Team USA ready for first races

Team USA ready for first races

Americans Ready For First International Formula Ford Races at Levels Raceway Timaru, New Zealand (January 8, 2004) -- The Talley's International Formula Ford Series kicks off this weekend with a pair of races at Levels Raceway, Timaru, and...

Americans Ready For First International Formula Ford Races at Levels Raceway

Timaru, New Zealand (January 8, 2004) -- The Talley's International Formula Ford Series kicks off this weekend with a pair of races at Levels Raceway, Timaru, and three talented young American drivers are hungry for success.

Joe D'Agostino, 18, from Plantation, Fla., Charlie Kimball, 18, from Camarillo, Calif., and Ryan Millen, 19, from Newport Beach, Calif., will pilot a trio of red, white and blue Team USA Scholarship Stealth/Van Diemens, prepared by the Canterbury Motor Racing School, as they attempt to follow the lead set by countryman Bryan Sellers, who in '02 took his Team USA car to victory in both races at the 1.49-mile (2.4 kms) track on New Zealand's South Island.

Today, in a final test session prior to the start of official practice, D'Agostino unofficially headed the time sheets with a best lap at 1m 06.49s, which was around 0.3 secs faster than he managed in testing last Saturday. Teammate Kimball, who had been marginally quickest in the first of today's pair of half-hour sessions, posted a lap at 1m 06.62s, while Millen, whose car was hobbled by an irritating misfire, still managed to set a very respectable 1m 06.82s.

By the team's reckoning, New Zealand veteran Kenny Smith was fastest of the local contingent with a time of 1m 06.78s in his brand-new Stealth 04. Canterbury teenager Peter Knight, who also runs a Canterbury Motor Racing School-prepped car, was close behind at 1m 06.88s. Over 20 drivers participated in today's test.

"It was a great day," said an excited D'Agostino. "The car was fantastic. We all ran well but we're under no illusions. Right now we're sitting pretty comfortable, but we know the locals will be catching up to us pretty quickly, so we have to keep working at it and getting faster."

"There was a lot of traffic out there today," added Kimball. "It was amazing for a Thursday test day. Joe and I spent the first session running around with each other, getting used to the slipstream [draft] and seeing if we could learn something from each other, which we did. It was good. I learned a lot and we're getting quicker. The conditions were a bit better, not quite so hot, in the second session and I didn't really get a good lap in, but the car feels good. I'm very happy. I know what I'm doing and I know what I want from the car. Now it's just a case of working away at it and then getting 'that lap' in qualifying."

Millen, on the other hand, whose testing so far has been plagued by engine problems, was further hindered today by a persistent misfire. Despite the disappointment, he remained upbeat about his prospects for the weekend.

"I'm frustrated at the moment but at least the car is handling reasonably well," he said. "The other two guys are doing a very good job. I'm very impressed, and I'm very much looking forward to the weekend."

The entire Formula Ford field is set to have three 20-minute practice sessions tomorrow (Friday), followed by two 20-minute qualifying sessions on Saturday to set the grids for Sunday's pair of races. The first race will be contested over 10 laps and the second over 15 laps.

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