Vasser, Herta Confirm Worth of Team USA Scholarship

Written by Team USA. Posted in Team USA News

Published on July 23, 1995 with No Comments

Jul 23, 1995
Cleveland, Ohio — Sunday, July 23 was an auspicious day for the Valvoline Team USA Scholarship, as the first two recipients of the award, Bryan Herta and Jimmy Vasser, claimed second and third positions in the Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland, round 12 of the closely contested PPG Indy Car World Series.

The prestigious Team USA Scholarship was first assigned in 1990, its primary goals to assist in furthering the career of an especially promising young American race car driver and to heighten worldwide awareness of this country’s traditional training ground series.

Vasser, who had sprung to prominence in Formula Ford, Formula 2000 and Formula Atlantic, was selected as the first award winner, proudly flying the patriotic Team USA colors of red, white and blue in the renowned end-of-season Formula Ford Festival and World Cup at Brands Hatch, England.

“The Festival” has been held annually since 1972, attracting as many as 200 of the world’s most gifted and ambitious young drivers to compete in virtually identical Ford-powered open-wheel cars. Among those who have emerged victorious over the years are current Grand Prix drivers Roberto Moreno (1980), Johnny Herbert (1985), who recently won the British Grand Prix for the Benetton Formula 1 team, and Eddie Irvine (1987).

“It was a great honor to represent my country,” says Vasser, who subsequently graduated into the PPG Indy Car World Series and claimed his first victory earlier this season in Portland. “It was also my first opportunity to race overseas.”

Herta followed in Vasser’s footsteps in 1991, earning impressive reviews as he finished 11th overall in the all-important Grand Final, despite running a year-old Reynard chassis.

Other Team USA Scholarship winners also have made great strides in the sport. Tony Ave, for example, finished sixth (and top privateer) in the recent SCCA Trans-Am Championship race at Road America; Ashton Lewis earned a promising 13th in the NASCAR Busch Grand National race at Watkins Glen; Jerry Nadeau, who equaled the best result ever by an American (fourth) in the 1993 Festival, also is chasing a career in the Busch Grand National division; and 1994 “scholar” Mike Borkowski has claimed top-10 finishes in each of the last five PPG-Firestone Indy Lights Championship races.

“The Team USA Scholarship was a great help to me when I was struggling to make a name for myself,” says Herta, who went on to win the 1993 Firestone Indy Lights Championship title before establishing himself in the Indy Car ranks. “It gave me a chance to broaden my horizons, meet a lot of people and race against some of the best young drivers in the world. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I was given.”

This year Herta and Vasser have joined forces in the Target/Chip Ganassi Indy Car team. Both have pledged support to the Team USA Scholarship, which this year will offer an even more exciting prize: a fully sponsored ride in at least one — and possibly two — Formula 3 races in England.

Formula 3 has long been regarded as the single most important step on the ladder toward a top-line drive either in Formula 1 Grand Prix racing or the Indy Car series. American drivers Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal both traveled to Europe to compete in Formula 3 during their formative years. Each has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 and the PPG Indy Car World Series. From among the current crop of Indy Car drivers, Teo Fabi, Gil de Ferran, Mauricio Gugelmin, Adrian Fernandez, Christian Fittipaldi and Stefan Johansson have all won major Formula 3 championship titles. Eric Bachelart, Raul Boesel, Eddie Cheever, Marco Greco, Andre Ribeiro, Jacques Villeneuve and Alessandro Zampedri also have claimed successes in Formula 3.

Team USA Scholarship has struck an agreement with Dick Bennetts, whose West Surrey Racing Formula 3 team is widely acknowledged as the very best in the business, having won British Formula 3 Championship titles in 1981 (Jonathan Palmer), 1983 (Ayrton Senna, who went on to claim three Formula 1 World Championships), 1985 (Mauricio Gugelmin), 1990 (current McLaren F1 driver Mika Hakkinen) and 1991 (Jordan F1 driver Rubens Barrichello).

West Surrey Racing will field a Mugen/Honda-powered Dallara chassis in the end-of-season non-championship International Formula 3 Race at Donington Park, England, on the weekend of October 21-22. The event will be run in association with the popular TOCA Touring Car Shoot-Out, which features all the top contestants from the British Touring Car Championship.

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