For immediate release: October 19, 1997
Team USA places fifth; Edwards stars in World Cup
Three young American drivers produced strong performances today in two separate high-profile events in England. At Donington Park, Matt Sielsky and Buddy Rice overcame a disappointing qualifying session to finish a creditable fifth for Team USA in Nations Cup VIII. Paul Edwards, meanwhile, was placed third in the Formula Ford World Finals at Brands Hatch before being taken out on the final lap. Both events featured top quality-competition from around the world.
Edwards, 19, from Santa Maria, California, was one of the major stars at Brands Hatch. In his sophomore season of British Formula Ford competition, Edwards had previously scored a sensational victory at Brands Hatch. He was also the track record holder. Lately, however, he had been struggling to match the regular pace-setters as his budget precluded the procurement of a fresh motor. Enter the Valvoline Team USA Scholarship.
"I can’t tell you how grateful I am," said Edwards. "The new engine from Solus made all the difference."
Edwards finished a fighting second in this morning’s final qualifying heat race, and after starting fifth in the Grand Final, moved quickly to third in his Team USA Swift SC97Z. He fell to eighth following a minor incident with another driver but had fought his way back to third before being pushed off the road by Austria’s Robert Lechner, the new European champion, on the very last corner.
"It’s very frustrating," said Edwards. "We were fast. The car was great. But Lechner never even braked. He just ran into me."
Sielsky and Rice also gave a good account of themselves at Donington. Team USA was classified only eighth after qualifying, but Sielsky finished a strong 10th in Heat One, with Rice 16th, out of a starting field of 26. Heat Two saw Rice make a magnificent start, jumping to ninth, whereupon the two Americans circulated in tight formation until an accident at the chicane caused the race to be red-flagged.
Following a lengthy delay, caused by thick fog – this was England, after all! -- the pair continued their battle to the finish, with Sielsky nipping ahead of Rice on the final lap of the shortened race. Ninth and 10th was enough to place Team USA fifth in the rankings out of 13 nations.
"The cars were good," said Sielsky. "To be honest, I didn’t realize it was the last lap. (Newly crowned European Formula Opel champion Marcels) Battistuzzi was right ahead of me and I’m sure I could have passed him on the next lap."
Added Rice: "That was fun. No problems at all. This is the way we should have finished after the first race, but that’s the way it goes. Matt and I learned a lot this weekend and we’re very grateful for the opportunity we were given."