Fast Forward/Piper Race Cars is gearing up for the inaugural season of the F1600 Formula F Championship Series, according to Doug Learned Sr. and son Doug Jr., who build both Piper chassis and a variety of race car parts, among other things.
The company is in the process of rebuilding one of Jesse Yorio’s Piper chassis from F2000 competition, converting it to a Formula F car for Ric Baribeault, who is planning to contest the season with Honda power.
“Jesse’s car was originally a Formula Continental,” explained Learned Sr. “We took it apart, checked the chassis for cracks and then completely rebuilt it up with the newest upgrades and the necessary parts to convert the car to Honda power. We are completely rebuilding it and Ric is going to have a very nice car when it’s done.”
A December 3 shakedown test for Ric’s car is planned at Buttonwillow alongside another entirely new Honda powered Formula F Piper on its way to a customer in Georgia.
Race Car Building Business
At this point, Learned hinted at having at least four Piper chassis in the F1600 Series.
“We’re pretty happy with that,” he said. “We’re trying to make people understand you don’t have to buy cars overseas. The Hoosier tire that will be used in the new pro series will go well with the Piper.”
More potential car builds are in the works, with Learned adding that they are planning to have at-the-track support and parts at all F1600 races in 2011.
It takes three months to build a turn-key car with everything installed, said Learned. That means: engine, dash, shocks, a blue-printed transmission and “all the light-weight stuff in the drive train”. The cars are assembled and built in the United States.
“Everything is done in-house except for the fiberglass,” he continued. “We build four cars at a time.
“Right now there aren’t a lot of options for buying a new race car. If you buy something that’s been bolted together you are going to spend another 100 hours putting it together right and making everything fit well.”
“There is a quality to the construction; someone once told me the car was ‘too nice’. If you’re new to the sport you can just buy a new Honda motor with the Piper and be ready to go.”
Keeping the Doors Open
Fast Forward also supplies many of the parts seen around the F2000 Championship Series paddock, building and designing various parts for the Van Diemen chassis as well as a variety of other cars.
Design and engineering work is done by Doug Jr. who holds a Masters Degree in Mechanical and Aeronautical Engineering.
“People always ask why we are supporting the competition,” Learned said. “But it would be short sighted to throw away that market that we’ve spent years developing. If they want to race our cars, great, but if they choose to race other cars, we will still support them.”
Behind the scenes at Piper is the precision machine shop and manufacturing company, Inter-City Manufacturing founded in 1977 by Doug Sr. and his father, Virgil.
Learned mentioned that the company does work for the military, medical suppliers, the food packaging industry and even NASA.
“The Piper is built like we’re building something for NASA or a military research lab, it has to be perfect.
“You can walk through the shop and you see parts that are going on IndyCars and then the next week there is food processing equipment everywhere,” he added.