Ribeiro Wins Twice During Round One of USAC Formula Russell Championship
Sonoma, CA - Fernando Ribeiro, the brother of Brazilian Formula One star Alex Ribeiro, picked up two wins during Round One of the USAC Formula Russell Championship at Sears Point Raceway. Starting third in the first race, Riberio was able to move into the lead and was never challenged in the first race after pole sitter Tyler McQuarrie's car was side lined with a mechanical problem. In his second race, Ribeiro took over the lead from polesitter Jury Swanson on the first lap and maintained at least a three second cushion for the entire race. Ribeiro collected 40 valuable points towards a free trip to England to compete in the Jim Russell World Scholarship in November and a prize package that includes a Russell-sponsored ride in the 1999 USAC Triple Crown Pro-Series.
Saturday - Race One With McQuarrie sidelined and Ribeiro out in front, rookie Dave McEntee ran a strong second place, doing a supreme job of keeping the car on course during rather wet conditions, until retiring with two laps to go. This left Steven Hill as the only challenger to Ribeiro's lead. Starting seventh on the grid, Hill knocked off lap times of four seconds per lap faster than Ribeiro and caught the leader coming into the last corner before the checkered flag. Ribeiro turned up the wick just enough to beat Hill to the finish line by a little more than a half second. Mac Binger finished third from the same starting spot.
Saturday - Race Two Saturday's second race saw Swanson start on the pole and take a commanding lead on the first lap. Second position starter, Pat Mcdowell lost only three places at the start despite a half spin in the first corner, rejoining the actin in fifth. Ken Snyder and Ben Binger, Mac's son, moved from fourth and third on the grid to third and second spots just ahead of Greg VenDenDries in his first race ever starting in seventh. During laps 2 through 6 the order stayed the same while Russell Graduate Run-Off Scholarship winner Brett Sherman quietly worked his way to the front from his last place starting position. By lap 4 he was fifth. On lap 6, Binger was out due to minor contact with course debris and everyone picked up a position. On lap 9, Sherman was third after overtaking VanDenDries. On the next rotation, VanDenDries took back third and held it until the end with Snyder placing second and Swanson winning with a 50 second advantage on the final lap.
Sunday - Race One McQuarrie was on the pole again for Sunday's first race. Rafael Navarro was second, McEntee was third, Kazuto Yagi fourth and Todd Oppenheimer fifth. Navarro , Oppenheimer, and Cody Irwin (6th on the grid) were competing in the Mechanics Training Program Challenge - a separate series run concurrently for the Russell mechanic's trainees. At the start, Navarro and McQuarrie took off, leaving McEntee,Yagi, and Oppenheimer to fight for third. On lap four Oppenheimer went by Yagi. On lap five, everyone picked up a place as Navarro came into the pits for a stop-and-go penalty. The race finished with McQuarrie leading by a 30 second margin over Oppenheimer in second - first in the MTP race. McEntee came in third overall and second in the chamionship race while Yagi rounded out the top three on the podium and fourth overall. Irwin was second in the MTP class with a sixth place finish and Navarro placed third in class, 9th overall.
Sunday - Race Two In race two, Swanson was on pole with Ribeiro second. Mac Binger was third, Hill fourth and Snyder fifth. Ribero got by Swanson on the first lap and held on until the end to take the checker never allowing Swanson to get closer than 5 of 6 car lengths. The order stayed the same as the qualifying except for a switch of position with Binger and Hill on lap 10. Binger regained the place on the next lap going by Hill at start/finish to re-take third until the end of the 16 lap race. The USAC Formula Russell Championship is a "spec series" featuring the Formula Russell race car. It consists of nine race weekends with multiple heat races on Saturday and Sunday, run one weekend each month starting in February and continuing until October. The top three drivers in the series will represent the United States team of the Russell organization at the Jim Russell World Scholarship in November at England's historic Donington Park. The winner of the scholarship receives a fully funded season of racing in the 1999 formula Vauxhall Junior Series in England. Along with a free trip to Indianapolis to the USAC awards banquet to receive a national title, the series champion wins a fully funded season in the 1999 Russell/USAC Triple Crown Pro-Series.
USAC Formula Russell Championship Points Round 1 of 9
1 Fernando Ribeiro 40 6 Ken Snyder 23 2 Jury Swanson 35 7 Dave McEntee 21 3 Steve Hill 25 8 Greg VanDenDries 16 4 Mac Binger 24 8 Brent Sherman 16 4 Tyler McQuarrie 24 10 Masato Igarashi 14