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March 11, 2013 News
EFCN One-on-One: F1600 Championship's Reid Hazelton
 

Reid Hazelton will make his pro racing debut as the lead driver for the Carbir Race Cars effort in the F1600 Formula F Championship Series (Photo: Brent Hazelton)
Reid Hazelton will make his pro racing debut as the lead driver for the Carbir Race Cars effort in the F1600 Formula F Championship Series
(Photo: Brent Hazelton)

When the 2013 edition of the F16000 Formula F Championship series gets underway, a familiar chassis will rejoin the fold via Carbir Racing Cars. As part of a new program, featuring a new FF entry, SCCA standout Reid Hazelton will get behind the wheel. The eFormulaCarNews.com editorial staff recently had the opportunity to speak win the Wisconsin driver about how the program came about, the new car, and plans for 2013.

EFORMULACARNEWS: Before we going into your new F1600/FF program with Carbir for 2013, let's give the EFCN readers some background information. When did you first start racing in the junior formula car ranks, and how did it come about?

REID HAZELTON: When I was a kid, from about age 5 to 12, my parents owned a small 1/8th mile, kidney bean-shaped kart track in Whitewater, Wis. I guess the start could be when my Dad took the governor off one of the five-horsepower horse Briggs & Stratton karts. I remember about the fourth lap or so I was flat all the way around. Not a big accomplishment on such a large track, but I remember that as being the first time feeling out a kart close to the limit.

Of course, my older brother Brent and I got bored with going around in circles, and decided it was a great idea to have one person go clockwise, and the other counterclockwise on the track…full speed…no helmets…no “Hey you go to the inside and I’ll go to the outside” plan. Playing chicken soon got boring too, so we pioneered kart jousting. When we would pass each other (again, one going clockwise and the other counterclockwise), we would throw road cones, tennis balls, shoes, and just about anything we could find at one another. My Mom hated it. Can you blame her?

My folks were not too keen on me racing, so I didn’t get back into it until I was in college. I bought a 1989 Mazda RX7 for $100, and slowly began building it into an IT car, with the occasional help from my best friend Ken Jones, who would become my magic-fingers mechanic. I ran that in Midwestern Council of Sports Car Club events for a year and a half. Being in college, despite working full time, I had zero money after tuition and books, so little that I could not afford both trailer tires and rain tires. I opted for street tires on the trailer wheels to try and solve both needs. When it would rain we would unbolt the wheels from the trailer and put them on the race car. Of course, it rained nearly every event that first year. Towards the end of the year I had saved enough money for my very first set of new race tires, albeit some Kumho autocross tires, but new tires none the less. Turns out, new tires are pretty cool and I won the race. I had a for sale sign in the car at the time and after the race a gentleman offered me what I was asking for it on the spot. It was FF time!

I bought the 1992 Van Diemen in 2008 from Bruce Lindstrand at Lindstrand Motorpsorts Inc in Darian, Wis. I didn’t know much about formula cars at that point, but I knew I could trust Bruce. He was a big help in shortening the learning curve.

EFCN: For the past few years you've raced solely in SCCA via the F1600/Formula F class. What attracted you to this class, and why continue to race a F1600/FF?

HAZELTON: To me, the FF class offers everything I feel I needed to learn at the lowest price. I could learn setup on a real racing chassis, how to work with shocks and springs, alignments, gearboxes and gearing, and most importantly, how to drive. I see FF as one of the last pure race car breeds, a real drivers class. In many higher forms of racing the car and budget is 80% (let’s say) or more of the equation. In FF, I think it is more dependent on the driver than a particular chassis, where some dumb college kid can buy a 1992 Van Diemen and be competitive at the Runoffs.

I remain in the class mainly due to budget constraints. Anything “higher” up the ladder is too far out of reach, and even FF is a struggle for me at times. Also, having come very close to a National Championship has made it pretty personal to me to win the Runoffs with a 1992 Van Diemen that is missing a shock. Kind of a victory for the guys who don’t have the latest and greatest. Additionally, SCCA FF group has become sort of a family for me. They really are a very wonderful group of people, and many I consider to be good friends. I really can’t say enough about the camaraderie off the track and the competition on the track in FF, both are pretty fantastic.

EFCN: Steadily finding more speed and increasing your skills as you've gained experience behind the wheel, you've now established yourself as one of the drivers to beat in the SCCA F1600/FF ranks. What do you think has been biggest thing you've learned in your development as a driver?

HAZELTON: From my perspective, I wasn’t able to just focus on being the driver, but also had to act as the owner, engineer, and mechanic, as many SCCA competitors do. So for me, it is hard to differentiate between all the different aspects of campaigning a car since they were so intertwined.

As a driver, at least as best I can separate that from the whole thing, I would say my corner speed from the time I come off the brake to the time get to the apex has been the biggest improvement. For me, this is one thing that I have always tried to focus on to develop further, and I feel is the most critical part of the corner. I figure if I can increase my speed into the corner, and maintain that through the corner I will be ahead at the end of the following straight.

From an engineer’s perspective, I would say my familiarity with the car. My 92 Van Diemen has a very, very small, window in which it works. The more I became familiar with the car, the quicker I can make adjustments to get it to be where I want it. If you look at my times from any of the first practice sessions, you will see I am typically pretty slow. I need that first session to feel out the car and learn what it needs. Now I have it understood enough that I know which of the variables to change, and how much….usually.

Being very limited on budget (let’s call this the owner perspective), choosing wisely where to allocate my resources is very important, and learning ways to really stretch a dollar is key. Often I would get caught up in the tweak of the week game, thinking I had to have the latest wizzy part to compete. I've learned that just because someone else chose to spend a lot of money on something, does not make it mandatory in being able to compete for a win. It might help, but certainly is not a requirement. The higher price tag is not necessarily related to lower laps times, the relationship is inelastic (thank you college econ teacher).

EFCN: In 2013, you will make the move to the pro ranks, joining forces with Carbir Race Cars in the F1600 Formula F Championship Series. How did this partnership come about?

HAZELTON: I was attending the PRI Tradeshow in Orlando on an unrelated venture and was introduced to Brian Utt through Mike Rand of the F1600 Series. As it turns out, Mike had spoken with Brian prior and suggested that I would be a good fit for Carbir’s new program. Brian and I talked about it at the show for about an hour, and after that it was just a matter of keeping in touch as the program began to develop.

EFCN: A key ingredient of this new racing endeavor will be your role in developing the new Carbir Formula F race car. What are your initial thoughts on being a major part of this process?

HAZELTON: I am very, very excited! I am really looking forward to the challenge and being able to put the knowledge and experience I have gained to work in the effort to develop a new car design. I had a lot of fun (and sometimes equal frustration) in developing a mono-shock Van Diemen to use the same 7” tire on all 4 wheels, and that development process and seeing measurable gains is very appealing to me. I love the challenge. I really cannot wait for testing.

EFCN: Given you did everything but re-build the engines for your racing effort over the past few years, how will this help in the development of the new car?

HAZELTON: I feel a mechanical understanding of the car goes a long way in being able to develop it effectively. Seeing and feeling the car through performing the maintenance gives me a mental picture of how it works and behaves. It helps in being able to identify abnormal car behavior, and being able to tell if something is broken or not functioning correctly, and addressing it rather than spending a test day trying to tune around it. Having that mechanical knowledge helps identify areas of improvement faster and more accurately, and allows the ability to better communicate that with the rest of the team when giving suggestions and feedback.

EFCN: Have you had the chance to either discuss the new car with Carbir owner Brian Utt, or see the new car in person? If so, what are your thoughts, and does any one aspect standout?

HAZELTON: The car having four shocks, and that it doesn’t date back to the Bush (H.W., not W.) Presidency stands out in my mind. But really, Brian and I have talked extensively about the new chassis. I have seen it several times through the design and build phases. I anticipate it to be a very capable chassis considering the Carbir lineage and the design group who has worked on the car. Ultimately, we won’t know where we stand with certainty until we at VIR.

EFCN: Will you have a chance to drive/test the Carbir entry prior to the F1600 Formula F Championship Series season-opening event at VIRginia International Raceway in mid-April?

HAZELTON: Definitely. Brian Utt and myself plan to have the car well sorted and developed prior to VIR. We know the competition will be very tough in the F1600 series, and that is not the place to learn a new chassis design and develop it. I don’t really have any interest in entering an event that I do not feel I can compete for a win, and you have to have a tested and well developed car to do that in this series.

EFCN: Prior to the car getting on-track, what do you expect will be the biggest obstacles to overcome?

HAZELTON: Being patient and waiting, both of which I am really bad at. Winter here in Wisconsin is long, and the 13 inches of snow we just got doesn’t help.
 

Hazelton will have the chance to focus on driving for the first time in his young career in 2013 (Photo: Mueller Motorsports Photography - Shawn Mueller)
Hazelton will have the chance to focus on driving for the first time in his young career in 2013
(Photo: Mueller Motorsports Photography - Shawn Mueller)

EFCN: Is there one thing you are most looking forward to when you get behind the wheel of the new car?

HAZELTON: I’d say there are two equaI areas I am really looking forward to. First, being able to work with the very knowledgeable team Brian has assembled at Carbir. Having a group of smart guys to work with will allow me to focus on driving and not divert my attention to car prep and set up. On my own, managing everything has been a little too much to handle on a race weekend, and I feel as if I couldn't focus enough on simply driving the car. It almost became secondary to prep and set up. The most stressful part of a weekend for me was sitting on false grid wondering what I forgot to do on the checklist...“did I make the right set up change”, “did I calculate enough fuel”, “did I tighten that bolt”, “did I remember to go to the bathroom” and so on. It’s funny, how sometimes you forget that last one, and once you are in the car nature reminds you. Not having those responsibilities (except the last one, I guess that is still my responsibility), and just concentrating on driving will be a very welcome change and a large amount of stress off my shoulders.

Financially, I was really pinching my pennies to compete at the National level and that did make things hard at times. It will be a very welcome change to not have to worry about that. If it had not been for Brian Utt and Carbir, there would be absolutely no way at this point in my life I could afford to race in the professional ranks. Also, there is only one time during the season I can drive to 100% of my abilities, and that is the Runoffs. I cannot afford to take the chance of crashing the car during the season, because I knew if I did I was done for the year, I had to be conservative. One of the first things Brian told me was that he did not want me to hold back, and to not worry about hurting the car. I am looking forward to being able to drive at the higher end of my abilities on a more consistent basis.

EFCN: What as a driver, and team, are you hoping to achieve in 2013 with the new Carbir F1600/FF entry?

HAZELTON: As Charlie Sheen likes to say...Winning!

EFCN: Finally, can fans and fellow F1600/FF competitors expect to see you behind the wheel when the 2013 edition of the SCCA National Championship takes place in late September at your home track of Road America in Wisconsin?

HAZELTON: Absolutely. Like I said, it has become quite personal for me to win a Runoffs gold after coming very close. But, as everyone says, the Runoffs are a different animal and the racing gods really make you earn it.

EFCN: Thanks for speaking with eFormulaCarNews.com. We look forward to following your newest racing effort as Carbir Race Cars driver in the F1600 Formula F Championship Series.

HAZELTON: You’re very welcome and thank you for the interest. This whole interview thing is new to me, hope I didn’t bore your readers too much.

I’d also like to thank all the people that helped me along the way, because without them I would certainly would not have this opportunity, and one that I never thought would actually happen. I’d like to thank Keith Averill at Averill Racing Stuff, for the years of irreplaceable wisdom, support, and friendship, for which I will always be appreciative. Also Hoosier Tire’s Bruce Foss and Tim Gilvan, for all their support and my new love of the color purple. Lindstrand Motorsport Inc., with Bruce and Cindy Lindstrand, Nicole Temple, and Jeff Salcedo, for helping me get off on the right foot in Formula F. Also,. the members of The Midwestern Council of Sports Car Clubs, for helping me cut my teeth in racing with a very helpful group of people. Curtis Farley at Farley Engines, for an engine that can get an old 92 VD to set the pole time and the lap record at the Runoffs, and the FF racers themselves for their camaraderie and laughs, as well as the long list of friends both at and away from the track, who helped me so much along the way. And of course my family. My mother and father, who I am sure everyone has seen scrambling around the track, my brother Brent who comes to every race with camera in hand to document the weekends, my best friend Ken Jones, for driving six+ hours just to attend races and help turn some wrenches, and my girlfriend Roxana, for just generally putting up with the whole ridiculous thing with a smile on her face…a pretty remarkable thing, am I right guys?


Additional EFCN One-on-One features, please visit HERE
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