AP: Sepang rounds one, two race notes

Emphatic win for Malaysian wunderkind. Maiden victory for Grunwell. Sepang, Malaysia -- Fourteen-year-old racing prodigy Jazeman Jaafar (Team Meritus) became the first Malaysian ever to win a Formula BMW Asia race when he took an emphatic ...

Emphatic win for Malaysian wunderkind.
Maiden victory for Grunwell.

Sepang, Malaysia -- Fourteen-year-old racing prodigy Jazeman Jaafar (Team Meritus) became the first Malaysian ever to win a Formula BMW Asia race when he took an emphatic victory in the opening round of the 2007 season. Second across the line after 20-laps was former BMW Junior and Jaafar's team mate James Grunwell (18/THA), followed by pole-sitter Zahir Ali (19/INA/Team TARADTM). Top Rookie was BMW Junior Ross Jamison (17/HKG/Team Meritus), who had qualified second fastest earlier in the day.

In Round 2, the positions were reversed with Grunwell taking his maiden Formula BMW Asia victory with Jaafar in second, while BMW Junior Kyle Mitchell (16/Eurasia Motorsport), the series' first South African driver, put in an extraordinary performance to grab the final podium spot having started the race from 10th on the grid.

Jaafar, the youngest Formula BMW Asia driver ever was thrilled to have triumphed in his first race with the series, and at his "home" circuit to boot: "I had a really great start, but my hands were shaking when I saw the lights. I know I had a chance after turn two. I had a real battle with James who was fighting every corner, and then Zahir came up to battle for second. It feels fantastic to win my debut race!"

Despite losing out on the win to his team mate, Grunwell, who has a full season of Formula BMW Asia already under his belt having finished 4th overall last year, was full of praise for Jaafar: "He made an amazing move round the outside, and then blocked really well. I made a mistake by concentrating on blocking Zahir too much and gave him Jazeman a gap."

Grunwell got a good start from 3rd on the grid, and dived inside Jamison to go 2nd behind Ali got away well off the line. However, any confidence was short-lived when Jazeman appeared in their mirrors and charged round the outside and into the lead. Meanwhile Mitchell made a superb start and was up to 3rd by the first turn, before Ali shot by on the following corner.

Mitchell held is 4th place despite strong pressure from Jamison, until the pair had a coming together mid-way through the race. Mitchell came off worst, with a damaged wing dropping him back to 10th, while Jamison, despite the balance of the car being affected, held on to take the Rookie Cup win. Second and third Rookie finishers were BMW Junior Akhil Khushlani (17/IND/Eurasia Motorsport) and American racer Sean McDonagh (17/Team E-Rain).

In the second race, Grunwell was thrilled to take a well deserved victory at the start of his second season in Formula BMW Asia, while Jaafar admitted he still had a lot to learn, despite taking his second podium of the day. However, it was Mitchell who earned the respect of the entire field with his determined charge from the back of the pack.

Second in the Rookie Cup in Round 2 was Khushlani, another good result in his debut outing, with Jamison in third.

Starting from pole, Jaafar again got away well, but Grunwell was on a charge, getting alongside the Malaysian twice, the second time making the manoeuvre stick, to take the lead. As Grunwell pulled away, a furious battle ensued with Ali desperate to make his mark and piling the pressure on Jaafar, diving on the inside then the outside looking for a way past. Meanwhile, Mitchell had climbed through the field, and was biding his time behind the battling duo. His chance came mid-way through the race when Ali finally found a way past Jaafar, if only for a moment, and Kyle saw the opportunity to charge through into 3rd.

Despite having the furious Indonesian right on his tail, Mitchell held firm, refusing to be rattled, to take his first podium in just his second race, and claiming the Rookie Cup victory in the process.

Formula BMW Asia continues tomorrow (Sunday) with Rounds 3 and 4 run over 20 laps of Sepang International Circuit's 2.706km North Circuit.

Jaafar's pole position, win and 2nd place put him top of the Driver Classification on 86 points, with Grunwell just one point adrift, followed by Ali on 72. Jamison and Khushlani are equal at the top of the Rookie Cup standings with 64 points apiece, with Imran Shaharom of Malaysia (19/Team Holzer PFX) in 3rd on 56 points.

In the brand new Nations Cup, introduced for this season, Malaysia and Thailand are tied at the top, with Indonesia 3rd, and Hong Kong and India tied 4th.

-credit: bmw.asia

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About this article
Series Formula BMW
Drivers Jazeman Jaafar , Zahir Ali , Ross Jamison , Sean McDonagh , James Grunwell , Imran Shaharom