AMER: Series Lime Rock rounds 8, 9 preview

Formula BMW Americas Starts Second Half of 2009 Season With Journey To Lime Rock Park Giancarlo Vilarinho is in the midst of a Formula BMW Americas record five-race winning streak as the series visits Lime Rock Park this weekend, but the ...

Formula BMW Americas Starts Second Half of 2009 Season With Journey To Lime Rock Park

Giancarlo Vilarinho is in the midst of a Formula BMW Americas record five-race winning streak as the series visits Lime Rock Park this weekend, but the victory skein has only given the Brazilian a five-point lead in the standings in what has been a heated championship battle through the first half of the year.

The Eurointernational duo of Vilarinho and 16-year-old Gabby Chaves lead the series standings after seven events as the field heads to the 1.51-mile Lime Rock Park circuit for Rounds 8 and 9 Friday and Saturday. Chaves showed that he is primed to make up ground on his teammate as he set a new track record two weeks ago in the series' open test at Putnam Park. But Vilarinho gained seat time on the tricky track last season and hopes to have an edge at the demanding Connecticut course.

"I like the track a lot and learned a lot about it by running in both races last year," Vilarinho said. "It doesn't give you time to breathe, you are constantly lining up for the next corner. The rest of the guys are going to be pushing me hard. It will be tough."

The Formula BMW Americas series has a long history at Lime Rock, as the hilly layout hosted the first series event there in 2004. The series has contested eight races at Lime Rock with inaugural season champion Andreas Wirth being the only driver to win more than once. In the eight races run, only two have seen wire-to-wire victories and five of the eight have featured late-race passes for the lead.

Autotecnica's Gianmarco Raimondo is the only driver in this year's field to have scored a Formula BMW Americas podium finish at Lime Rock, having finished third there a year ago. The Canadian Formula BMW Junior pilot is third in the series standings and will bank on last year's experience to close the gap to the leaders.

"From experience I know that the strategy for Lime Rock will be to try and focus more on a good qualifying for the race because the passing is very risky," Raimondo said. "I believe these races will result in close finishes because the lap is not even a minute long and is very easy to learn. A fun track to drive!"

The skirmish atop the standings isn't the only one being fought in close quarters as the rookie battle has three drivers within seven points. Eurointernational's Michael Lewis holds the lead ahead of Team Apex's James Kovacic and Autotecnica's Alex Ellis. Kovacic's Team Apex squadmate Joao Horto is also in reach of the rookie lead and hopes to use the lessons learned at the recent Putnam test to make his move.

"The test at Putnam Park was very good for us," Horto explained. "It will help me this weekend not only with what we found with the car, but also to help adapt quickly to an unfamiliar track. I am very confident in the Team Apex car and am looking forward to learning another classic American road course."

Qualifications for both the eighth and ninth rounds will take place on Friday at Lime Rock Park, setting the stage for a pair of 25-lap races on Saturday. The first race will run at 9 a.m. with the second race beginning at 12:35 p.m.

-credit: bmw

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Michael Lewis , Giancarlo Vilarinho , Gianmarco Raimondo , Joao Horto , James Kovacic , Gabby Chaves