Argenti Motorsport races in the British Formula 4 and Karting championships, and is the only team to do so
The British motorsport scene is a healthy market for teams. There’s lots of demands for seats, there’s lots of tracks to race and test on, and the abundance of series means you can run cars in different categories and take drivers from one level to the next. It’s common to see the same team operating in the GB3 and Formula 4 paddocks, but only Argenti Motorsport has attempted to bridge the top of the karting ladder with the bottom of the single-seater one by racing in both.
Argenti started its karting operation in 2019, and in January 2020 it was announced that British F4 team Double R Racing would race as ‘Double R F4 with Argenti’ after striking a partnership that included making Argenti founder Michael Meadows its F4 team manager. By the time the pandemic-delayed season began, Double R was no longer in the team name.
Meadows raced against future rival team boss Oliver Oakes (who doesn’t have an F4 paddock role due to his Hitech GP team’s other racing activites, the pair are pictured below), Oliver Turvey and Daniel Ricciardo in Formula BMW UK in 2006 when he was a youngster, then he made it into British Formula 3’s national class and went up against Sergio Perez.
After that his focused switched to sportscars, where he had great success, becoming a two-time Porsche Carrera Cup Great Britain champion and winning the 2018 GT World Challenge Europe Sprint Cup title alongside Raffaele Marciello.
It did not take long to find similar success as a team manager, with a first race win in F4 coming after 18 races. Another followed that season, then there were four wins in 2021 and three in 2022.
Argenti was also winning in senior karting by 2020, then had a remarkable 2021 with British championship victories on Rotax Mini Max karts as well as triple title success with Daniel Guinchard. He claimed the British Rotax Junior and X30 Senior titles, then won the Ultimate Karting title and the British Kartmasters Grand Prix for Rotax Junior karts. In 2022, Louis Harvey won Argenti the UKC Rotax Senior title.
Formula Scout spoke to Meadows last year in the F4 paddock, and started off by asking for his perspective on a key change that had impacted both of Argenti’s programmes: national motorsport governing body Motorsport UK took over promotion of the British Karting Championship in 2019, and did the same with British F4 for 2022.
“I think it’s good to have the consistency because in Italy you’ve got something similar with WSK doing the karting and then the Italian F4 championship promotion,” said Meadows.
“So it means there’s a bit of a path there. It’s the same people talking to the same people when they move from karting to F4. From our side it makes it easier, there’s already a presence, people more aware of it, whereas previously there’s been a bit of a – little bit of a clash probably between karting and F4 because F4 is poaching kart drivers from our teams and stuff. It’s good to have everyone on the same page, because everyone is just trying to help the young guys make the next step.”
In both karting and F4, its WSK’s series that lead the way for attracting the top entrants, but the British Karting Championship has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years.
“The grids are now huge this year. It’s really good. It’s strange, because there was COVID-19, then since the pandemic’s gone away a little bit there’s been a bit of a boom [in interest]. I don’t really know what to put it down to, because the BKC is still the BKC, it’s still essentially the same format and everything. But yeah it’s great.
“The BKC used to be really strong. Because there’s good kids in there, it’s not WSK’s OK Senior and Junior, but if you put some of the kids in there they’d be really strong. It just doesn’t have the glamour of those races, but there’s a lot of good talent there. We’ve got Daniel, who was really strong for us in the kart team, and he’s strong in the car [since stepping up to F4 with Argenti]. So it goes to show there’s some talent there. Looking at the grids in karting, they’re getting bigger. And not just the BKC, but all the club races are completely oversubscribed; it’s hard to get on the grid. Even you have to be online at midnight to get your slot [once entries open]. It’s great to see, it’s great for the teams and great for the kids.”
The challenge remains however of convincing drivers to stay in, or come to Britain, rather than race in Italy, although it is now “easier than it used to be”.
“At least now we’ve got the same car in F4 [as Italy]. And that was sort of the reason teams pushed for it. We wanted the same equipment, so we’re essentially selling the same thing [as the Italians]. And we can go over there, they can come here, however that works.
“Kart-wise, obviously there’s a big price difference when kids are karting in OK in Europe. It’s a really expensive way of doing it. British karting is still not cheap, but it’s cheaper, so that’s probably why you get such competitive grids. But I think when you’re trying to convince someone to do the British F4 championship, it’s hard.
“And you’re trying to sell them on how hard the series is because the British tracks are tough. You’ve got to be really accurate, the weather is always changing, so you generally get guys who are good in the wet. A bit of a cliche, but it does happen. We feel it gives them a good grounding for when they go to Europe. They’re able to probably maximise things a bit better.”
Single-seaters was always at the back of Meadows’ mind when Argenti was established, “because the idea was to create the path, the bridge between karting and single-seaters”. Motorsport UK’s move to do something similar in a promotional role has helped particularly in 2022.
“When people finish karting and if they haven’t got management or whatever, I guess they just look at the results and call all the teams and see what’s going on. So by having a bit of a presence, if some of the karting kids we have in our team, or not just our team, but they can come and do a test, they can attract sponsors, all that sort of stuff. So it’s worked quite well so far, Daniel is sort of the first example coming through.”
Argenti, as well as a kart importer from the European to the UK market, also races on the continent. “You just have your fingers in all the pies really, don’t ya, so you can find the best drivers!”
Meadows reiterates the importance, as an F4 team boss trying to sign drivers, of being in the karting paddock.
“When you’re looking from the outside, you just look at the results. ‘This guy won the kart race’, you don’t get the full picture. Someone could have been ballistic all weekend and had a nightmare. But because we’re there all the time, you see the story of each driver, you get a feel for who’s good and who people are talking about, and all these sorts of things.
“You’ve got to be there because it’s so, karting’s so frantic and things change so quickly in it that it’s hard to be an outsider looking in and get a true reflection of the story.”
Karters who impress and want a taste of a single-seater can then drive with Argenti (or any other F4 team) in private tests. Initially the team held on to the chassis it raced in British F4 prior to 2022, but the “big difference” between the two cars meant it now puts debutants straight into the current, much faster chassis.
In addition to having to buy new cars for this year, the team also made a big investment in moving from Banbury to be based in Daventry.
“It’s fairly central in the country, which is quite handy,” Meadows explained. “It’s more handy for the karting because they do like 40-odd weekends a year, so they’re constantly on the road. So it’s nice to have somewhere they can quickly get back to.”
The next step for Argenti, having covered off all of the biggest karting series in the UK, is to look at series higher up the single-seater pyramid. But any such expansion “can’t be at the detriment at what you’re doing well”, with Britain’s karting and F4 championships remaining at the heart of the team’s plans no matter what it enters next.
British F4’s switch from Mygale to halo-shod Tatuus cars this year was like an expansion due to the investment required for the new chassis, engines and tyres as well as the process in which the paddock spent a long time evaluating the package before committing to it. The pandemic also delayed the car’s introduction by a year, which proved “massively” beneficial.
“Delaying [the switch] was definitely the right thing to do. And I think also from last year’s championship perspective, there were a lot of the Mygale cars around, and it gave people the opportunity to get the most value out of their cars for one more year. It worked quite well, because they had a decent grid last year. So it was definitely the right thing to do. This car is a good step, it looks like a modern single-seater. I imagine it’s going to be around for quite a few years.”
Meadows thinks another kart team would be able to break into single-seaters, although admits “as we sort of took over the running of Double R’s F4 programme, it wasn’t completely from scratch”.
“I’m sure it’s doable, but the cost element, it’s a lot of outlay to go buy cars and trucks and stuff like that. And that’s before you’ve guaranteed yourself drivers and everything. It’s a bit of a chicken and egg situation. You need the drivers first or the cars first? It is tough. Single-seaters, even at junior level now, is obviously really expensive. And it is a big step. But I think the British F4 championship is quite a good one, because there’s not loads of travel involved for us and stuff like that, so it helps keep this championship relatively sensible.”
British F4 also has live television coverage, which has put the team and its drivers in front of more fans, sponsors and media. All better preparing them for the next step.
Guinchard’s karting success earned him Mercedes-AMG Formula 1 junior driver status for 2022, but one win and ninth in the standings wasn’t enough to keep his place for 2023. Meadows said the pace was there for Guinchard, and he was the second highest placed car racing rookie in the championship, but “delivering it at the right moment on demand every weekend, that’s where it’s tough for rookies”.
The final question for Meadows is possibly the most important: what is the meaning of the team name?
“Argenti’s just Latin for silver. And that’s contradictory, because only this year the car’s silver. For our first year in 2020, we had the livery all good to go in silver, and it just looked so close with JHR Developments that we were like ‘we can’t do that, there’s going to be six cars on the grid look the same’.
“Then last year, we wanted to go with the black, just to be different. So this year is the first we’ve gone into the company colours so to speak. And the blue [detailing] is from team partner Phinsys. Silver should be the primary colour, it’s just unfortunate there’s now us, JHR and Hitech. It’s a nightmare, of the 16, 17 cars, I think 10 of them are silver. It’s a nightmare for us watching. When the front of the race is three JHRs, three Argentis, you can’t see anything!
“We’re going to have to do a little bit of work over the winter on the livery, see if we can differentiate it a bit more. Who knows what we’ll come back with next year.”