Team USA Scholarship Winners Shine in Formula Palmer Audi Test Edwards, Lally and Simmons looking forward to first races this weekend

The trio of 1999 Valvoline Team USA Scholarship winners -- Paul Edwards, 21, from Santa Maria, Calif., Andy Lally, 24, from Northport, N.Y., and Jeff Simmons, 23, from Granby, Conn. -- undertook their first test today in England in preparation for the upcoming Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series. The test took place at FPA's own test track near Bedford, England. All three American youngsters were toward the top of the time sheets throughout the day.

The track was wet when the 20 Winter Series contenders -- split into two groups -- ventured out for the first time in the morning, but by lunchtime the circuit was dry.

"The conditions were changing all the time but that enabled us to get a good feel for the cars," said Lally, who already has shown his wet weather prowess this season, guiding his rare Carbir chassis to a maiden U.S. F2000 National Championship victory in the rain at Road Atlanta. "It was a good test. The car felt good in the wet and I think I've got a good handle on it for the dry, too. The Audi engine certainly has a lot more power than the F2000 car I've been used to, but the car handles well and it's really a lot of fun to drive."

Edwards, who was in the same group as Lally, was quickest for much of the day and ended up fifth fastest overall with a time of 1m00.5s.

"Testing today went very well," said Edwards, who placed third in this year's hotly contested EFDA Formula 2000 Euroseries. (The championship was won, incidentally, by Tomas Scheckter, whose father, Jody, was the last man to win the Formula 1 World Championship for Ferrari, in 1979.) "I tried a lot of different setups with the car and was quickest until the last session when the temperature cooled down and the wind stopped.

"Everyone in the last session found loads of time, which knocked me down to fifth overall," he continued. "I wish I was in that last session because as a driver, no matter what kind of day it is, you always want to be fastest. No worries though. I am confident that I have a very good chance to win the title."

Simmons was among the final group to take to the track, and having been at or near the front of the time charts for much of the day, he was content after setting third fastest time at 1m00.3s, merely one tenth of a second behind ultimate pace-setter, 20-year-old Italian karting sensation Giorgio Pantano.

"It was a good day," said Simmons, who recently clinched his second straight Barber Dodge Pro Series championship in North America. "The car is nice to drive and I feel very confident. Like Andy and Paul, I'm looking forward to the first race at Snetterton this weekend."

All three drivers will undertake another test at Snetterton on Friday in preparation for two races at the former airfield circuit, situated 100 miles or so northeast of London, on Sunday. The FPA Winter Series comprises two more races at Brands Hatch the following week.

The cars of Edwards, Lally and Simmons will be decked out in a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme featuring 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.