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USF1 Announces First Driver, Decidedly Not American

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On: Tue, Jan 26, 2010 at 12:20PM | By: John Welch

USF1 Announces First Driver, Decidedly Not American

So, USF1 has named their first driver, Argentina's Jose Maria Lopez. Former Renault F1 test driver and GP2 stand-out, Lopez has dominated Argentinian saloon racing for several years, whatever that's worth.

Hope for an American driver piloting the American grand prix car in 2010 is all but lost; Speedtv is reporting that British driver James Rossiter is a shoe-in for the second seat at USF1. Press release from USF1's website inside the post . . .

Per USF1:

US F1 Team announced today that they have signed the former Renault F1 Team test driver, Jose Maria "Pechito" Lopez (26), to race with them in the 2010 FIA Formula One World Championship. Lopez will be the 24th Argentine* to race in Formula One, sustaining a heritage that began sixty years ago when Juan Manuel Fangio and Froilan "Pepe" Gonzalez took the F1 world by storm.

"Securing 'Pechito' Lopez for our debut season has been a goal of ours for a long time," said US F1 Team Executive Vice President Peter Windsor. "We've been following his career since he dominated the Renault V6 Championship in 2003 and we're thrilled to have him on board as we return America to Formula One. Lopez is a consummate professional and born leader. The most revealing thing about his character was how he handled the disappointment of not racing for Renault after three years of testing with them in F1. Instead of moping around and feeling sorry for himself, he returned to Argentina and totally dominated the local scene, winning 38 races and three championships. He became a major star as a result and, in turn, the Argentine nation – a country where F1 is second only to soccer - has got behind him." As proof of that, Lopez's US F1 contract was officially announced by the President of Argentina, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, in the Casa Rosada (Government House) in Buenos Aires on the afternoon of January 25.

"Pechito", huh? So that name is nice and tough . .. ?

"This is a truly memorable day for me, my family, and the people of Argentina," said Lopez, who has more than 6,000 kilometers of F1 test experience. "I have been working towards this day for much of my life and I can't thank Peter and Ken [Anderson] enough for this opportunity. Of course, a new F1 team faces many challenges but our goal is to improve with each race and build a foundation that will eventually see this team competing for wins and championships."

After winning in karts all over the world from the age of seven – Lopez was leading Lewis Hamilton in the world final in Japan when his chain broke - he switched to race cars in Europe in 2001. He won the 2002 Italian Formula Renault Championship with four wins, five poles, and three podiums and in European Formula Renault he scored two wins, two poles, and a podium. He dominated the European Formula Renault V6 Championship in 2003 (five wins, eight poles, seven podiums) and in one season of F3000 and two in GP2 he scored a win (Barcelona), seven podiums, and a pole. As a contracted Renault driver, he also completed thousands of miles in the F1 car, focusing mainly on shake-downs and starts but also completing simulated race distances with compromised set-ups.

Disappointed not be given the opportunity to race in F1, Jose returned to Argentina in 2007. His positive, super-professional approach resulted in three championships, 38 wins, and 36 pole positions. As a result, Jose became a hero in his own country and regained the momentum he needed to focus once again on F1.

US F1 Team, which is located in Charlotte, North Carolina, the motorsports capital of the United States, will be the only American-based team on the grid in 2010 and the first in more than 40 years. Team Principal, President and CEO Ken Anderson said finding the right drivers was a major part of forming US F1 Team.

Okay, okay. The guy is bringing 8 million dollars worth of sorely needed sponsorship with him to USF1. I can get behind him. Also, any livery is better then red, white, and blue - easily one of the worst looking combinations for a race car. Red and white, fine. Blue and white, awesome. Red and blue, another winner . . . but the three combined is terrible. Especially when used in conjunction with any combination of flag/bald eagle motif. So, 'Argentinian Tourism'? Sure, why not . . . As far as the second driver is concerned, we're looking at a Brit. Hey, there is still a test-driver seat available! Maybe Jonathan Summerton can slip in there? We'll see . . .

Also taken from USF1's website:

* Argentina's F1 Heritage – Argentines who have raced in the FIA Formula One World Championship

1) Pablo Birger
2) Roberto Bonomi
3) Clemar Bucci
4) Antonio Creus
5) Jorge Daponte
6) Alejandro De Tomaso
7) Nasif Estefano
8) Juan Manuel Fangio
9) Norberto Fontana
10) Oscar Galvez
11) Jose Froilan Gonzalez
12) Miguel Angel Guerra
13) Jesus Iglesias
14) Oscar Larrauri
15) Onofre Marimon
16) Gaston Mazzacane
17) Carlos Menditeguy
18) Roberto Mieres
19) Carlos Reutemann
20) A. Rodriguez Larreta
21) Adolfo Schwelm Cruz
22) Esteban Tuero
23) Ricardo Zunino

Note: Antonio Creus raced under dual Spanish/Argentine nationality.

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