Ave and Lewis to Represent U.S. in Formula Ford Festival

Written by Team USA. Posted in Team USA News

Published on September 11, 1992 with No Comments

Sep 11, 1992
Lexington, Ohio – Talented youngsters Tony Ave and Ashton Lewis have been chosen to represent the Team USA Scholarship program in the 21st annual Formula Ford Festival & World Cup at Brands Hatch, England, on October 23-25.
The scholarship is entering its third year and has already earned recognition on a worldwide basis. Jimmy Vasser, who drives the Hayhoe-Cole Racing Lola-Chevrolet in this weekend’s Pioneer 200 IndyCar race at Mid-Ohio, was the first beneficiary in 1990. Last year Bryan Herta finished a strong 11th in the Formula Ford Festival Grand Final – out of almost 200 aspiring champions – to record the best finish for an American driver in more than 10 years. Herta is now regarded as one of the leading contenders in this year’s Firestone Indy Lights Championship after recording his first victory recently in Toronto. He has also attracted interest from several European Formula 3 teams and was most impressive in a test earlier this year with Alan Docking Racing.

The two primary aims of the Team USA Scholarship are to assist in the development of young drivers early in their careers and to heighten the awareness in Europe that there are some talented and ambitious youngsters – in addition to Michael Andretti – on this side of the Atlantic Ocean.

Previous winners of the “Festival” include Derek Daly, who swept the honors in 1976 and progressed into Formula 1 and IndyCar racing before finding his current niche as an auto racing analyst with ESPN. Johnny Herbert won the Festival in 1985 and now drives for the Lotus Formula 1 team. Other top names to have started their careers in Formula Ford include Michael Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell, Ayrton Senna and Danny Sullivan.

Ave and Lewis were chosen as this year’s “scholars” as a result both of a test session held last month at Snetterton, England, in which a total of seven drivers were invited to participate, and as a result of their achievements in North America this season.

Ave, 23, from Hurley, Wis., is presently leading the SCCA Oldsmobile Pro Series after winning three of the first seven races. He started racing professionally last season and also represents the Ski-Doo factory team in snowmobile racing. He placed sixth in last winter’s World Championship.

“I’m looking to perhaps do some Formula 3 racing in the future and the Formula Ford Festival is a wonderful event which gains a lot of publicity around the world,” said Ave. “It’s a great opportunity to put my name on the international map.”

Lewis, 20, is from Chesapeake, Va., and currently lies second in the IMSA Zerex Saab Pro Series. He is the leading rookie contender and won his first race earlier this season at Lime Rock Park, Conn. Lewis previously was a stand-out in the Skip Barber Formula Ford Series, earning more than 30 race victories.

“It’s exciting to be picked for this program,” said Lewis, who will be racing here at Mid-Ohio this weekend and set the fastest time in this morning’s Zerex Saab practice session. “I’ve always wanted to go to Europe and have a go at racing in the Festival. That’s THE race to go over there for. It’s just SO competitive.”

This season, as in the past, as many as 200 drivers are likely to take part in the three-day event which starts out with eight heat races. The top drivers then progress through quarter- and semi-final rounds. The Grand Final will be fought out over 20 laps by the top 28 drivers.

Run concurrently with the individual contest is a World Cup element in which three drivers are chosen to represent each nation. Last year Herta and Bobby Carville helped the United States to place seventh in the team competition out of 19 countries. This year the team hopes to do even better.

Both Ave and Lewis will drive brand-new Van Diemen RF92 chassis to be prepared by John Village Automotive. Village is himself a former European Formula Ford champion and now a successful car owner. Last year his team won the British Formula Vauxhall/Lotus Championship title.

Sponsorship for the Team USA Scholarship has already been confirmed from Valvoline Oil, Tom Walkinshaw Racing, True Choice and Milkhouse Cheese. IndyCar driver Bobby Rahal also has chipped in to help with the initiative.

“I know how hard it is to make a name for yourself in this sport,” said Rahal. “I’ve been there myself! The Formula Ford Festival is certainly an event which separates the men from the boys. It has international recognition and I know it will help these young men in establishing their own reputations.”

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