Gabby Chaves Leads First Round Picking up where it left off a year ago, EuroInternational locked up the front row for the first race of the 2009 Formula BMW Americas season Friday as teammates Gabby Chaves and Giancarlo Vilarinho swept the top two spots in qualifying at Autodromo Miguel E. Abed in Puebla, Mexico.
Chaves vaulted to the top of the time charts on his first lap and stayed there for the entire session to score his first Formula BMW Americas pole and the 30th for EuroInternational. Chaves lowered his time around the 2.09-mile road course on seven of his first eight laps, eventually posting a best time of 1:37.028 (74.688 mph) to take the pole.
“It was really good,” grinned Chaves. “I think that all through the testing our team was quick and consistent and while I don’t want to say we expected this, we knew we were in a good spot to do well if we did things the right way. I was just happy to get it done for the team. We made a gear change before the session and it took a little time for us to sort it out, but once we did we just kept getting better and better.”
While Chaves led the entire session, he was never able to take it easy as his stablemate Vilarinho pressured him lap after lap, settling on a best time of 1:37.203 (74.553 mph) to stake his claim on the outside of the front row. The Brazilian fought off challenges from teammate Michael Lewis as well as overtures from Autotecnica pilots Gianmarco Raimondo and Alex Ellis to hold on to second, even after the session was extended for three minutes due to a late red flag.
“This qualifying session was very competitive,” Vilarinho said. “We were very close on the time charts the whole session. We’ll look at the data and see where we can pick up some time for tomorrow but I am very excited about being on the front row for the first race of the year.”
Raimondo made the most of the extra three minutes that the late red-flag period gave the field as he used his final lap to leap ahead of Lewis and into third after carding a time of 1:37.452 (74.363 mph).
“The team said there was about three minutes left in the session so I knew I had to get some heat in the tires quickly,” Raimondo said. “I just focused on my reference points and tried to put in a smooth lap and it was able to move us up a spot.”
Lewis would hold on to the fourth spot in the qualifying order and finish as the top rookie, while Ellis rounded out the top five. The first race of the 2009 Formula BMW Americas season will take place tomorrow afternoon beginning at 2:40 p.m. Mountain Time.
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