FIRST Motorsport is an American racing organization based in Charlotte, North Carolina, United States that made its Formula Virtual debut in 2016. The team was founded by Adam Blocker in late 2014, and previously competed in the FV2 series and FV2 Winter Series. FIRST Motorsport is co-owned by Blocker and the team's primary sponsor, FIRST robotics.
The team was co-founded by FIRST robotics and Adam Blocker with the intention of competing at the highest levels of virtual motorsport. The team aims to achieve the following while participating in motorsport:
- Inspire youth around the world to pursue careers in STEM-related fields.
- Help promote and develop the American automotive industry.
- Develop young American drivers into Formula Virtual stars.
- Participate in the Formula Virtual series.
- Become a race-winning team in Formula Virtual
The team hopes to achieve these goals by partnering with the Ford Motor Company for technical advice and manufacturer support when possible. By basing its operations out of Charlotte, North Carolina, the team hopes to provide jobs to and help develop world-class American automotive engineers. The team plans to offer many internship opportunities to university students in an effort to accomplish this.
FIRST Motorsport applied for entry into the 2015 Formula Virtual season to replace Team 23, who decided to withdraw at the conclusion of the 2014 season. The team's entry was denied in favour of the Japanese outfit Formula Ocelot.
FIRST will compete in its maiden season of Formula Virtual in 2016. The team will be powered by Ford engines.
In the lead up to the 2015 Canadian V-Prix, Team Principal Adam Blocker confirmed that FIRST had signed Arden Hutchinson as the team's lead driver for the 2016 and 2017 seasons. It was also confirmed that the team would use Firestone tyres.
A couple of months later, after the 2015 Belgian V-Prix, Blocker and Technical Director Seth McCormick announced that FIRST had signed Douglas Bacon as the team's second race driver for the 2016 season. The team will therefore have an American driver, an American chassis, an American engine, and American tyres in 2016. During the announcement of Bacon, Blocker and McCormick also discussed the possibility of a satellite base in Europe and also stated that 2016 would be a building season where they hoped to score at least one point.
Jamie Gerrard, who drove for FIRST Motorsport in the 2015 FV2 Series season was later announced as the team's test driver for the 2016 season. Gerrard will participate in two free practice sessions at V-Prix weekends for the team as part of a loan deal with Meteor.
FIRST started off the 2016 season as the strongest of the new teams, with Hutchinson finishing in 16th and 15th in Australia and Malaysia respectively. These results were particularly impressive as each of these races were low attrition races. In China, Douglas Bacon achieved the team's best qualifying result to date. Bacon qualified 8th in a qualifying that was held in heavy rain. From China onwards, however, new team rivals North Star had the edge on FIRST in terms of race pace at most circuits. Ultimately, the three new teams (FIRST, North Star, and Holmqvist) all fell off the pace of the others at the beginning of the European rounds. Most of the established teams brought major upgrades, while each of the new teams did not. For the rest of the season a FIRST driver did not finish ahead of a driver from an established team without help from incidents, unreliability, or strategy. FIRST generally did not fare too well against rivals North Star either. Of the 16 races after Malaysia, North Star was top of the new team battle 14 times. Holmqvist were the best team in Mexico, while FIRST were the best in Belgium.
Fortunately for FIRST, the Belgian V-Prix was filled with many crashes, such as a horrific crash for Puccio Giodano, and unreliability for competitiors. On the day, North Star had slightly more pace. However, North Star driver Judson Sikes was severely held up by the Giodano crash, losing almost a lap to everyone else. This made it a straight fight between Hutchinson, Bacon, and North Star's other driver Aleksy Nowosinki. Nowosinki was on Medium tyres, while the two FIRST drivers were on Softs. With less than ten laps to go, Hutchinson had a heavy crash at Fagnes that eliminated him from the race. This hurt FIRST's chances of a good finish as Hutchinson had been ahead of Bacon at the time and appeared to be on track to take the fight to Nowosinki. Nowosinki suffered from a long pit stop that meant he rejoined the race just behind Bacon with a few laps to go. Nowosinki ended up passing Bacon down the Kemmel Straight, but Bacon heroically retook the position down the pit straight on the next lap by cleverly using blue flags to his advantage. He managed to hold his position (14th) for the remaining two laps and took FIRST's best result of the season and the best result of any of the new teams in 2016, effectively earning FIRST 11th place in the constructors'. Bacon was later promoted to 13th after the disqualification of Johan Halvosen and FIRST held onto 11th in the constructors' for the rest of the season, despite North Star coming close to equaling their best finish in Bahrain.
After Douglas Bacon's heroic 13th place in Belgium in 2016, FIRST announced that he would return in 2017, alongside Arden Hutchinson. It was later announced that FIRST youth academy driver Oleksandr Zozulya would be promoted to fill the test and reserve driver role in 2017, after finishing 2nd in the 2016 FV2 Series season.
FIRST Motorsport is primarily sponsored by FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Mathematics) robotics. FIRST partnered with Adam Blocker to found the team and currently own 50% of the team.
FIRST Motorsport is also sponsored by 3M, Ford Motor Company, LEGO, NASA, Solidworks, Rockwell Collins, Delphi and Valvoline.
Complete Formula Virtual results
(results in bold indicate pole position; results in italics indicate fastest lap)
* Season in progress.