The Season 3 iRacing schedule brings something old back into the fold again as the SpecRacer Ford Challenge series re-emerges as the newest and most affordable series at the D-Class license level.

Long-time iRacers may remember the SpecRacer Ford Challenge as the Advanced Rookie series prior to the formation of the current inRacingNews Challenge.  The SpecRacer Ford has been an iRacing staple for years, serving first as the lone Advanced Rookie car in the SpecRacer Ford Challenge series, then later paired with the Pontiac Solstice to form the Advanced Rookie inRacingNews Challenge series.

Back to the future: the SpecRacer Ford has its very own series . . . again.

The MX-5 Roadster was added to the inRacingNews Challenge series in late 2011, which made for an interesting three-way multiclass series that ultimately became rather crowded for fans of the smaller and slightly more fragile SpecRacer Ford, which didn’t always fare well when it came to sharing the track with the larger and more durable Solstices and MX-5s.

The advent of the new D-Class SpecRacer Ford Challenge series changes all that, liberating the SpecRacer Ford from its role as a “multiclass running mate” as it “graduates” from the Advanced Rookie level on the career ladder to the D-Class level, where the series is able to run a schedule that features advanced tracks beyond those included in the iRacing base content package.

Of course, advanced tracks beyond those included in the iRacing base content package means more purchased tracks on the schedule, but even so, the new SpecRacer Ford Challenge series steps into the limelight with the least-expensive schedule at the D-Class level.  By using five (5) of the base content tracks (Lime Rock Park, Mazda Laguna Seca, Summit Point Raceway, Okayama Grand Prix, and the Charlotte Road Course), only three more tracks are required to complete a full 8-week championship season (remember, we are allowed four (4) “drop weeks” out of the official 12-week championship season).

This means that the SRF Challenge series requires fewer purchases than the other D-Class series, and the cost to participate is further reduced by the fact that the SpecRacer Ford is included as part of the iRacing base content package, and since everyone already owns the SRF, there’s no car purchase required in order to participate in this series.

The SRF Challenge races twice at Watkins Glen, once on "The Boot" configuration, the other on the Cup course.

The SpecRacer Ford Challenge series brings even more value to the table, though – by visiting multiple variant layouts for two of the purchased tracks that appear on the schedule (Watkins Glen and Brands Hatch), you can actually participate in nine (9) full weeks of racing in the Spec Racer Challenge series just by purchasing those two tracks specifically.

Don’t forget, though, that you do receive an additional 10% discount from iRacing when you purchase three (3) or more tracks or cars at once, so your best value option would be to purchase Watkins Glen, Brands Hatch, and one other track of your choice from among the other tracks on the schedule.  If you choose to go this route to take advantage of the 10% purchase discount, you can choose from Barber Motorsports Park, Mid-Ohio, or Mosport for your third purchase.

Here’s what the full schedule looks like for the Season 3 SpecRacer Ford Challenge:

Week 1:  Watkins Glen (Boot) – 12 laps
Week 2:  Brands Hatch (GP) – 15 laps
Week 3:  Barber Motorsports Park (Full) – 15 laps
Week 4:  Lime Rock Park – 20 laps
Week 5:  Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – 15 laps
Week 6:  Watkins Glen Cup (Cup) – 15 laps
Week 7:  Summit Point Raceway – 18 laps
Week 8:  Okayama (Full) — 15 laps
Week 9:  Brands Hatch (Indy)- 20 laps
Week 10:  Mosport – 20 laps
Week 11:  Mid-Ohio (Full) – 18 laps
Week 12:  Charlotte Road course – 15 laps

The SpecRacer Ford Challenge series will run every day, seven (7) days per week, with online races occurring every two hours on the even hours at 45 minutes past the hour.  iRacers interested in participating in multiple series for Season 3 will want to make note of the fact that with the SpecRacer Ford Challenge on the even hours, this series will not conflict with either the Mustang Challenge series or the Skip Barber Race Series, which both run every two hours on the odd hours.  Better yet, as a D-Class series, participating in eight (8) weeks of the SRF Challenge series will qualify you for $4 in iRacing Race Participation Credits at the end of the season (see http://members.iracing.com/membersite/member/Promotions.do).

Throughout Week 13, SpecRacer Ford fans hosted daily sessions on both the American servers and also on the European servers.  These hosted sessions all featured strong turnouts, with 25 to 30 (or more) SRF drivers showing up to practice, and race grids with field sizes that averaged around 24.  This bodes well for participation and also for the prospect of splits on both sides of the pond for the SpecRacer Ford Challenge series once Season 3 gets underway, which could mean that the SpecRacer Ford Challenge may be the new “hot” series on the iRacing schedule.

Early indications suggest the "new" SpecRacer Ford Challenge will feature full grids.

Drivers with a Rookie 4.0 through Pro will be eligible to race in the SpecRacer Ford Challenge series.  For those of you who are new to the SRF, you will want to make sure to visit the iRacing forums where “regulars” in the existing SpecRacer Ford community are always ready to provide a welcoming support network by sharing setups and driving tips with new drivers to help them get up-to-speed more quickly.

If you’ve driven the Spec Racer before but found it not to your liking, you might want to break yours out of mothballs and take it out for a few laps, because the New Tire Model and various physics tweaks over the past few seasons have truly transformed the car into something that is now a very rewarding car to drive.  Hopefully the new SpecRacer Ford Challenge will be reason enough to get you to answer “Yes” to the question, “Have you driven a (SpecRacer) Ford lately?”

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