A graduation gift that put Andrew Dobbie and his girlfriend in bleachers at the Formula 1 Grand Prix in Montreal a few years back can be blamed for fueling his passion for the sport and putting him in the driver’s seat of his own Formula race car.
The Langley man is preparing to kick off his second season of racing in Formula Ford this weekend at the Mission Raceway Park, and he explained some of the journey that brought him to this point.
Twenty-four-year-old Dobbie recalls being enamoured by cars from a young age.
“I’ve always loved cars, but growing up I never had the chance to pursue anything related to racing as I was heavily focused on traditional sports,” he explained, noting he entered soccer at age 12 and ended up playing for the Spartans on the Trinity Western University field for four years.
“During this time I still loved cars, and as many kids do, I made silly modifications to my daily driver. But that was about as far as my passion was rooted at that point,” Dobbie recounted.
That grand prix race in Quebec changed it all.
“I was immediately blown away and fell in love with the sport,” he shared with the Langley Advance.
During the three-day Formula 1 weekend there were various supporting races in between the main events. One featured the F1600 race, or what they call Formula Ford in B.C. (Formula Ford is an open-wheel single-seater formula car that’s raced on road courses with multiple corners and straights.)
“I thought to myself how fun it would be to race Formula Ford, and I finally blurted out to my girlfriend, ‘I should do this!’”
Upon returning home from Montreal, Dobbie began hunting for cars online.
“Sure enough one of the cars we watched race that weekend was for sale,” he recounted, noting it [a 2005 Van Diemen] was parked in his driveway just ahead of Christmas 2016.
“It was a big leap of faith for me to buy a car halfway across the country on the belief that I might be good at racing,” Dobbie said.
Turns out he is. Dobbie was crowned the novice of the year by both the Sports Car Club of B.C. (SCCBC) and the Confederation of AutoSport Car Clubs last year.
Admittedly, purchasing the car was only the beginning of a steep learning curve for Dobbie, who expressed gratitude for all the help the Formula Ford BC group has given him.
He took a driver training course with SCCBC, applied for his racing licence, and started racing – primarily out at Mission Raceway.
“The Formula Ford class and the open-wheel group at Mission is growing, so I had lots of guys to race with and picked up many tips along the way. As the season progressed I was getting closer to the front of the pack during the races and was continuing to improve against guys that had been racing for years or had previously raced go karts.”
Asked how he feels about participating in a such a potentially dangerous sport, Dobbie pondered his decision only briefly.
“Honestly, it’s not as dangerous as some may think. These days we have very high safety standards and my driving style isn’t particularly aggressive. I used to ride motorcycles on the street, and I can honestly say I would consider that more dangerous because you have to deal with people who may not see you or are generally careless drivers. There is a lot of respect given on the track that I don’t often see on my morning commute to work.”
When the local season wrapped up last October, Dobbie was still anxious to drive and learn so much more. He decided to continue racing, and headed to the Lucas Oil Formula Car winter series based in Florida.
“The Lucas Oil series taught me a tremendous amount of new techniques, as well as proper racecraft – so I am excited to begin the 2018 season this weekend,” he said.
His short-term goal is to race in the United States F4 championship. Ultimately, his dreams have no barriers.
“Racing is different from traditional sports as it requires a lot of financial backing, luck, and timing to really make it a career,” said the driver of car #93 (the year he was born).
“In fact, many of the pros you see on TV started when they were very young in go karts. Because of this, I am really just getting myself into a position where I’d be ready to take it to that next level if I have the backing or opportunity to do so.”
This means setting his goals every year, and this year his aspiration is to win the Formula Ford Championship and qualify for the SCCA Runoff National Championships in California.
“Getting to the runoffs and placing in the top 10 would be a very respectable result for me in only my second year of racing.”
He added: “I’m only just beginning my second year so it’s hard for me to speculate what the next few years could look like. However, if I have an opportunity to race in a pro-series I would do it in a heartbeat.”
Right now, he’s just focusing his attention on his first race of the season.
Dobbie and 17 other drivers are registered in the Sports Car Club of B.C. 2018 Formula Ford championship happening in Mission on Saturday and Sunday, April 21 and 22.
“On a small track like Mission, 18 open wheel race cars from three different classes all on the track at the same time means there will be a lot of action. It might even rain one of the days so bring an umbrella and watch us slide around on the track. In addition to our open-wheel group there will also be regular closed-wheel race cars and vintage cars racing so there is something for everyone,” he said, encouraging people to check it out.
“The Sports Car Club has also built new grandstands for this season. All the more reason to come out and watch.”