Remember early in 2020, when we all upped our iRacing skills because we couldn’t get to the race track? It was during that lonely period when Max King claimed the Hoosier Racing Tire SCCA eSports Super Tour championship in Formula 3. Recently, he was able to claim his ultimate prize – an SCCA Driver’s School at Blackhawk Farms in a Rennkraft Motorworks-prepped Formula Enterprises 2 car.
Although King won his virtual championship with his sim-racing skill, he is also an established real-world racer in the Northeast. Most of that experience is in the Spec Racer Ford platform, however – so the open-wheel platform was an exciting and new challenge.
“The FE2 was similar to a Club Formula Ford that my father owns,” King said. “In terms of tires they run R60 compound tires which are really durable and stable tire. But what I really liked the most was the power of the Mazda MZR motor, my gosh does it put you in your seat. This motor packed a punch and would squirt you out of the corners making the R60s hang on for grip. The six-speed SADEV sequential gearbox was tricky at first but then, with time, shifting became smooth as silk.”
But the body style was the biggest adjustment.
“The big change for me was downforce,” King said. “Once you hit 80 to 90 mph, it’s like someone flips the grip switch. I was going flat out through some corners and you could feel it plant into the pavement. Braking also was a challenge, getting it whoa-d up while the down force bled off with the speed made me rethink how to approach a corner. But, I’m always up for the challenge and became more comfortable with the driving style as they day went on.”
That Rennkraft Motorworks car was only part of the experience. It was King’s first time at Blackhawk Farms, comparing it to Summit Point Raceway with changing track surfaces, character-changing bumps and curbing.
“Even as an experienced driver, you always want to take it easy and learn all the nuances of a new track,” King explained. “I always walk the track if I can and the school gave me the opportunity to do that before the first session.
“The workers at this event were extremely kind and helpful all the way from flaggers to the stewards. From when I entered the facility everyone was always in a good mood and made sure that everyone had a positive experience throughout the weekend. The region was very passionate and proud to host this event, which is something anyone can expect going to an SCCA weekend around the country. Everything was well run, on time, and very professional.”
From sim racing to the real world, King is an advocate of both – and how they compliment each other.
“2012 was when I first made my transition from sim racing to the real deal,” King explained. “I’ve been sim racing since I could walk and has driven my passion for real racing still to this day. It definitely helps, in terms of learning a car/track, developing racecraft, and learning different types of driving styles. Sim racing keeps my reflexes sharp for when it comes time for the SCCA weekends. The basics are the same as the real world, but there’s nothing that can replicate the ‘seat of the pants’ feel. On the pavement you drive with your butt and your fingertips tells your brain what to do. Sim racing your only feel is in your fingertips and you have to rely what you see more than you feel.”
In all, the prize from Rennkraft Motorworks was a reminder that you can’t quit learning on a race track.
“Tony Grau was a pleasure to work with,” King said. “He gave me all good tips on what to expect from car and track and helped me get up to speed. The car had a very solid setup on it and was predictable with a good ‘seat of the pants’ feel He explained things in a very straight forward manner and didn’t sugar coat my mistakes on track which is what a driver needs to go faster. Before the end of the day I was turning competitive lap times and he helped me achieve my goal to get within 1.5 seconds of the track record – if you add all my best split times up.”
Grau also enjoyed working with King.
“We were excited to offer this opportunity to Max to test our FE2 car,” Grau said. “Max has proven he can drive well, both virtually and in a Spec Racer. He was a pleasure to work with and we’re so happy he was able enjoy the performance of the FE2 at Blackhawk!”
The final word goes to King, however, who recommends both taking advantage of any new opportunity, and seeking out the chance to drive a Formula Enterprises 2 car if possible.
“I have to say thank you to all my supporters, from my beautiful fiancee to all the South Jersey Region members to get me to this experience,” King said. “Most importantly, thank you Tony Grau at Rennkraft Motorworks. You can see for yourself what it’s like to get in one of these beasts at www.rennkraft.net and I highly recommend it!”