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About Formula Car Racing

Formula racing is a term that refers to various types of open-wheeled, single-seater cars. An open-wheeled car has wheels outside of the car’s main body. The name “formula” was adopted by an international car association, Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, which is commonly known as FIA. All single-seater racing cars after World War II were called formula cars because they followed “single-seat” regulations or formulae.

We will follow Guy Pipitone, owner and driver of a Formula M car, as he tells us about his efforts to win races. Pipitone uses graphing and algebra to help him be more competitive in races. It is an excellent example of real-world math applications.

Pipitone places sensors around the track that are triggered by a computer in his car. These sensors give him information or data about speed, steering wheel position, engine RPM (revolutions per minute), brake force, G-forces, exhaust gas temperature and gas pedal or throttle position. He then uses this data to make changes in his car that will help him win the race.


Formula Car Facts

  • The car is open-wheeled

  • The car is about three-quarters of the size of cars at Indianapolis and has much less power

  • The car has wings on the back and the front that help keep it on the ground

  • Races are not generally public events

  • Average lap speeds are usually 90-105 mph

  • At the starting line, cars are lined up two-by-two

  • There are usually 20-25 cars per race

  • The fastest qualifier starts in front and can choose the right or left lane

  • Tire temperature is critical

  • Tires are a big expense, costing $750 per set and needing replaced twice per weekend of racing

  • The cars need tires with no tread on dry days and tires with tread on rainy days

  • Three sensors on the tire detect the degree and direction of the tire’s tilt

  • New Formula M cars cost about $40,000 and used ones cost $20,000

  • After each race, the top three winners’ cars must be examined by officials to determine the oxygen content of the fuel, the weight of the car and other factors

  • Cars make a rolling start, with a lead car taking them around the track for one lap

  • There are gravel areas and pull-off areas on the track to be used as needed

  • G-force on a Formula One car is 5 Gs in a turn and upwards of 200 mph in the straight part of the track

  • The racing season starts in March in the southern United States and May in the north

  • All cars are mechanically identical

  • Car engines are overhauled and assembled by the same person and must have the same horsepower

  • Cars use between six and seven gallons of fuel per race and go 50-60 miles per race, which means they get about 10 miles per gallon

  • Generally there is a $300 fee to enter a formula race

  • Find out more about formula racing online at Sports Car Club of America,, or Data Acquisition Company, Copyright©2009, Northeastern Educational Television of Ohio, Inc. All rights reserved.
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