Danish Formula 4 has been growing in stature in recent years, and for 2022 it becomes a leading series for first-generation F4 racing. That means it’s attracted an international grid again, but kind of lost one star
There have been some big names, and big talents, that have come through Danish Formula 4 since its creation in 2017. In the inaugural season there was future IndyCar racer Christian Lundgaard, Indy Lights frontrunners Christian Rasmussen and Danial Frost and Formula 2 driver Frederik Vesti, and over the last two years there’s been a lot of eyes on the super young rivalry between second-generation racers Emmo Fittipaldi, Juju Noda and Noah Stromsted.
But that trio had to play second fiddle through 2021 to Formula 5 racer Mads Hoe. The self-run driver has been in Danish F4 since 2017, spending all but 24 of his 79 starts in the older and less powerful F5 machinery. Yet he’s claimed 10 overall wins, two poles and 35 podiums in that time in addition to his 36 wins and 43 podiums in class.
During that time he didn’t just run himself, as Mads Hoe Motorsport ran a second F5 car part-time in 2018, fielded one full-time car and one part-time entry in F5 a year later while Hoe himself was on a sojourn to driving in F4, and during the COVID-19 pandemic expanded further. In 2020 there were three F5 cars and one F4 part-timer, and last year that part-time entry switched to being in F5. But motorsport will have a decreased presence in Hoe’s life in 2022, as as the reigning overall champion retires from racing and starts the 2022 season running just his sister Mille.
“The decision was actually fairly easy to make,” Hoe tells Formula Scout of his retirement after the pre-event test day at Padborg Park for this weekend’s season opener. “My dad and I had some very long conversations about my future and my possibilities in racing and my professional career outside motorsports.
“The result always ended up the same; that I have reached an age where I need to focus on the future, that’s securing the best outcome.
“For me web development was the best opportunity, because that I’m almost too old to reach anything in motorsport and that I don’t have the budget to move forward.”
Hoe entered motorsport like most young drivers do, as a parent-and-child operation in karting, and the family team was just that until Hoe moved into single-seater racing in what was then Danish Formula Ford.
“The team got a bit bigger when we started competing in FFord, where some of my dad’s friends came to help preparing the car. Including myself, we started out with three people working on the car during the race weekends – my mum always prepared all the food from home and my sister started as a watcher, so they aren’t counted.
“In the beginning it was very easy, because I was the only driver, but it got worse haha.”
When the only responsibility was himself, “it was very easy in the beginning” for Hoe to be team boss and driver, but that’s all changed in recent seasons.
“The past three years has been rough – with two or three other drivers in the team I really needed to get my things in the right places,” Hoe explains.
“I was debriefing with the other drivers, coaching them to drive the cars and helping their mechanics with the set-up based on the debrief. I often completely forgot about my own car, so I was basically driving with the same set-up every weekend. My father took a lot of responsibility too – We were helping each other a lot during the weekends.”
Hoe’s time in the driver’s seat began two years prior to F4’s arrival in Denmark, with existing grids merging rather than one class replacing another, and his FFord rivals included other big-name stars such as sportscar racer Frederik Schandorff.
“The level of competition was great back then, just look at Frederik now, still an amazing driver,” Hoe says. “Before F4 arrived, FFord was the only open-wheel series in Denmark, besides the classics, so it was very popular.
“We have looked at UK [FF1600] so many times and really considered competing in some races in the monoposto – so who knows, you might see me one day.”
A quirk of Hoe’s career in FFord/F5 car is that the records show him as having driven more cars than he actually did. Check his career results now and it will show he started FFord in a Mygale SJ07, but that wasn’t the case.
“It’s actually a funny story: we couldn’t read the serial number on my first car, so because of the updates that it had, we guessed that it was a SJ07,” Hoe explains. “The second year I was driving we got the frame repainted and the we saw, that it was actually a SJ03 car.
“After 2016 I needed a break from racing, that’s why I only competed in the last two races of that season, but I came back with new energy and a positive mindset, so I was a lot faster than I had ever been, and then it helped that we finally got a proper set-up for the car,” he laughs.
“All of the FFord drivers didn’t like the merge with F4 at first, and neither did the F4 drivers, but at that point none of the classes could drive alone, because there wasn’t enough drivers. Although the first time the F5 cars got a restrictor was in the beginning of 2018 – so for the season of 2017, the F5 cars were one second faster per lap than the F4 cars.
“Racing is racing, I don’t care if I’m beside a F4 or F5 car, my goal will always be to go for the victory. It has been entertaining from the outside, it helped a lot that we were more cars on the track [combined].”
Hoe’s F4-beating efforts in his aging and winged FFord chassis in recent years has helped grow his international reputation, and his first overall wins in 2018 helped him to his maiden F5 title.
“The overall wins were amazing that year – I will say that 2018 was the most competitive year in F4, a lot of talents.
“After my break in 2017 I more or less realised that the dreams about a professional racing career were a long shot, so even after becoming the champion, the only thing I wanted was to have fun.
“I’ve got some invitations for some test days around the world, but we never had the budget to really do something about it. So we never went.”
That lack of being able to move beyond the Danish F4 paddock meant Hoe made a sideways move of sorts in 2019 to the F4 class and he won on his debut.
“Actually we only made the switch to try something new and because we got the rent of the F4 car at half price because I became the F5 champion in 2018. It was a part of the prize-money.
“The victory was great at the first race, but I knew it wouldn’t hold, because we didn’t use anywhere near the amount of money all the others did – I raced for like 10% of what some of the others did. I had one test day the whole year.”
At the same time, his team was running four cars and now across two different classes of cars.
“We have always strived for at least two mechanics on each car, so at that time, the team was getting a little bigger. The drivers we had paid us for rent of the cars and maintaining them. So it did finance my season more or less.
“The team has a racecar trailer that we only use for racing, most of the team sleeps in the living part of the trailer. Between the race weekends all of our cars [which now stands at five F5 cars] are stored and maintained at my father’s place. He owns all of the cars himself, so the drivers rent them.”
Hoe’s time in a F4 car lasted only a year before he returned to sitting in an F5 himself, saying: “I didn’t like the F4 car, it wasn’t fun and it was too supportive, I didn’t need to think to drive it. But we also didn’t own the car, so after a crash, we needed to repair every part that was damaged. And as I said before, our budget isn’t that high, so I was actually nervous going into fights. I feel much more at home in the F5 car. We own them, so if we can’t afford repairing, they are just stored until we get the money, no worries.
“And as I learned when I started – if you want to go fast in a race car, you need to go fast in a FFord at first: you have no support [from driving aids], the driver needs to think, that’s what I like. It isn’t fun if it’s too easy.”
While it didn’t get any easier, financially or otherwise, racing in Danish F4 over the past two years, the COVID-19 pandemic did lead to more attention being thrust upon the championship as the first single-seater series to restart following the implementation of lockdown restrictions. And that was of course helped further by the arrival of Noda and then Fittipaldi. But surpassing the public image of both, and the series itself, was Hoe and the English language memes spawning from his name.
“I really didn’t realise the attention before I saw my name on a meme on a random racing page, I was laughing my ass off. When we were racing, we couldn’t feel the attention; right after the first lockdown in Denmark spectators weren’t allowed, so we didn’t see any other people than the other drivers, so it was a bit boring.
“Last season was absolutely amazing, something I’ll properly never forget – I got a fist bump from Emerson Fittipaldi at the first race and a signed Pirelli cap because he thought that I had done a great job with three victories. Anyway, I was starstruck, didn’t even knew what to say when Emmo [Fittipaldi’s Danish F4-driving son] handed me the cap after the races.
“The season is filled with great memories, especially some great fights with Emmo, an amazing driver and person. Really loved having his energy around and seeing him develop throughout the season, and looking forward to watching him win in the future.
“But the most important part of the season for me was that even though I really did go for the wins, we never forgot the fun. The season was filled with joy and great people around me, and I’m really thankful for a great last year in racing. Although I’m going to all the races this season, but just not as a driver. I might be driving in some of them.”
Hoe’s younger sister Mille will race against series returnees Niels Einair Rytter and Line Sonderskov in F5 this year, while the F4 class currently has 11 drivers intending to race.
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