Team USA Places Fifth; Edwards Stars in World Cup

Written by Team USA. Posted in Team USA News

Published on October 19, 1997 with No Comments

London, England — Three young American drivers produced strong performances today in two separate high-profile events in England.

At Donington Park, Matt Sielsky, from Northbrook, Ill., and Buddy Rice, from Phoenix, Ariz., overcame a disappointing qualifying session to finish a creditable fifth for Team USA in the EFDA Formula Opel Nations Cup VIII.

Paul Edwards, meanwhile, dominated the early proceedings and was running third in the Formula Ford World Finals at Brands Hatch before being taken out by an over-zealous rival on the final lap.

Both events featured top-quality competition from around the world.

Edwards, 19, from Santa Maria, Calif., played a starring role at Brands Hatch. In his sophomore season of British Formula Ford competition, Edwards had previously scored a sensational victory at Brands Hatch. He was also the track record holder. Lately, however, he had been struggling to match the regular pacesetters as his meager budget precluded the procurement of a fresh motor.

Enter the Valvoline Team USA Scholarship.

“I can’t tell you how grateful I am,” said Edwards. “The new engine from Solus made all the difference.”

Edwards finished a fighting second in this morning’s final qualifying heat race, and after starting fifth in the World Final, moved quickly to third in his Team USA Scholarship Swift SC97Z. He fell to eighth following a minor skirmish with another car but had fought his way back to third before being pushed off the road by Austrian Formula Ford Champion Robert Lechner on the very last corner.

“It’s very frustrating” said Edwards. “We were fast. The car was great. But Lechner never even braked [for the corner]. He just ran into me.”

Sielsky and Rice also gave a good account of themselves a couple of hundred miles north at Donington Park. Team USA was classified only eighth after qualifying but Sielsky finished 10th in Heat One, and Rice 16th, out of a starting field of 26, representing 13 nations.

Heat Two saw Rice make a magnificent start, jumping from 16th to ninth, whereupon the two Americans circulated in tight formation until an accident at the chicane caused the race to be red-flagged.

Following a lengthy delay due to thick fog — this was England, after all — the pair continued their battle to the finish, with Sielsky nipping ahead of Rice on the final lap of the shortened race. Ninth and 10th was enough to place Team USA fifth overall in the final rankings.

“The cars were good,” noted Sielsky. “To be honest I didn’t realize it was the last lap. [Newly crowned European Formula Opel Champion Marcelo] Battistuzzi was right ahead of me and I’m sure I could have passed him on the next lap.”

Added Rice, “That was fun. No problems at all. This is the way we should have finished after the first race and ‘m sure we could have moved forward from there, but that’s the way it goes. Matt and I learned a lot this weekend and we’re very grateful for the opportunity we were given.”

The Team USA Scholarship, now in its eight season, is made possible by support from Valvoline Oil Company, Tasman Motorsports Group, Championship Auto Racing Teams, Mercedes-Benz of North America, Klein Tools, Firestone, LCI International, PacWest Racing Group, Road Racing Drivers Club, Skip Barber Racing School, Motorola and American Honda.

Photo: Matt Sielsky’s car is pushed toward the starting grid

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