Auto+ Women in Motor Sport #12
Formula Offroad is by many considered to be the most extreme form of 4x4 off-road racing. It started in Iceland and has gained popularity in northern Europe, especially the Nordic countries.
Formula Offroad is a popular type of motorsport where drivers compete in precision driving through steep hills and extreme terrain with specially modified 4x4 trucks.
Formula Offroad is a unique type of motorsport that was invented in Iceland. In hope to bring in more money for the Icelandic rescue teams, the teams started to show their 4x4 trucks in action tackling some rough Icelandic terrain. It soon became more and more of a competition between the teams, and soon the teams where building specially made vehicles for just this purpose. The motor sport Formula Offroad was born.
There are currently two competing classes in Formula Offroad.
Modified Class - Shape of the body must resemble a mass-produced vehicle. Hood, side body panels, front and rear fenders must be installed and resemble the original vehicle.
Unlimited Class - The major league class is the ‘Unlimited’
The difference between the classes is mainly in the tires. Unlimited class 4x4s are allowed to use more aggressive paddle tires (used for sand-drag racing) that dig into the ground during hops and short flights.
The two classes compete on similar tracks. For both classes the length of body must at least cover the wheelbase of the vehicle.
In Iceland there is also the Street Legal Class where the 4x4 trucks are required to pass regular inspection.
Formula Offroad takes place in closed areas with no road traffic. Rock mines, for example, which are usually just outside towns, are often used because they offer the right kind of terrain. Mostly the surface is driven just as it is but occasionally it’s modified slightly for spectator experience. The tracks themselves are pretty makeshift, marked by old tires, flags or sticks. On the day of the event the course marshal takes the drivers through the tracks on foot and explains how they are laid out and how they are supposed to be driven.
Each driver usually has a small team of assistants. They help out by preparing the 4x4 and making repairs as needed during competition. The trucks needs to be large enough to carry the driver. They also need a "mobile garage", welding shop and spare parts to make the repairs during competition.
As spectacular as Formula Offroad appears, there have been very few serious accidents. The drivers are protected by a roll cage, a full-face helmet with neck support, four-point harnesses, a homologated bucket seat, flame resistant overalls, shoes and gloves, special arm restrainers and other safety measures that are required by the rules.
Spectators can sometimes be pelted with sand, earth or small stones kicked up by the big shovel-tires.
Formula Offroad is a real test in off-road driving on closed tracks. Each competition is held in accordance with the FIA International Sporting Code (ISC) and usually has 6 to 8 tracks. On each track a driver can earn up to 350 points depending on how far he goes or if he gets any minus points for faults. Each driver has to go as far as he can and gets no help from the team during the attempt. Stopping incurs a penalty of 10 points. Backing up is allowed but incurs a 40-point penalty. Touching a marker is 20 penalty points. Driving over a marker is 50 points or 100 if only one wheel is still on the course. Faults at the final gate incur only half as many points. Timed courses give points according to time. First place = 350 points. Other drivers are deducted 1 point for every 1/10 th of a second slower than the fastest time. The highest total number of points wins.
For championship tournaments the winner gets 20 points, 15 are awarded for second place, 12 for the third and less for every subsequent place. There’s often also a special award given for the most spectacular driving in each class.
The Formula Offroad style 4x4 is highly modified. A typical example usually has the following modifications: