Rice, Summerton to test for A1 TEAM USA
A1 TEAM USA will begin preparations for the third A1GP season with Buddy Rice and Jonathan Summerton driving the "We The People" car in the open test Tuesday and Wednesday (Aug. 28-29) at Silverstone's International Circuit.
Rice will be making his debut in A1GP's mandated Lola-Zytek. He drove the A1 TEAM USA-sponsored entry in this year's Indianapolis 500 and is running the full IndyCar Series schedule for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing. Rice won the Indianapolis 500 in 2004.
"This is a great opportunity that Rick (Weidinger) and his team have given me," Rice said. "I'm really excited to get behind the wheel of the 'We The People' car. I got to spend a lot of time with Rick and his family during the month of May at Indy. It is obvious how passionate he is for the sport and especially his A1GP team.
"I have followed the A1GP World Cup of Motorsport from the beginning. I think that putting country against country in a true 'World Cup' style of competition is a great way to get new fans interested in motorsports. Rick's team has really stepped up their game over the last two seasons and I'm really excited about getting to experience the A1 TEAM USA effort firsthand."
Rice, a 31-year-old from Phoenix, Ariz., has a strong road racing background even though he has driven in the IndyCar Series, which runs primarily on ovals, since 2002. Rice was the Toyota Atlantic champion, which splits its season between ovals and road courses, in 2000.
"Buddy and I got to know each other this year at the Indianapolis 500 and we discussed a mutual interest in him racing for TEAM USA," A1 TEAM USA owner Weidinger said. "His background and love in motorsports is in road racing cars and that should help him acclimate himself to our equipment."
Summerton drove for A1 TEAM USA in the final four races of last season. The 19-year-old from Kissimmee, Fla., finished second in the Feature race at Mexico City. Summerton also was fifth in the Sprint race at Mexico and Shanghai and sixth in the Feature at Brands Hatch. He scored 18 points.
"I am really looking forward to racing for A1 TEAM USA again," Summerton said. "I can't wait to get back in the car and prove that America is a fast country. The experience I gained last year should help out a lot. I feel TEAM USA will be able to win this season."
In order to contain costs, A1GP does not allow in-season testing.
"There are very limited opportunities to test in A1GP and that makes these two days at Silverstone vital to a successful season," Weidinger said. "We're coming off a solid season that saw our performance and results improve significantly. We have continuity and more experience, but we've also made changes and brought in new people to help take us to the next level."
A1 TEAM USA was ninth in the championship of the World Cup of Motorsport last season. It was 16th in the inaugural 2005-06 season.
Weidinger has promoted Leon Gutfreund to race engineer. He was TEAM USA's data acquisition engineer the past two seasons and has been involved with Weidinger's racing operations since 2004..
"Leon has really been the glue that has kept the team improving over the past two seasons and is ready for this job," Weidinger said. "I'm confident he has what it takes. We are expecting to be a top-five team and win some races this season in A1GP. Consistent improvement is our march."
Weidinger, of Washington, D.C., has taken a different approach this season to assembling A1 TEAM USA. In the previous two years, he contracted with existing organizations for the core of the team and augmented it by adding key personnel like Gutfreund. This season, each member has been hired directly by Weidinger.
"It's a big step for us," Weidinger said. "Our process has been more intricate and defined to form a group we think can win the championship."
Peter Briggs is team manager and Marc Lawrence crew chief. American Geoff Bushor is the new data engineer and countryman Ric Landis is a new mechanic.
The third A1GP season begins Sept. 28-30 at Zandvoort, The Netherlands.
For more information on A1 TEAM USA, visit www.A1TEAMUSATV.com. For more information on A1GP, visit www.A1GP.com.