Formula BMW Americas Wraps Up Preseason Testing Program
The preseason activities of the Formula BMW Americas Championship came to a chilly end today at Carolina Motorsports Park as two days of testing wrapped up on the 2.3-mile road course in Kershaw, South Carolina without the mercury ever reaching the 50-degree mark.
Unseasonably-cold weather posed a challenge to the teams that needed the two days of testing to get ready for the March 20-22 season-opening weekend at Puebla, Mexico, but returning veteran Gabby Chaves (EuroInternational) was equal to the task in leading a tight field that saw 11 drivers covered by less than three seconds after two days of testing.
Chaves ran a week-best lap of 1:29.185 at the end of Tuesday’s action to lead the two-day test, but the young Floridian was trailed closely by EuroInternational stablemates Giancarlo Vilarinho at 1:29.415 and Michael Lewis at 1:30.212.
“We lost some time this week but we still put up a pretty good time,” Chaves said. “The team is really performing well and to see that we are running so strong this early in the season gives us confidence. You could see the team building momentum at the end of last season and the guys have really carried it over to this year.”
The cold temperatures kept teams from turning many laps in either of the morning sessions, but it did allow the series to devote time to education and coaching as the full field got a chance to practice the standing-start procedure that is a hallmark of the FBMW Americas Championship.
“I thought the start practice was really good,” Lewis reported. “We’ve all done a little private practice with it, doing burnouts leaving the pits or something, but it was good to do with the lights and the full grid with people around you, in the environment that we will encounter on a race weekend.”
Team Apex posted big gains on the second day as its rookies Joao Horto and James Kovacic vaulted into the top five, while Jensen Motorsports’ Freddy Zebede used a strong late run to put more than half the field into the 90-second range around the tricky CMP circuit.
“I chose the Formula BMW Championship because it is like a first step and you can learn a lot,” Horto said. “A day like today is important because this is an important level to learn at. The things you take from here are going to be your foundation of racing knowledge for the rest of your racing career.”
The field will have two weeks to finalize its preparations for the 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship opener, which takes place in Puebla, Mexico. The Formula BMW Americas Championship will run a double-header weekend alongside the World Touring Car Championship.
Combined results from the 2-day test at Carolina Motorsports Park
||Michael Lewis (R)
||Joao Horto (R)
||James Kovacic (R)
||Gianmarco Raimondo (J)
||Daniel Vela (R, J)
||Martin Sala (R)
||Alex Ellis (R, J)
||Barrett Mertins (R)
||Robert Garcia (R, J)
(R)| – Rookie Status
(J)|– Formula BMW Juniors