Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (January 6, 2004) -- A host of valuable motor racing opportunities in the United States will await the winners of the upcoming six-race Talley's New Zealand International Formula Ford Series, thanks to a series of initiatives stemming from the Team USA Scholarship programme.

The winners will be invited to take part in a two-day test in a Barber Dodge Pro Series car; receive test drives in one of the exciting new Star Pro Formula Mazda cars, which will make their debut in 2004; and with the 2003 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship-winning team, PR1 Motorsports; and a free race weekend in the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School's SCCA Formula Russell Championship Presented by Yokohama. The total value of these awards is well in excess of NZ$20,000.

"I am very grateful for the support of the Skip Barber Racing School, Star Mazda, PR1 Motorsports and the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School," said Team USA Scholarship founder and motorsports writer/broadcaster Jeremy Shaw. "They have long exhibited their willingness to support up-and-coming drivers, and now they are spreading their wings and offering to help New Zealand drivers make the next step up the ladder.

"New Zealand Formula Ford has unearthed a string of talented youngsters in recent years, including Scott Dixon, James Cressey, Fabian Coulthard, Daniel Gaunt, Nelson Hartley and Jonny Reid. All of them know how difficult it is to become recognised outside their homeland. These prizes will give some gifted youngsters a chance to see what opportunities are open to them in the U.S., and hopefully give their career a kick-start on the international stage."

The Talley's New Zealand International Formula Ford Series will start this weekend with a pair of races at Levels Raceway, Timaru, then continue with two more races the following weekend at Teretonga Park, Invercargill -- including one of the most historic and prestigious events in the Southern Hemisphere, the New Zealand Grand Prix. The series will conclude with two more races as part of the Lady Wigram Trophy meeting at Ruapuna Park Raceway, Christchurch, on January 24/25.

It is anticipated that the prizes will not be offered to the same driver, and that a judgment will be made according to their suitability and level of experience. MotorSport New Zealand, the national sanctioning body, has been most helpful in finalising these awards and has offered to assist in securing additional funding (perhaps to include air fares) for the winner(s).

The Team USA Scholarship, which has been helping American drivers gain a foothold on the international scene since 1990, will enter three promising youngsters -- Joe D'Agostino, 18, Charlie Kimball, 18, and Ryan Millen, 19, in the International Formula Ford series. (The Team USA Scholarship drivers will be eligible for some of the awards, but certainly not all of them.) Previous scholarship winners include established open-wheel winners such as Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta and Memo Gidley, NASCAR standouts Jerry Nadeau and Ashton Lewis, and rising open-wheel stars A.J. Allmendinger and Bryan Sellers.

The Barber Dodge Pro Series, sanctioned by CART and running along the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, is organised by the Skip Barber Racing School, the world's largest racing school. It utilises carbon fibre Reynard chassis, 265hp Dodge V6 engines and BFGoodrich tyres (www.barberdodge.com).

The Star Mazda Series North American Championship Presented by Goodyear will run alongside the American Le Mans Series in 2004 and feature a brand-new carbon fibre-chassis, built by Elan Motorsports Technologies, powered by the latest 240hp Mazda 13B "Renesis" rotary engine (www.starmazda.com).

PR1 Motorsports, owned by former driver Bobby Oergel, won the 2003 U.S. Formula Ford 2000 Zetec Championship with driver Jonathan Bomarito. The team's car is a Van Diemen RF03 featuring the 2.0-litre, 170hp Ford Zetec engine and Cooper (Avon) tyres (www.pr1motorsports.com).

The SCCA Formula Russell Championship Presented by Yokohama is run by the Jim Russell Racing Drivers School, based at Infineon Raceway, Calif., and features proven 150hp Formula Russell cars powered by 150hp twin-rotor rotary engines (www.jimrussellusa.com).

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