AP: Zhuhai round 17 summary

Bamber takes win from devastated Ricciardo. Zhuhai, China -- Earl Bamber (NZL/Team Meritus) took a brilliant win today from a devastated Formula BMW Junior Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Eurasia Motorsport), who had led the race from pole right up until...

Bamber takes win from devastated Ricciardo.

Zhuhai, China -- Earl Bamber (NZL/Team Meritus) took a brilliant win today from a devastated Formula BMW Junior Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Eurasia Motorsport), who had led the race from pole right up until the final few metres of the 12-lap race. Third was another Formula BMW Junior, James Grunwell (THA/Team Meritus) who emerged from a three-way fight with series leader Sam Abay (AUS/Team E-Rain) and Junior Dominic Storey (NZL/Eurasia Motorsport) to claim his 7th podium of the season.

Bamber's win means he is just six points adrift of Abay with only 24-laps and two races remaining to decide the winner of the 2006 Formula BMW Asia season. Ricciardo is now out of the running for the top spot. In the Rookie Cup standings, the victory gives Bamber a massive 37 point lead making him virtually untouchable.

Although of little consolation to the indisputably-talented Australian, Ricciardo made his mark with both his fellow drivers and the several thousand Chinese racing fans that turned out to watch the race. Cool and unshakable, he held off an increasingly-frustrated Bamber right up until the final few metres of the race. In a display of clean, concise racing at its very best, neither driver at any time endangered the other and, with full credit due to Bamber, when he realised he was unable to rattle his adversary, he bided his time before making his decisive move on the final turn of the last lap. Ricciardo had believed that Bamber had made the overtaking under yellow flags, but race officials ruled otherwise.

Ricciardo got away well from pole, but Bamber was piling on the pressure from the word "go" and didn't let up for the entire 12 laps. Behind the pair, chaos almost ensued with three cars making excursions on to the grass. At the end of the opening lap, a mere 0.315 seconds separated Ricciardo and Bamber, while Storey and Zahir Ali (INA/Eurasia Motorsport) were having their own battle behind the leaders. On Lap 9, Ali made his move on Storey but subsequently spun off, rejoining the race but losing his position. The three-way fight which ensued between Storey, Grunwell and Abay had the Chinese spectators on their feet, with Grunwell emerging victorious to claim 3rd, followed by Abay with Storey relegated to third.

Said Bamber: "It was a really difficult race, probably the hardest of the season so far. Daniel was fast and really held out well. We're throwing everything we have at it (championship campaign) this weekend. To miss out on pole by 3,000th of a second was disappointing though."

Grunwell was delighted with his unexpected podium finish. Off the pace during practice, and with two engine changes behind him, he had an eventful race: "I got a good start and was up to 4th, then I had an off which put me back to 6th, but I managed to come through to 3rd."

For Abay, who had only been off the podium once this season, it was an obvious disappointment: "I didn't get the best start and I was caught in the traffic unintentionally. I put the car in the place which it shouldn't have been, and that's why I made a mistake at the second-to-last turn on the opening lap. I ran wide and went on the grass. I caught up to James and Dominic and then got by into 4th. I was trying to catch James but made a mistake under braking, so I couldn't close the gap." On hearing title rival Bamber had won the race, he said only: "There's a lot of pressure about!"

The deciding rounds of the 2006 Formula BMW Asia season will be held tomorrow (Sunday) on the 4.3km Zhuhai International Circuit.

-credit: bmw,asia

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Daniel Ricciardo , Zahir Ali , Sam Abay , Earl Bamber , Dominic Storey