AUGUST 15, 2001
An American rising star?
IT is no secret that Formula 1 would like to have an American driver to help the sport grow in the United States and one or two of the more far-sighted F1 team bosses have been keeping a closer than usual eye on the domestic scene while also keeping track of the rise of US stars in European racing. CART team bosses too are looking for new men to replace the Michael Andretti, Scott Pruett, Al Unser Jr., Jimmy Vasser generation.
One man who has made an impression on everyone is 26-year-old Townsend Bell, the leader of the Indy Lights championship.
While Johnny Herbert was impressing the IRL folk down in Kentucky, Bell was having his first CART test with Patrick Racing at Mid-Ohio and it seems that the San Francisco driver made a big impression at the wheel of Roberto Moreno's Visteon Reynard-Toyota.
Bell ran 200 miles of testing with a couple of spins along the way but he quickly got down to competitive times, setting a time which would have put him halfway up the grid in Sunday's race. Others testing at the same time - including CART champion Gil de Ferran were only tenths quicker than the newcomer.
Bell is expected to get a drive in CART next year and if he continues to make progress he may find himself being sounded out for drives in Europe at a later date. Bell's progress has been very rapid as he did not start car racing until he was 21 and he jumped straight from Barber Dodge into Indy Lights last year, finishing second in the series at his first attempt. He is dominating this year's series.
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