NA-F2000: Andy Lally - Team USA Finalist

Lally Chosen as Team U.S.A. Finalist; Will Compete in Europe Oct. 6 NORTHPORT, N.Y., Sept. 29 - A distinguished panel of judges has chosen Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., as one of the top-six young American formula car drivers for...

Lally Chosen as Team U.S.A. Finalist; Will Compete in Europe Oct. 6

NORTHPORT, N.Y., Sept. 29 - A distinguished panel of judges has chosen Andy Lally of Northport, N.Y., as one of the top-six young American formula car drivers for 1999 as part of the Team U.S.A. scholarship competition.

These six young drivers will travel to Europe next week for the final phase of the selection process, which will culminate in two of the six receiving the Team U.S.A. scholarship and representing America in the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series in Europe in November.

Fourteen rising stars were considered in the first round of competition, from which six were chosen. Four of the top six are from California.

In addition to Lally, 24, (Formula 2000) the top six include: Paul Edwards, 21, from Santa Maria, Calif., who now lives in Derby, England (EFDA Formula 2000 Euroseries); Joey Hand, 20, from Sacramento, Calif. (Star Formula Mazda); Aaron Justus, 25, from Vista, Calif. (Formula 2000); Rocky Moran Jr., 19, from Coto de Caza, Calif. (Barber Dodge/Toyota Atlantic); and Jeff Simmons, 23, from East Granby, Conn. (Barber Dodge).

The judging panel included CART President Andrew Craig; former Team U.S.A. scholarship winners and current CART drivers Bryan Herta and Jimmy Vasser; CART team owners Dan Gurney, Steve Horne and Cal Wells III; program founder and journalist Jeremy Shaw; and racing writers/public relations representatives Gordon Kirby, David Phillips and John Oreovicz. The panel reviewed each of the top 14 drivers' resumes and an essay each wrote on what winning the scholarship would mean to them, and interviewed them during a recent CART FedEx champ car weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Now the six who are advancing to the final phase of the selection process will fly to Europe next week for an on-track evaluation at Jonathan Palmer's Formula Palmer Audi test facility in Bedford, England, on Wednesday, Oct. 6. Each of the six will be allocated one car to drive, with a spare Van Diemen-Audi chassis on hand in case of any difficulties.

The one-day test will take place on two separate course configurations overseen by Palmer, a former Grand Prix driver, and John Bright, a former driver turned champ car race engineer and team owner. The latter runs Redman Bright Racing in conjunction with Brian Redman, who won three North American Formula 5000 championships. Palmer and Bright will choose the two scholarship winners from the six finalists.

In addition to Vasser and Herta, other former winners of the Team U.S.A. scholarship are: Ashton Lewis, Tony Ave, Jerry Nadeau (who is currently competing in NASCAR Winston Cup), Mike Borkowski, Clay Collier, Memo Gidley, Tony Renna, Buddy Rice, Matt Sielsky and Paul Edwards. The latter, who won the scholarship last year and is in the running again this year, was the first American to win a European Formula Drivers Assn. race in that group's 20-year history.

This year the top-two finalists will win a ride in the Formula Palmer Audi (FPA) Winter Series in November at Snetterton and Brands Hatch in England. This series is run similar to America's Barber Dodge Pro Series, with all the cars prepared in-house.

The scholarship is underwritten by Valvoline Oil Co., CART, Tasman Motorsports Group, Mercedes-Benz of North America, Klein Tools, Firestone, PacWest Racing Group, the Road Racing Drivers Club, the Skip Barber Racing School, Motorola and American Honda.

Lally, who has never been to Europe, leaves New York on Sunday, Oct. 3.

"Just being nominated means a great deal to me," he said. "It means a lot to be recognized for my talent and my past accomplishments. It's a chance to go to Europe to learn more over there, and to possibly open some new doors. It's important just to participate and to be listed among the great drivers who have participated in this competition in the past."

Lally has no idea what to expect.

"It will be all six of us going head-to-head for a day, and it's going to be tough," he said. "All of the other guys I'm up against are fast. I want to go in there feeling strong and confident, because I want to be one of the two chosen to come back to compete in the actual races in November."

Lally added that the finalists may tour a Formula 1 factory, possibly Jordan, while they're in Europe, and they also may get the opportunity to attend the final Formula 3 race of the season at Silverstone, England.

In 1998 and 1999 Lally has distinguished himself not only for his driving ability but for his ability to help engineers develop two new Formula 2000 chassis: the Bowman in 1998 and the Carbir in 1999. Although he agrees that experience has been very helpful, he doesn't think it will be particularly useful during his one-day test.

"I think the guys from Skip Barber will have an edge, if anybody does, because the Formula Palmer Audi cars are more similar to the Barber Dodge cars than Formula 2000 cars," he noted. "They're carbon fiber monocoque chassis with approximately the same horsepower and the same weight as Barber Dodge cars, so there will be things you can do with the set-up that will be more similar to Barber Dodge, and the feel of the car will be similar. Paul Edwards might have an advantage too, because he's been racing in Europe already, and he's well known over there. There's no doubt that it's going to be tough."

England is well-known for its rainy weather, but that doesn't concern Lally. "I love to run in the rain; I want it to rain all day long," he said. "I'm just going to go into it with a confident outlook and try to be ready for anything that comes."

Some Americans who have raced in England in the past have complained that the British style of driving is over-aggressive. Lally doesn't think that will be a problem should he be one of the two scholarship winners.

"I don't think they're dirty drivers; I just think they're extremely aggressive, and I like that," he said. "I always try to get up to speed fast at the beginning of a race and make my charge to the front as quickly as possible, but I don't think I'll be able to do that in England as easily as I do here. There are a lot of DNFs [did not finishes] in the European races from people taking each other out, but that's formula car racing on any level where there are young, aggressive drivers taking chances. The better you are in using your mirrors and the better you are in predicting what the other guys will do, the better off you are. We'll just have to see how things develop, and be ready for anything."

No matter what happens, when Lally returns home from England he won't have much of a chance to unwind. "About five hours after I get home, I'm headed to Sebring, Fla., for the final Formula 2000 race of the year," he noted. "I've also been racing stock cars in the Motorola Cup series this year. I'll drive anything and I have absolutely nothing in place for the 2000 season; it's so hard to raise sponsorship money or land a ride with a good team. Baseball or football players can just rely on their talent, but in racing you need money behind you too. That's why it's so nice to be a finalist in the Team U.S.A. competition. It gives you hope, because at least you know that some influential people in the sport have been noticing you!"

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Series Other open wheel
Drivers Paul Edwards , Jerry Nadeau , Jimmy Vasser , Memo Gidley , Bryan Herta , Tony Ave , Joey Hand , Rocky Moran Jr. , Dan Gurney , Andy Lally , Jonathan Palmer , Buddy Rice , Skip Barber , Tony Renna , Brian Redman , Jeremy Shaw , Aaron Justus , Mike Borkowski , Jeff Simmons , Ashton Lewis , Steve Horne