IAME’s X30 engines that are dominating grids, but there are many similarities between that and the Formula Blue. You would think anyone racing Formula Blue would switch to X30 racing, but there has been a cult following that have decided to keep the Championship running and I wanted to find out why this was the case.

I was heading to the official Karting magazine test track, Whilton Mill, to meet two drivers and try two different karts. Current Junior Blue O Plate winner Jake Calvert would be lending me his Tonykart Junior Formula Blue, whilst ex Junior Blue champion Luke Lattimer, now in Senior Blue, would lend me his Ricciardo chassis with a Senior engine bolted to it.

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Both drivers turned up and began to set up, there were no teams that the drivers raced with and I immediately began to see some signs as to why they may have chosen the Formula Blue class. Speaking to Jake dad and Luke’s grandad, Stu and Geoff they started telling me about the championship. It seems to be largely based in the south of the country, but the grids still sound decent. When asked about the decision to stick with Formula Blue they both said that it was a great championship with great people where budgets are all pretty similar. I imagine if Jake and Luke tried an X30 in a race they’d be a bit scared off by budgets!

With a very damp track I allowed Jake and Luke to go out and do the first couple of sessions. Everything seemed fairly identical to X30 in my opinion, but the karts looked quick to me and the pair seemed like two very quick drivers! Of course, the damp conditions weren’t allowing me to see the karts in full flow, but with no signs of the weather improving I decided it was time to go out.

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First session

I decided to jump in the Junior kart first and headed out on wet tyres. As I came out of turn two for the first time and out my foot down I was pretty taken back by the power of the kart. I would have thought it would have felt slow, but the kart had some punch and coped well under brakes at turn three as I threw it sideways and launched the kerb.

The first lap absolutely flew by and I was having a lot of fun as the first few laps went by before I started to put the kart through it’s paces. If I’m honest it didn’t feel much different to recent X30 and Rotax tests. The one major difference was the fact I couldn’t stop the kart from being sideways under braking, which I later found out was a preference of Jake’s.

Other than that, it had plenty of pace up the straight, it got up to speed very quickly as IAME’s tend to do and despite being on a Junior I felt on edge. With that in mind it was time to jump up to the Senior after a quick break.

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Up to Seniors!

As I jumped into a very well presented Ricciardo kart I was excited to see how different and fast the senior would be. Of course, the obvious difference as I pulled out of the pits was the rise in speed as I put my foot down coming out of turn two. The kart felt very quick and seemed to get up to it’s top seed quick which I assumed was down to a high gearing.

However, one of the bigger differences in the kart was it’s smoother handling and I was looking forward to pushing the kart to the edge, quite literally! As I was on track I noticed a group of Rotax drivers on track so I placed myself a few seconds behind and began chasing them down. To my surprise despite being Senior drivers I was able to catch and pass a fair few proving the engine is no slouch!

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Going over the limit

As I became more confident in the kart I was pushing my braking points further forward, I liked the Ricciardo chassis and Luke seemed to have a similar style to me. He liked a well balanced kart, but also took some front end off which is exactly what I like too so I really was pushing the kart by this point getting quicker and quicker each lap.

However, I did take this over the limit on one or two occasions! The first case was at turn seven when I saw someone spin ahead of me and slammed on the anchors which sent me round and had Stu Stretton having to come over amd help me. The next case was turn eight, I hit a damp patch going in and completely lost it and then realised Stu was on the inside of the corner.

The moment I pushed it a bit too hard...

The moment I pushed it a bit too hard…

Whilst cleaning the kart I had time to speak to the guys about the class and kart a bit more…

Born in late 90’s from 100cc club racing Formula Blue was one of the first TAG (Touch and Go) classes and forerunner introducing restrictors to equalize kart performance to relative driver weights.  Known for it close racing, of all ages and weights, at relatively low costs. We currently have six dads competing against their sons and daughters in Formula Blue and Veterans and Master still showing the youngsters how to win, how many classes can claim that?

Junior Blue From  age 11 years , IAME Blue Top 100cc  driver weights 40kg min to 80kg +, 5 restrictors options in 10kg increments.

Senior Blue From age 15 years, 3 IAME TAG engine variants- Blue Top 100cc, light weight category up to 75 kg driver weight 3 restrictors options, Green Top 119 cc, mid weight category, 75 kg min to 95+ kg driver weights, 3 restrictors options & Black Top  125cc heavy weight category, 95 kg min to 105+ kg driver weights 2 restrictors options.

No matter what weight, you are on a level racing performance with all fellow senior drivers without adding excessive weights to the kart.

When you bin it, clean it

When you bin it, clean it

Engines

The water jacket on the FB Tag Engine makes it ultra reliable, as does the effective rev limit of 17,000 revs. IAME specify the engine output of the Blue top 100cc 21.2 HP, the Green top 119cc 24.1 HP and  Black Top 125cc 27.1 HP, of course this is governed by the relevant restrictor.

New complete with ancillaries £1830, complete engine only £1350. Secondhand engines can be found typically from £350, if you are thinking of this option its worth getting engines checked for condition prior to purchase, either Tabor 01305 774074 or Spa Race Engines 07734201669 can assist.

The Class regulations do not allow for any form of tuning whatsoever. Each driver’s engine is built to the same specs and may not be altered. The Scrutineer has tools to check key measurements and ensure an equal playing field for all  Blue competitors.

IAME factory advise 20 hours between full rebuilds typical cost £395. Top end (piston and hone) typical cost £150. Even if you half that, at 10 hours it is equal to 20 race days or 10 race weekends.

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What are the similarities to the X30 engine?

The X30 engine does produce 3hp more and was developed from the reliable IAME FB  engine range, many parts are shared, the main difference is that the  125 cc X30 has bigger ports and  fitted with a complicated balancer shaft and is limited to 16000 rpm, the FB engines are unlimited and can achieve 17000 rpm.

FB uses the reliable Tillotsen 360 carburettor costing £63, compared to the X30 Tillotsen carburettor costing £216 so X30 can cost considerably more for the clubman racer.

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Tyres

Beba Slick tyres  CIK Medium Compound at a low cost £127 per set , typically used for 2 race meeting at least

Beba Wet tyre CIK Wet Compound £152 per set, good all round damp to wet tyre, grippy and durable.

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Formula Blue Calendar 2017

2 Counties Kart Club 

Round 1 – 2th February Mansell Raceway
Round 2 – 9th July Clay Pigeon Raceway
Round 3 – 10th September – Clay Pigeon Raceway
Round 4 – 1st October –Forrest Edge
Round 5 – 29th October- Mansell Raceway
Round 6 – 23rd November – Clay Pigeon Raceway

Website: http://www.planetkarting.uk/nkra-series-champs/two-counties-kart-club
Contact: 01305774074

2017 National Kart Racing Association Championship -Cadet Honda, Cadet Iame, Junior Blue, Mini Max, Formula Blue & Rotax Max

Northern Area

Round 1 – 26th Feb – Three Sisters
Round 2 – 26th March – Three Sisters
Round 3 – 28th May – Three Sisters
Round 4 – 25th June – Three Sisters
Round 5 – 30th July – March – Three Sisters

Southern Area

Round 1 – 26th March – Mansell Raceway
Round 2 – 9th April – Clay Pigeon Raceway
Round 3 – 7th May – Forrest Edge
Round 4 – 28th May – Mansell Raceway
Round 5 – 30th July –Mansell Raceway

2017 Grande Finals -26 &27th August – Mansell Raceway

Website: http://www.planetkarting.uk/nkra-series-champs/
Contact: 01305774074

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Formula Blue Challenge

Round 1 – 12th March – Clay Pigeon Raceway
Round 2 – 26th March – Mansell Raceway
Round 3 – 9th April – Clay Pigeon Raceway
Round 4- FB 0 Plate    – 23th April Three Sisters
Round 5 – 7th May – Forrest Edge
Round 6 – 28th May – Mansell Raceway
Round 7 – 11th June – Clay Pigeon Raceway
Round 8 – 25th June– Rissington
Round 9 – 30th   July– Mansell Raceway

Website: http://www.planetkarting.uk/formula-blue-challenge/
Contact: 01305774074

2016/2017 Formula Blue Championship ranking

JB 1st  Taylor Waldron
JB 2nd Jake Calvert
“0” Plate Jake Calvert

SB 1st  Anthony Cleal
SB 2nd Matt Helps
SB 3rd Ian Branfield
SB 4th Kevin Ford
SB 5th Luke Lattimer
“0” Plate Ian Branfield

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Final Run

Before the day was up there was time for one last run and time to really put the kart through it’s paces. The final run was really good fun, I was really confident in the kart and was able to start pushing the kart to it’s limits. Having spent time having to clean the kart I was certainly not hoping to push it over the limit, but I still pushed hard and was still impressed with the speed of the kart by the end of the session. 

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Summary

Overall I was very impressed with the Formula Blue engine. Finding out about it’s similarities and differences to the X30 engine was very interesting, but also meeting two drivers in the paddock assured me it has to be one of the friendliest in karting. It seems like a championship for people who just want to go racing with no real ambitions to take it too seriously and also keep the costs low. That said I came across two very talented drivers in Luke and Jake, who we’ll be interviewing on Karting magazine soon! The engine is quick, maintainable and there were no signs of any problems throughout the day. The following may only be a small one in terms of British karting overall, but the drivers don’t seem to be too fussed about that for now although now people know what it is all about they may just go down and give it a go.

If you’re interested in finding out more for yourself, then just head down to one of their meetings. I can assure you all drivers in the paddock would be more than happy to help you out and maybe even give you a blast in a kart. I for one will be down to at least one Formula Blue meeting this year.

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Written by Chris McCarthy

Images courtesy of Stu Stretton

 

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