AP: 2005 scholarship announcement

Formula BMW Asia 2005 Juniors Announced. The five lucky recipients of the Formula BMW Asia 2005 scholarships are confirmed, with drivers from five countries across Asia Pacific about to embark on their single seater careers. The drivers...

Formula BMW Asia 2005 Juniors Announced.

The five lucky recipients of the Formula BMW Asia 2005 scholarships are confirmed, with drivers from five countries across Asia Pacific about to embark on their single seater careers.

The drivers are Wang Jian Wei (20) of China, An Suk Won (18) of South Korea, Armaan Ebrahim (15) of India, Michael Patrizi (20) of Australia, with the fifth scholarship going to Robert Boughey (22) of Thailand, runner- up in the Formula BMW Rookie Cup last year.

The four new youngsters were selected from 31 drivers who signed up for the evaluation and license courses held at the new BMW Performance Center at the Bahrain International Circuit last month.

Each of the five Scholarships provide a USD 50 000 subsidy towards competing in the series, as well as the season-long, comprehensive Education & Coaching Programme. The youngsters are taught far more than driving, technology and how to set up a racing car. Driving Skills and Tactics, Chassis Set-up, Fitness Training and Nutrition, Media Training and Public Relations, and Sponsorship and Sports Management are also integral elements of the curriculum.

Wang Jian Wei hails from Hebei Province in China and, as well as being a racing driver, is also an assistant racing instructor in the Capital Beijing. He has raced in some rounds of the China Rally Championship, and the 1600cc Class of the China Circuit Championship, but has not competed in single seaters - or karts - before.

With the popularity of motorsport growing almost as fast as the economy in the world's most populous country, there will be a strong interest in Wang's performance this year as the development of Chinese drivers continues.

South Korea's An Suk Won has an impressive karting career under his belt having won the 2001 Everland Cup Kart Championship in his home country with four wins. The following year he went on to clinch the Hyundai Insurance Cup Karting series, again notching up four wins. In 2003 and 2004, he competed in some rounds of the national F-1800 KMRC series, winning a race last year.

An became interested in motorsport through his father, himself a former racer, and the youngster cites 2003 Formula BMW Asia Junior and last year's championship runner-up You Kyong-Ouk, also Korean, as his favourite driver! He will have the backing of BMW Korea as he embarks upon the next stage of his career which he hopes will take him all the way to Formula 1.

Armaan Ebrahim, son of Akbar Ebrahim a major figure in Indian motorsport and the country's first ever Formula 3 driver, began his career in a two stroke Comer engine kart at the age of four, racing around car parks as there were no tracks in India at the time. His next taste of racing came at 13 when he attended the first Rotax Karting school in Bangalore. Teacher at the school was Malaysian racing driver Ng Wai Leong who took the youngster to his home country to train for six months, and karting successes followed.

In 2004, Ebrahim took part in the Asian Kart Open Championship, winning the Philippines round, and that same year won the Indian Rotax Junior Max Challenge Series with a perfect score of five wins in five races. He also competed in the JK Tyre Indian National Formula LGB 1300cc Class, winning the championship at the age of just 15, making him the youngest Indian ever to win a national single seater championship.

Ebrahim has spent a great deal of time with and received training from Narain Karthikeyan, the latest addition to Formula 1 and the first Indian ever to reach the pinnacle of motorsport. Akbar believes this could well mark a turning point for the sport in India as more youngsters take their cue from Karthikeyan and take a professional approach to racing, while sponsors will become more aware of the benefits of invovlement in motor racing.

Michael Patrizi is the first Australian to win a Formula BMW Asia Scholarship which is made all the more exciting in the year in which the series will make its first visit to his country.

After winning the 2002 Australian Karting Championship, Patrizi raced in Italy in 2003, in the European and World Karting Championships. In 2004, he competed in his first Australian Formula Ford season, in both the New South Wales and Victoria championships.

Robert Boughey, who won a scholarship for 2004 so will have the benefit of a second year in the Education and Coaching Programme, will certainly be one to watch this season. He begins the year determined to clinch the title, in fact he is looking to repeat the dominance of the 2003 and 2004 champions, Ho Pin Tung and Marchy Lee. A conscientious and talented driver who began last season with virtually no racing experience and without the benefit of a background in karting, Boughey's talent developed quickly and will continue to do so. He has tested extensively over the winter break and continued with his taxing fitness programme.

This year, the drivers will have even more to fight for as BMW Motorsport will award the 2005 Formula BMW Asia Champion a free season in the Formula BMW UK Championship 2006. The prize, worth the equivalent of USD 200 000, will mean the chance to compete against Britain's hottest young single seater talent as well as exposure to some of the world's leading Formula 3 outfits, the next step in a driver's career.

In 2005, Formula BMW Asia will span seven meetings with two Rounds at each event. The series travels to Dubai for the first time, then Bahrain where it is a support event to the Middle East round of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, Malaysia, China, South Korea, Australia, another first for the series, with the final Rounds held as part of the China Formula 1 Grand Prix in Shanghai.

-bmw.ap-

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