EDWARDS FASTEST IN SNETTERTON PREPARATIONS All Three Team USA Scholarship Winners Among Top Eight in Final Test

The 1999 Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series begins with a pair of 15-lap races on Sunday at Snetterton, England, and three young American drivers are among the leading contenders for victory.

Paul Edwards, 21, from Santa Maria, Calif., set the fastest times in each session today as the 22 protagonists took part in a final day of testing on the former airfield circuit some 100 miles northeast of London.

"I feel good because I actually engineered my own car today," said Edwards, who has raced in Europe the past four years and finished a strong third in this season's EFDA Formula 2000 Euroseries against some extremely tough competition. "I learned so much from my race engineer in the EFDA series, Sean Thompson, and I was able to put that knowledge to good use. The car is still understeering a little, but we improved it throughout the day and we were quickest in every session.

"I'm really looking forward to the races on Sunday," continued Edwards, who posted a fastest time of 1m04.41s. "It's always nice to 'win' testing, but it's the races that count."

Team USA Scholarship teammates Jeff Simmons and Andy Lally also impressed today, despite having never seen the circuit before. Simmons, 23, from Granby, Conn., was sixth fastest at 1m05.85s and Lally, 24, from Northport, N.Y., was eighth at 1m06.30s.

Both drivers were obliged to miss the crucial final portion of the last session in order to complete paperwork for the appropriate licenses that will enable them to participate in the first "overseas" races of their careers. Nevertheless, they were pleased with progress.

"I was looking forward to trying a couple of different setup changes, but I didn't get the chance to do that," said Simmons. "My car had a little too much understeer entering the quick corners and then some oversteer in mid-corner, and in the slow corners I had a pretty good understeer; but I think I have a pretty idea of what to do when we get into qualifying."

Added Lally: "It's been a bit of a struggle, especially getting used to the horsepower, but these cars are really fun to drive. I'm having a blast and learning a lot. I'm so grateful for the opportunity."

"The other thing is, the cars look sensational in the red, white and blue color scheme," said Lally. "I tell you, it's the most beautiful thing I have ever set my eyes on. It makes you so proud just to look at the cars."

The bold design of the three identical Formula Palmer Audi challengers (which comprise "spec" Van Diemen chassis and turbocharged Audi motors producing around 240 horsepower) was finalized by famed graphic artist/marketing guru David Aronson. The cars feature a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme with sponsorship from Valvoline, CART, Tasman Motorsports, Audi, PacWest Racing, Mercedes-Benz USA, Road Racing Drivers Club, Klein Tools, Skip Barber Racing School, No Fear and Mitel Semiconductor.