TOUGH WEEKEND FOR FORMULA BMW ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER Championship leader Sam Abay endured a difficult weekend in Thailand at rounds 12, 13 & 14 of the Formula BMW Asia Championship. Blistering heat greeted the Formula BMW drivers as they ...
TOUGH WEEKEND FOR FORMULA BMW ASIA CHAMPIONSHIP LEADER
Championship leader Sam Abay endured a difficult weekend in Thailand at rounds 12, 13 & 14 of the Formula BMW Asia Championship.
Blistering heat greeted the Formula BMW drivers as they headed onto the 2.4km Bira circuit for qualifying on Saturday morning.
Abay topped the time sheets during the second half of the qualifying session, but admitted to making a tactical error. "I set the pace and thought my time was good enough for pole position, so I came into the pits.
It didn't work out that way and I didn't have enough time left to go quicker" stated the youngster.
The result saw the Australian qualify third, eighteen hundredths of a second behind the eventual pole winning time.
RACE 1 (20 Laps)
The start of race one saw Abay maintain third position into the first turn, as Daniel Ricciardo dived past New Zealander, Earl Bamber, to take the lead. Ricciardo, Bamber and Abay were quick to extend a margin on the rest of field, and that's the order in which the three combatants would stay for the duration of the 20 lap race. Abay crossed the line in third place, recording his twelfth podium position from his twelve Formula BMW race starts.
"Our set-up simply didn't work, the car was a huge struggle to drive and we just weren't in contention for the win. But the team and I will put our heads together and sort it out for tomorrow" said Abay.
Delighted for his countryman Daniel Ricciardo who recorded his maiden win, Abay added "Daniel and I are good mates, so I'm thrilled for him. He drove an absolutely superb race today."
RACE 2 (20 Laps)
Race two saw Ricciardo leading Bamber and Abay off the start line. Bamber then had a dramatic spin exiting turn one. Abay was quick to take evasive action, but was unable to avoid striking Bamber's car. The contact broke Abay's front wing uprights, twisting his wing and dropping him back to seventh position.
Electing not to pit to replace the wing, the fiercely determined Australian then staged a incredible fight back, in spite of the damage effecting the handling of his car.
On a circuit renowned for being notoriously difficult for overtaking, Abay sliced his way through the field to third. By the final laps he had raced up to the back of Aaron Lim, and just missed out on second place by five hundredths of a second, as the two raced to the line.
Quite incredibly Abay's determined drive saw him set the fastest lap of the race with his wounded machine.
"I got tangled up in the drama at turn one, which damaged the front wing and knocked me back through the field. It was better to solider on, rather than lose more time replacing the wing, so I just did my best to adapt to the car's handling. It's obviously satisfying to be able to fight back like that and score another podium, but frustrating because I think we could have expected a much better result if not for the drama at the start, but these things happen."
RACE 3 (20 Laps)
Abay lined up third on the grid for the final race of the weekend, slotting in behind Ricciardo and Bamber at the first turn.
With the top three running nose to tail, Abay received a black flag on lap two, officials deeming his front wing was over the line on his allotted grid position at the start of the race. The ensuing "stop & go" penalty took the Australian youngster out of contention, dropping him well behind the field. Abay set about reeling off a string of stunning laps, racing back up to the pack. By the end of the race he had managed to haul himself into eighth position, salvaging valuable championship points and once again recording the fastest lap of the race.
"I'm really disappointed, but it was my error on the grid, pure and simple." said Abay candidly. "It's a huge shame because the whole team worked really hard to fix the set-up problems we had in race one yesterday, and we had the pace to challenge for the wins in both races today. We'll just have to make amends in Shanghai."
Abay leads the Driver's Championship by 14 points as the Formula BMW Asia Series heads to the next event at the Chinese Formula One Grand Prix in Shanghai on September 30 - October 1.