USA: Team USA Scholarship winners update 2006-11-10

Thrilling Week of New Experiences for Team USA Scholarship Winners Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (November 9, 2006) ---- Since its inception in 1990, the Team USA Scholarship has been about much more than just the opportunity to drive a race...

Thrilling Week of New Experiences for Team USA Scholarship Winners

Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif. (November 9, 2006) ---- Since its inception in 1990, the Team USA Scholarship has been about much more than just the opportunity to drive a race car on the world stage.

This year, youngsters Dane Cameron and Robert Podlesni have met a variety of well-known personalities whose base of knowledge will prove invaluable as they progress up the auto racing ladder. Also, in between displaying their skills in the Formula Palmer Audi Autumn Trophy at renowned British tracks Snetterton and Brands Hatch, they have visited one of the world's most successful race car constructors, Lola Cars, top Formula 1 team McLaren Mercedes and the WSR (West Surrey Racing) team which currently fields the Team USA entry in the A1 Grand Prix of Nations series.

The stories are best told by Cameron and Podlesni themselves:

"On Monday we went to Lola Cars (in Huntingdon), where Sam Smith gave us an all-inclusive tour of the facility," relates 19-year-old Podlesni. "Being able to see all the man hours, molds and inspections each component must go though to go from raw materials to a finished product was really amazing. Within this tour, I became aware of the diversity of Lola. A household name in auto racing, Lola also is involved in many military and consumer products that have nothing to do with the motorsports industry. The highlight of the trip was seeing many of the 50 percent wind tunnel models, including the Formula 3 car I had just sat in, in addition to the current Champ Car."

"We were shown around the composite shop and it really gives you a new appreciation for all of the work that goes into every piece," adds Cameron. "There are so many man-hours that go into layering all of the carbon to make it strong. I will definitely feel really bad the next time I have some bodywork damage! The part of the tour that I enjoyed the most was the wind tunnel as well as a brief overview of how they use CFD (computational fluid dynamics???) to cut down costs. Seeing what they could learn on a computer before going into the wind tunnel was extremely impressive and something that I would like to learn more about. You get a new respect after seeing what goes into building a car."

"The next stop on the trip was on Tuesday, to West Surrey Racing," reveals Podlesni. "Dick Bennetts was a very informative host, and very generous to fit us in before leaving for the A1GP race in China the following day. There is an expansive trophy room with many coveted Formula 3 and British Touring Car awards. Another highlight was seeing the original helmets from Mika Hakkinen, Rubens Barrichello, Eddie Irvine, Jonathan Palmer, Mauricio Gugelmin and Ayrton Senna. We learned a lot about the inner workings of racing and some tips to apply to our own careers."

"West Surrey Racing is one of the most impressive race team shops that I have ever seen," declares Cameron. "Everything was spotless and organized, and the list of alumni drivers is enough to make your jaw drop."

"The final place we went was the McLaren F1 factory," continues Cameron. "This has to be the most stunning building that I have ever seen. From the moment you enter the premises it seems almost surreal; everything looks so elegant and sophisticated. And inside the building it seems like a futuristic hospital with race cars instead of patients. Everything about the facility is amazing, absolutely amazing."

"The McLaren Technology Centre is incredible," echoes Podlesni. "You enter through an all-white underground tunnel to an all-glass elevator that rises out of the ground to a gorgeous view of the incredible architecture, seemingly floating reception area and museum quality collection of cars. There's also a man-made lake in front of the entire facility. This is one of the most gorgeous buildings I have ever been in, and that's without even talking about the cars!

"We were so fortunate to have been able to have an in-depth tour of the composite shop, the race and test car bays, machine shop, testing area and the so-impressive trophy lined hallway. I feel honored to be one of the few who is able to say that I have seen the McLaren wind tunnel. I can't say any more, as I would go on for days!"

The Team USA Scholarship would like to offer sincere thanks to everyone who made these visits possible, including Sam Smith at Lola Cars, Dick Bennetts at WSR, and Jonathan Neale and Neil Trundle at McLaren Racing.

As Podlesni summarized: "What a week!"

-credit: bmw.usa

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Eddie Irvine , Rubens Barrichello , Mika Hakkinen , Mauricio Gugelmin , Ayrton Senna , Jonathan Palmer , Dane Cameron , Sam Smith