Former Zetec Championship driver wins International Formula Ford Series in New Zeland

ST. PETERSBURG, FLA. (January 26, 2004) - On Sunday, former Formula Ford Zetec Championship driver Charlie Kimball won the Talley's International Formula Ford Challenge Series in New Zealand. Kimball, of Camarillo, Calif., won the prestigious championship driving a Stealth Van Diemen for Team USA.

Contested over three weeks, the championship featured seven hotly contested races. After a difficult start to the championship, Kimball got stronger as the championship progressed. Entering the season-finale tripleheader, Kimball looked to be in position to win races and challenge for the championship title.

Starting fourth in race one, Kimball drove a stellar race, taking the lead at the midway point. Once in front, he ran uncontested, to win by 1.608 seconds. Starting on pole in race two, after setting a new lap record in qualifying, Kimball ran a perfect race, leading from start to finish. Having won the first two races, Kimball could capture the championship in the final race with another win. Demonstrating stellar driving skill, Kimball recovered from an off-course excursion early in the race, to win his third consecutive race and capture the championship title.

"I'm exhausted," said an ecstatic Kimball, who finished third in the 2003 Formula Ford Zetec Championship. "I put a huge effort into this weekend and I'm really tired now. I came down here with high expectations and then kind of faltered in the first two race weekends. But I know I was quick enough to win the New Zealand Grand Prix [last weekend] and I really wanted to leave New Zealand having left my mark."

Kimball, the eighth Zetec Championship driver to race for Team USA, becomes the first Team USA driver to win the Talley's International Formula Ford Challenge Series. Last year, fellow former Zetec Championship driver Bryan Sellers finished second in the championship, winning two races.

"I have to thank all the competitors," said Kimball, who will race in the UK Formula Ford Championship with series front-runners Team JLR in 2004. "What they taught me these last few weeks was priceless. It's been an awesome experience."

Begun in 1990, the Team USA Scholarship was created to assist aspiring up and coming American drivers. By establishing contacts in the racing industry, meeting various team, chassis and engine representatives, and contesting winter series championships, past winners have benefited extensively from this program and moved up the racing ladder.

Widely regarded as North America's premier open-wheel training series, the Formula Ford Zetec Championship, part of the Cooper Tires Championship Series, offers a complete motorsports education, with emphasis on cost-effective racing. All the Zetec Championship cars are powered by the technically advanced 2.0-liter Ford Focus power plant and run on spec Cooper Zeon UHP tires. The 2004 schedule will be announced shortly and will feature 15 races on North America's premier race tracks.