Former FedEx Championship Auto Racing Teams series driver Bryan Herta has recently started his campaign to join the world of Formula One. The 31-year-old American was left adrift when Gerald Forsythe shut down Forsythe Championship Racing at the end of the 2001 season. Herta didn't waste any time in pursuing a dream he's had since winning the Team USA Scholarship in 1991 in the Formula Ford Festival World Cup event.
"When Jerry shut the (Forsythe) team down, I just stepped back and took a look at what I wanted to do," said Herta at the Autosport Awards. "F1 is something I've been thinking about for a long time and that was my goal when I was over there in '91. I had no idea what to expect when I contacted the teams, but it seems like they want to have an American driver on board. I didn't have to sell them much on the concept."
Herta traveled to the Autosport Awards in England last week where he had talks with British American Racing and Arrows. Both teams have expressed an interest in hiring him as a test driver for 2002.
"I tried to identify teams that made sense for me, and also teams where I thought there might be a seat in 2003," Herta said. "Taking a spot as a test driver would give me a huge amount of seat time and I think that if I didn't get the hang of the car after one year, I wouldn't get it at all. But I want to do it with the idea of getting a seat in 2003. I don't mind doing it for a year but I don't want to be a career test driver."
Herta's racing career got it's start in karts in 1982 where he won three season championships before moving up to the World Karting Association (WKA) in 1985. He was named "Sportsman of the Year" and finished second in the points. He continued in karting and joined the ranks of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) in the Formula Ford class. In 1989, Herta won the Skip Barber Formula Ford series winning 14 of the 18 events.
Herta entered the open-wheel pro ranks in 1990 when he competed in the Barber Saab Pro series. In 1991, he was the series champion with four victories and two poles. Herta made two Formula Atlantic starts during the 1991 season.
Herta tested with Alan Docking Racing in 1991. Without the necessary finances to stay abroad, he returned to the States and raced in the Dayton Indy Lights series in 1992. He garnered the prestigious "America's Choice" award as one of North America's top young drivers after a strong rookie year.
Herta was the 1993 Dayton Indy Lights champion with Tasman Motorsports. He took seven victories and a single-season record eight poles. Herta also ran in two of the Firestone Firehawk series at Daytona and Sebring.
Herta signed with A.J. Foyt after his performance at the Indy 500 (finished ninth) in 1994 as a rookie for the remaining races in the CART series. In his first five races, he finished in the top-ten three times prior to a devastating accident during practice at Toronto that sidelined him for remaining season.
Chip Ganassi signed Herta in 1995 for the CART series. Herta earned his first career pole in the series at Phoenix and his first career podium at Cleveland.
From 1996 to 1999, Herta was a Team Rahal driver. Twice he finished in the top-ten in the final points (1996 and 1998). His best season was in 1998 with one win (first career win) at Laguna Seca, nine finishes in the top-ten and three poles.
Herta was set adrift from Team Rahal and during the 2000 season, he started six races for three different teams. Jerry Forsythe signed Herta for the 2001 season; however, due to a lack of sponsorship, the team folded and once again Herta was set adrift.
For next year he is looking at one other Champ Car possibility plus a pair of seats in the American Le Mans Series. Formula One is his main goal and he hopes to have a decision by Christmas.
"I really think it's a good fit for one of them to sign me," Herta said. "There has been a lot of interest in having an American driver, and if I go over there and can't get the job done, at least they can say they gave it a shot. I'm willing to put my career on the line to show that I can do it."