Well, it’s not as if his competitors didn’t see it coming... After Gabby Chaves romped to two dominant wins in the opening two rounds of the 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship at the 2.09-mile Miguel E. Abed road course in Puebla, Mexico (supporting the World Touring Car Championship), no one could say that the 15-year-old’s victories came as a surprise. In the official pre-season test days – two at Palm Beach International Raceway and two at Carolina Motorsports Park – Chaves had been the quickest in each of the four days.
At Puebla, the Colombian-American driver took pole for both races over his EuroInternational teammate Giancarlo Vilarinho. Chaves’ lap of 1:35.845 in round-two qualifying was the fastest of the weekend. Chaves then led every lap to beat Vilarinho by 2 seconds in race one, then in race two waltzed to a 5-second margin of victory over Gianmarco Raimondo (after second-place-at-the-time Vilarinho’s car suffered an electrical failure). In sum: Two poles, two wins, led every lap and put up the weekend’s quickest lap.
Raised and currently living in Weston (northwest of Miami), dual-citizen Chaves raced karts as a pre-teen. In 2007, at age 13, he started racing and winning in the open-wheel Skip Barber Regional Races Series. Before the year was out, Chaves entered a couple of race weekends in the ultra-competitive Skip Barber National (the same series 2008 FBMW champion Alexander Rossi had also starred) and immediately impressed: a third place at Cleveland and a second place at Road America.
In 2008 Chaves entered five Skip Barber National races. He won the first race at Sebring (missing the second to enter FBMW races in Malaysia), then continued his streak with two wins at Virginia International Raceway. In his last SBN event, at Mosport, Chaves took a pole, finishing third and fourth in the races.
Remember, this was all at age 14, beating the likes of eventual champion Conor Daly and Kent Formula Ford Festival champion Josef Newgarden.
After his domination in Puebla, Chaves said, “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.
“This was a great way to start the season for me and my team,” Chaves added. “Now I get to celebrate, then get back to my physical training and get ready for our next race at VIR [April 24-26].”
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