Formula BMW Americas Set to Launch '09 Season The preseason will find itself fading in the rear view mirror when the Formula BMW Americas Championship heads south of the border for the 2009 season opener this week, as the next generation of open-wheel drivers begin their quest for stardom.
The Formula BMW Americas Championship will contest the first two rounds of its 14-race series this weekend at the 2.09-mile (3.363km) Autodromo Miguel E. Abed in Puebla, Mexico, as drivers from eight different countries attack the challenging 16-turn road course.
With an expanded race field over 2008, the Formula BMW Americas Championship features four returning drivers from ’08, with ten rookies joining the battle in replacing 2008 Formula BMW World Final winner Alexander Rossi as series champion.
“I'm really looking forward to Puebla,” said 2008 Rookie Champion Gianmarco Raimondo. “The first race will be interesting because it will let the rookies know what the competition is like and how these cars are like to race. I've learned a little about each driver over testing and realized it's not going to be easy. I feel the team has developed the car well and we are looking confident heading into the season. I'm just hoping for a reliable car and to get the most out of the car every weekend. If we can accomplish that task, it should be a great season.”
Raimondo and his paddockmates each completed four days of open testing leading into the season opener, with Autotecnica, Jensen Motorsport, Robali Motorsport, Eruo Junior Team and Team Apex looking for a way to unseat 2008 Team Champion EuroInternational. The defending team title winners have been strong in preseason testing and appear to show no signs of slowing to let anyone catch up.
"After the official testing at Palm Beach, and Carolina, I am expecting great results from myself as a driver and from the team,” said EuroInternational’s Gabby Chaves. “The team has been performing very strong lately and if we keep this up, I have no doubts we have a great chance at the championship. The series has put on a good schedule for teams and drivers, and I am very proud to be a part of the 2009 FBMW Americas championship!"
The rookies are battling for their own championship-within-a-championship, with a chance to earn a Junior Scholarship for 2010 available for the top first-year driver. Ten drivers will hope to make that next step in 2009, including Team Apex driver James Kovacic, who joins many of his fellow rookies in looking to turn a strong karting record into a career in open-wheel racing.
"The opening races of the season in Puebla should be a good experience and a level playing field for most teams and drivers alike,” Kovacic reported. “It will be very competitive, but I have faith that my team and I can put together a strong performance and be up the front of the field aiming for victories."
In addition, the series announced that it has rescheduled a proposed event to run in conjunction with the Formula 1 event in Brazil, moving that tentatively-scheduled event to Virginia International Raceway. The two-race event weekend will take place April 24-26 in conjunction with the Grand-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
“While competing with Formula 1 has been one of our goals, the fact that F1 pulled both of its North American races off of the schedule made it a very costly venture for us to do during this season,” Rahal explained. “Our teams have voiced concerns over the funding and time needed to transport their operations to Brazil and we needed to do what was best for the long-term health of our teams.”
The official completion of the 2009 schedule presents the Formula BMW Americas Championship field with 14 races over six race weekends, featuring the opportunities to run at many of the top road-racing circuits in the United States, Mexico and Canada. The series gets underway next week in Puebla, Mexico March 21 and 22. Fans can follow all of the results via the series’ official website www.formulabmwamericas.com.
2009 Formula BMW Americas Schedule
||Autodromo Miguel E. Abed
||Virginia Int’l Raceway
||Miller Motorsports Park
||Lime Rock Park
||Mosport Int’l Raceway