In the past year I have become totally infatuated with racing go karts. I do not mean the kind of things you find at amusement parks. I am talking about proper racing karts. Fortunately there is a spectacular kart track called Sugar River Raceway not far from where I live. The fact that people there are so friendly and the fact that you can rent a real kart at a reasonable price make Sugar River fairly unique. For those of you who have not driven a kart, let me tell you that it is one of the most intense and pure driving experiences you can possibly imagine. Almost every single professional racing driver got his start racing karts. There is absolutely no filter on the sensations. You are sitting about an inch off the ground. There is no power anything and the kart will turn as fast as you can react. I try to race about twice per week and I have never left the track feeling satisfied that I had "had enough" for the day. This got me thinking; what street legal vehicle that you can buy for the road is absolutely closest to a racing kart?
I give you the Formula Ford 200. Some of you may know about Formula Ford. Basically it is a small relatively affordable (~$75K) race car that you can buy and race in a sealed class series. Many people feel that this is the most pure form of racing that you can do because everyone is basically driving the same car. The results are more based on driver skill than on pocketbook. What I am guessing that most of you do not know is that Ford recently (and fairly quietly) released a kit to turn your Formula Ford race car into a street legal vehicle!
To call this vehicle raw is the understatement of the century. Basically you have a tiny 1.6 liter turbo charged engine that started life as an engine for a Ford Escape with bigger turbos and modified ECU that will put out about 200 hp. Now 200 hp does not sound like a lot but when it is strapped to a car that weighs 1047 lbs, well, the results are quite dramatic. The car has a manual sequential gearbox and provided you shift the gears fast enough you will hit 0-60 mph in about 3.4 seconds. You can order the car with or without the big rear wing. Provided you do without the extra downforce the rear wing provides, Ford claims you will get almost 55mpg on the highway. Oh, and guess what; part of the street legal kit is a real luxury item--a fan!
So there you have it—Formula Ford 200, the most intense unfiltered driving experience that you can drive down the road.