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Born in the USA: Formula V will celebrate a big birthday at the 24-hour race in Daytona this weekend (24–27 January). 50 years after its first official race, Volkswagen’s single-seater series returns to its birthplace. Among those present will be a number of ex Formula V drivers, who went on to become international motorsport stars: Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, US star Michael Andretti, Daytona champion Didier Theys, Le Mans winner Hurley Haywood, former DTM stars Hans-Joachim Stuck, Prince Leopold of Bavaria, Klaus Niedzwiedz and Dieter Quester, as well as 1976 Formula Super V European Champion Mika Arpiainen. Rally icon Markku Alén, the unofficial World Rally Champion from 1978, will also be there.
“Volkswagen can look back on major success on the motorsport scene. However, the continuous promotion of juniors has been even more successful,” said Volkswagen Motorsport Director Jost Capito. “50 years ago, Formula V was pioneering in this regard. It accompanied many eventual motorsport legends as they took their first steps towards a career in motor racing. Many of these legends will be brought together for the revival in Daytona, where it all began with the first ever Formula V race. I am really looking forward to this reunion.”
Formula V in the USA – the success story that began back in 1963
The first ever Formula V race was held at the Daytona Speedway in August 1963. Armed with the 40hp, 1.2-litre engine and the chassis from the Volkswagen Beetle, motorsport enthusiasts put together extremely economic single-seater racing cars – and launched a boom that was soon to spill over to Europe: on 4 July 1965, Formula V made its official German and European debut in front of 50,000 spectators at the Norisring in Nuremberg (Germany). This proved to be the start of a success story, to which a new chapter was added from 1971 onwards with the Formula Super V series – a second class of Volkswagen racing cars, which ran parallel to the established Formula V 1300. The Volkswagen engines had a capacity of 1.6 litres and initially generated 120 hp. Within a few years, this figure had risen to almost 200 hp.
Formula One world champions Niki Lauda, Nelson Piquet, Emerson Fittipaldi, Jochen Rindt and Keke Rosberg all began their careers in the various Formula V championships, as did Le Mans winners Gijs van Lennep, Dr. Helmut Marko and Jochen Mass. As such, Formula V formed the basis for the tradition of promoting juniors in motorsport – a tradition that still lives on today through the likes of the ADAC Formula Masters “powered by Volkswagen”.
The best Formula V racing cars from Europe and the USA will complete a “lap of honour” ahead of the start of the legendary 24-hour race. In the cockpits of these iconic cars will be the Formula V heroes from the series’ heyday.