AP: 2007 season preview

Youngest field ever and 11 nations for 2007. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The youngest and most culturally-diverse field of drivers ever assembled since its inception in 2003 will line up for the start of the 22-round, 2007 Formula BMW Asia ...

Youngest field ever and 11 nations for 2007.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The youngest and most culturally-diverse field of drivers ever assembled since its inception in 2003 will line up for the start of the 22-round, 2007 Formula BMW Asia season on May 5 at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

New for this season, the Formula BMW Asia Nations Cup will allow drivers to score points for their country. For each round, points will be awarded to the highest placed driver from each nation in the top ten.

As Formula BMW Asia continues to strengthen its position as the region's premier entry-level single seater series, three new teams join this season: Team Holzer PFX, which will run the three top graduates from the inaugural PETRONAS Formula Xperience (PFX) Racing School course, is headed by Gunther and Ronald Holzer; Team TARADTM, an Indonesian outfit; and Engstler Bollywood Racing, an inspired pairing of Engstler Motorsport's racing expertise and the glamour of Bollywood.

Championship-winning Malaysian-Irish outfit Team Meritus is back with a vengeance, fielding six cars, while Eurasia Motorsport has further strengthened its capabilities through a tie-up with the successful Raikkonen Robertson Racing (Double R Racing) Formula 3 team. South Korean outfit Team E-Rain, second in the Team Classification last year, fields the series' first ever driver from the USA this year.

Five Formula BMW Asia Juniors, winners of scholarships following trials in Bahrain earlier this year, join a further seven drivers in the Rookie Cup category.

A total of 16 drivers are currently registered from 11 countries and territories representing more than half the world's population. Represented on the grid for 2007 are: China, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Africa, Thailand, and the USA.

China.

From the world's most populous country comes Formula BMW Asia Junior David Zhu (16/Team Meritus). Beijing-based Zhu began karting at the age of 12, graduating to junior single seaters in 2006 and winning the China Formula Campus series with a massive 20-point margin.

Zhu became involved in motorsport almost by mistake when he and his father happened upon a karting track on their way to a horse riding outing. He started his first race from the back of the grid, but managed to plough through to finish on the podium, and his talent attracted the support of China's ASN, the Federation of Automobile Sports of China.

Germany.

Ex-karter Dennis Vollmair (17/Engstler Bollywood Racing) this year becomes the first German driver ever to compete in Formula BMW Asia.

Hong Kong.

The fact the high-rise city of Hong Kong had no permanent outdoor karting track at the time did not deter Formula BMW Asia Junior Ross Jamison (17/Team Meritus) from following his dream and embarking on a career in motorsport. He got his start, aged ten, in an electric kart at an indoor circuit run by Team Meritus Principal Peter Thompson. He made his mark there, impressing Thompson, and went on to win the Asian Karting Open Championship five years later. In 2006, he was named Asian International Karter of the Year.

India.

Hyderabad-born Akhil Khushlani (17/Eurasia Motorsport) is another of the five Formula BMW Asia Juniors this season. Khushlani won the National Rotax Max Challenge in 2005, and notched up five wins in Formula Rolon last season.

When the mother of Cchiranjeev R. Bedi (17/Engstler Bollywood Racing) declared her son was "born in 10 minutes and has been into speed ever since," she was right, and from the age of five he was determined to forge a career in motorsport. Having competed in the JK Tyres and Indian karting championships, he raced a car for the first time last year at the Merdeka 12 Hour Race in Malaysia.

Bedi is the son of Bollywood star Ranjeet D. Bedi, veteran of 560 movies and, although he has appeared in a couple of his father's films, his sights are set firmly on the world of international motorsport.

The masterstroke of combining the glamour of Bollywood, a name created by combining Bombay (now Mumbai) and Hollywood, with motor racing came about through team manager Manmohanjit Thind's involvement in the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and the Sepang International Circuit projects . The link-up with Engstler Motorsport of Germany was realised through the relationship of Mr. Thind with Franz Engstler & Kurt Treml, and this year the concept of Engstler Bollywood Racing becomes reality.

Indonesia.

Zahir Ali (19/Team TARADTM) embarks upon his second Formula BMW Asia season this year. Ali finished 7th in the Driver Classification last season, however he had been forced to miss out on the last three rounds which hurt his final points tally. Ali won the Indonesian Karting Championship in 2002 and the Indonesian & ASEAN Championship the following year. He was quick in pre-season testing this year, and is expected to be a strong title contender.

Japan.

Formula BMW Asia Junior Shohei Shiromoto (17/Team E-Rain) was a keen swimmer until his father planted the seed of a career in motorsport, something for which Shiromoto is eternally grateful. He hasn't looked back since, and doesn't miss his days in the pool. He began karting in 2000, and this year he steps up to single seater racing for the first time.

Malaysia.

Malaysia is represented by no fewer than five drivers this year, a record number and the most from any nation.

The top three graduates of the PFX Racing School have each earned a scholarship from PETRONAS to further develop their skills in Formula BMW Asia this year. The drivers, all of whom are racing with Team Holzer-PFX, are: Melvin Moh Chun Ho (18), who began karting in 2000, won the KKS Karting Championship, Formula 125 Class, and was runner-up in the Malaysian Rotax Max Challenge Senior Category last year; Imran Zaharias Bin Shaharom (18), second in the 2004 Asian Kart Open Championship, Formula 100 category, and race winner in the Senior Class of the ROK Challenge last year; and Johan Bin Adzmi (17), who won the KKS Karting Championship, Formula Junior in 2003.

Jazeman Jaafar (14/Team Meritus) is the youngest driver in the field and definitely one to watch. Karting from the age of five, he won the Asian Karting Open Championship Cadet Class in 2003 and 2004, the Asian Max Challenge and Belgian Open Championship in 2005, and was 3rd overall in the Asian Formula Renault series last year.

Team mate Huzair Huran (18/Team Meritus) only began karting in 2005, but won the Yamaha Championship last year and is determined to make his mark in a field of far more experienced racers.

Pakistan

Omer Younas (19/Team Meritus) becomes the first Pakistani driver to enter the series. Younas is truly a newcomer to the sport, having taken up karting just one year ago.

South Africa.

Even before the start of the 2007 season Formula BMW Asia Junior Kyle Mitchell (16/Eurasia Motorsport) has already made his mark as one of the most energetic and enthusiastic drivers in the field. Winner of the Rotax Mini Max World Championship in 2003, Mitchell was badly injured in 2004. He bounced back to win the ROK Junior National Championship the following year, and the ROK Junior World Championship in 2006.

Thailand.

A Formula BMW Asia Junior last season, James Grunwell (18/Team Meritus) had an impressive debut season finishing 3rd in the Rookie Cup and 4th in the overall Driver Classification. A Thai driver racing internationally is something of a rarity, despite a growing domestic karting scene, and Grunwell is hoping to inspire more drivers to spread their wings and compete at a higher level.

United States of America.

Watching Champ Car in Long Beach, near his home in California, sparked the interest of Sean McDonagh (17/Team E-Rain), and he began karting at the age of 12. His first car race, however, didn't come until last year when his family moved to Korea and bought a race car from Team E-Rain Principal Hong Sik Jeon. In his first three car races ever, in the domestic Korean F1800 series, he impressed with a win and a podium finish, and the team signed him up for their Formula BMW Asia campaign.

-credit: bmw.asia

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Formula BMW
Drivers Franz Engstler , Jazeman Jaafar , Zahir Ali , Ross Jamison , Dennis Vollmair , Shohei Shiromoto , Johan Bin Adzmi , Akhil Khushlani , Sean McDonagh , Melvin Moh , James Grunwell , David Zhu , Omer Younas