Formula BMW Americas Holds First Official '09 Test UPDATE The sixth season of open-wheel racing’s most complete driver development series officially got underway Monday and Tuesday as the Formula BMW Americas Championship conducted its first official test at Florida’s Palm Beach International Raceway.
The growing roster of drivers and teams from North, Central and South America that will compete in the 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship came out for two days of spirited testing on the 2.038-mile PBIR road course. The driver lineup featured a good mix of returning competitors and rookie drivers making their first steps into Formula BMW Americas competition, and the time sheets showed that the mix of drivers should make for a strong racing season.
Returning driver Gaby Chaves (EuroInternational) set the fastest time of the final day with a best lap of 1:16.232, while his teammate Michael Lewis was second-quickest, and fastest in the morning session, in what was his first-ever outing in the Formula BMW FB02.
“I think the car is quite well built. It’s stiff, it has a lot to it and it really gives the driver a lot to do,” Lewis said. “You can feel the way the changes affect the car, the chassis package is well-balanced, I really like driving the car.”
Chaves led a Tuesday afternoon sweep of the top-four spots by the EuroInternational team, although Autotecnica and 2008’s Rookie Champion Gianmarco Raimondo was in the top-three during Monday’s outing as well as Tuesday’s morning runs.
“Last year’s experience in Formula BMW Americas definitely helped us here this week,” said Raimondo. “It only took us a couple of laps to get up to speed and back into what the car can do, which gives you more time to work on changes and car balance if you don’t have to spend that time learning the car.”
Chaves, who competed part-time last year before joining EuroInternational for 2009, agreed with Raimondo on the benefits of experience.
“Even though the car is a little different, being with a new team, the experience gained last year, really helped me get up to speed,” Chaves explained. “It was exciting to get out here and I am looking forward to the next test in Carolina
Next up for the Formula BMW Americas Championship is the Introductory Test at Carolina Motorsports Park on March 2 and 3. The 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship will open with Rounds 1 and 2 at Puebla, Mexico on March 20 – 22.02/10/09 The sixth season of open-wheel racing’s most complete driver development series will kick off preparation for 2009 competition next week as the Formula BMW Americas Championship holds its first official test at Florida’s Palm Beach International Raceway.
The growing roster of drivers from North, Central and South America that hope to compete in the 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship will take to the 2.034-mile road course on February 16-17 in their identically-prepared Formula BMW FB02 race cars, hoping to follow in the footsteps of former Formula BMW Americas champion and World Final winner Alexander Rossi, as well as Formula 1 driver and Grand Prix Winner Sebastian Vettel and Indy Car race winner Graham Rahal.
Interest in the Formula BMW Americas Championship has continued to grow over the winter and a contingent of 15 drivers is expected to take part in the year’s first test sessions. Last year’s Formula BMW Americas Rookie champion Gianmarco Raimondo will return for a renewed assault on the title with Team Autotecnica, battling alongside established outfits such as Atlantic Racing Team, three-time team champion Eurointernational, Jensen Motorsport, and Team Apex, as well as new squads Andersen Racing, OS Racing and Robali Motorsports.
The 2009 season also begins a new partnership with Rahal Letterman Ventures, as the championship-winning race team assumes the stewardship of the Formula BMW Americas Championship. Headed by three-time Indy Car champion Bobby Rahal and late-night television icon David Letterman, the team will use its vast expertise to provide a quality racing experience for the drivers and teams of the Formula BMW Americas Championship.
“We are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to get out to the first test of the year and see the next generation of open-wheel drivers getting ready for the season,” said Rahal. “This will be an exciting season for us at Rahal Letterman Ventures and we anticipate a great start with this opening round of testing.”
Next week’s test will be followed by the Introductory Test at Carolina Motorsports Park on March 2 and 3. An additional six official testing days are scheduled during the season. The 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship will open with Rounds 1 and 2 at Puebla, Mexico on March 20 – 22.