Inside F1's Young Driver Triumphs

INSIDE F1's rising star Patrick Long took his first victory in the British Formula Ford Zetec Championship this weekend at the Oulton Park circuit, near Liverpool, England.

The 19-year-old Californian, who has been selected as the Inside F1 Young Driver of the Year, was in his fourth race of a new season, which he is spending with the works Van Diemen team in the world's premier junior single seater championship.

British Formula Ford has nurtured such talent as Ayrton Senna, Eddie Irvine and David Coulthard in its 34-year history and Long is delighted to add his name to the race winners' roll of honor as he aims for the 2001 title.

"It's really a great feeling to get it all right on a real driver's circuit like Oulton Park," said Long. "I felt good coming here after testing well earlier in the year and I managed to steer clear of any trouble. It was an exciting race."

Oulton Park was the fourth round of this year's championship season, into which Long went having consistently challenged for the top step on the podium but hitherto victory had proven elusive in the rough and tumble nature of the championship.

Twice rivals had wrecked his chances after charging into the back of the young American's Van Diemen, and the second round at Snetterton saw little chance for racing after it was cut back to only three competitive laps.

This time however there were no such problems for Long, who qualified second behind former works Van Diemen driver Robert Dahlgren and sought to find a way by until the Safety Car came out after an incident back in the pack. At the restart Long used some racing savvy to dive past into the first corner and defended his lead strongly to the flag.

"I'm pleased with the way I did it," said Long, six times a national karting champion in the United States and the first American in 20 years to win a European karting title. "I won the drag race away from the line when the Safety Car came in and it was hard but fair fun to the flag after that." Long was selected as the Inside F1 Young Driver of the Year at the end of the 2000 season, his first in racing cars, and an impressive season in Formula Ford in Britain with the privateer Alain Menu team.

Going from strength to strength, the Inside F1 backed Van Diemen qualified for the finals of the Formula Ford Festival shootout between the best of the best in the category and took victory in the final round of the Winter Championship to throw down a marker for this year's campaign.

Currently the 2001 championship is led by Long's Swedish team mate Richard Goransson but victory at Oulton Park takes a big chunk out of that advantage with barely a quarter of the season yet run.

It's not just Inside F1 that has taken notice of the Los Angeles racer's talents. Jaguar Racing supremo Bobby Rahal is known to be keeping a close eye on Long's form and has already prepared to test him in Jaguar's Formula 3 car with an eye towards settling the line-up of his junior team for next season.

The next round of the Slick 50 Formula Ford Zetec Championship follows in one week's time (May 12/13) at Snetterton, Norfolk, England.

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