Lally Finishes a Strong Fifth in Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series in England as Member of Team U.S.A. NORTHPORT, N.Y., Nov. 28 - Even though he'd never raced in England or competed in a Formula Palmer Audi...
Lally Finishes a Strong Fifth in Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series in England as Member of Team U.S.A.
NORTHPORT, N.Y., Nov. 28 - Even though he'd never raced in England or competed in a Formula Palmer Audi event before, Andy Lally recorded a spectacular fifth-place finish in the Formula Palmer Audi Winter Series Nov. 13-14 and Nov. 20-21 at Snetterton and Brands Hatch, England.
The young star from Northport, N.Y., was one of three Americans representing the United States in the series, earning that honor through the Team U.S.A. scholarship program.
Drivers from eight nations competed. In addition to the United States and Great Britain, other countries represented included Austria, Canada, Italy, Korea, Estonia and Honduras.
The Americans did extraordinarily well in this international series, as all three went home with top-10 finishes. Paul Edwards, a Californian who has been living and competing in Great Britain for the last four years, won the series overall. Jeff Simmons, the reigning Barber Dodge champion from Granby, Conn., finished eighth. A total of 22 drivers competed.
The best three finishes for each driver in the four races were compared to determine the final point standings. Lally's fifth-place finish overall came thanks to two fifth-place finishes (one at Snetterton and one at Brands Hatch) and a sixth in the other race at Brands Hatch. He qualified sixth three times and fifth for the finale. All of the races were 15 laps long.
"The competition was very good," Lally said. "The fields were close in qualifying and it was good, hard racing."
As far as comparing the competition in this international event to that conducted in the States, Lally said there wasn't a huge difference. "Formula car racing in Great Britain is very competitive," he noted. "It's bigger nationally and the competition is tighter, but that's only because the fields seem to be a bit deeper. The drivers at the front in the States are just as good as the drivers at the front in Europe, but there just seem to be more good drivers in the races over there. They don't have all the different forms of racing over there like we do here, so it's more concentrated. That's why I was satisfied with my fifth-place finish, because I was up against some very good drivers who had driven these cars before and driven at these tracks before."
Lally said the highlight of his trip was seeing the cars he and his teammates drove for the first time. The cars carried a patriotic red, white and blue color scheme.
"When I saw the cars done up in the Team U.S.A. livery for the first time, it made me extremely proud to be there and to be a part of the American effort," he said.
When a driver is thrust into a new situation it is natural to be concerned about his equipment, since he and his mechanics are virtual strangers instead of a well-oiled team. Luckily for Lally that wasn't a problem in this series.
"I was very pleased with the preparation of the cars and the pride that everyone involved with the series took regarding the preparation and the presentation of the cars," he said. "The mechanics were very thorough and they were essential to the team. We weren't allowed to use a radio during the races; all of the communication was done with pit boards. But the mechanics were good because they pushed me. They wanted results for both themselves and for me, which was good. They didn't let me relax."
Going into the series Lally thought getting used to the horsepower the Formula Palmer Audi cars have would be his biggest challenge, since they are more powerful than the U.S. Formula 2000 cars he has driven with such success here in America. (U.S. Formula 2000 engines generate about 150 horsepower; Formula Palmer Audi engines can generate up to 300 horsepower.) Those worries proved unfounded.
"I got used to the added horsepower fairly quickly," he said. "The biggest challenge for me ended up being the radial tire. In Formula 2000 here in the States we use a bias-ply tire, but in the Formula Palmer series they use Avon radial tires. I had to be patient when I was working up my speed, and I had to carefully learn the changes I needed to make in the set-up and in my driving style to get used to the radials."
Although he had never seen either track before, Lally came back very impressed with Snetterton and with his favorite of the two, Brands Hatch.
"When I looked at the track map of Snetterton I thought it was a fairly simple track, but in reality there were several tricky corners," he elaborated. "We only had a half-day of testing before qualifying at both tracks, so I had to get the tracks figured out the best I could quickly. Snetterton was definitely tricky. There were two corners in the back section of the track that were hard to get down to the limit, but I loved it because it was challenging.
"Brands Hatch was incredible," he continued. "It's one of the most challenging tracks I've ever raced on. It has different characteristics than road courses here in the States. Turn one, which is called the Paddock Turn, is one of the most challenging corners I've ever come across. The other turns weren't as challenging but they were different in their own right because they needed a different approach in order to get through them quickly. The hills and undulations between the corners and how they connected make for a very flowing course. Each corner affects the next one; how you come out of a corner will greatly affect how the next corner will come into play."
Another thing that was different about racing in England was the weather. "The temperature never went above 6 degrees Celsius and it hovered around 2 and 3, so it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit or so when we raced," he noted.
Overall, Lally was happy with the experience and with his results. "There was a lot of good competition, so to run consistently at the front like we did was good, and to come away with fifth overall made the whole experience better," he summarized.
"I don't really know what if anything will come out of all of this," he admitted. "I made some contacts over there, and the people in formula car racing in the States know who went and how they did, so that's good. I know that it was an experience that I'll always remember, and I'll always feel proud that I was chosen to represent America in this series."
The Team U.S.A. scholarship which made the three young Americans' participation possible is organized by journalist Jeremy Shaw and underwritten by Valvoline, CART, Tasman Motorsports, Audi, PacWest Racing, Mercedes-Benz U.S.A., Road Racing Drivers Club, Klein Tools, Skip Barber Racing School, No Fear and Mitel Semiconductor.
Right before Lally left for England he competed in the Motorola Cup season finale at Daytona International Speedway in Florida where he drove a BMW Coupe and duked it out with Lance Stewart for the Sports class championship. Lally was ahead of Stewart in the 80-lap race until a slow pit stop (resulting from slow gas flow from a near-empty fueling rig) with 24 laps remaining gave Stewart the title, but Lally still finished second.