AP: Zhuhai round 19 summary

Bamber clinches 2006 Formula BMW Asia title. Zhuhai, China -- Sixteen-year-old Earl Bamber (NZL/Team Meritus) made a clean sweep of the 2006 Formula BMW Asia season today, adding the Drivers' title to the Rookie Cup he had already clinched in...

Bamber clinches 2006 Formula BMW Asia title.

Zhuhai, China -- Sixteen-year-old Earl Bamber (NZL/Team Meritus) made a clean sweep of the 2006 Formula BMW Asia season today, adding the Drivers' title to the Rookie Cup he had already clinched in the penultimate round of the series. Bamber took the final win of the 19-round season on the 4.3km Zhuhai International Circuit from Formula BMW Junior Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Eurasia Motorsport), and fellow Junior Dominic Storey (NZL/Eurasia Motorsport) in what was a thrilling 12-lap season-closer.

The final Driver Classification sees Bamber win the championship by 16 points from Sam Abay (AUS/Team E-Rain), with Ricciardo in 3rd and James Grunwell (THA/Team Meritus) 4th. In the Rookie Cup, Ricciardo was the runner-up to Bamber followed by Grunwell and Storey, while Team Meritus clinched its fourth-successive Team title, its third successive Rookie Cup title and third Driver title.

Said the newly-crowned champion: "This means a lot, it's my first car racing championship and to do it in my rookie year is really something. I'm incredibly pleased. It means huge recognition back home. Three wins was a big ask this weekend."

Abay, who persevered, despite a damaged car, was philosophical about losing out on the title having led the championship for much of the season: "Never say die! What's the point of stopping if the car is still going? I'm thrilled with the team this year. Great team work is what it's all about and that's what got me this far. Coming 2nd just makes me more hungry than ever."

Starting from pole, Bamber put in his second perfect performance of the day, and was never threatened. However, this was far from the case behind him when, off the grid, chaos reigned with Ricciardo had an outing on to the grass, dropping back to 8th from 2nd on the grid, Grunwell shunting off, and Abay emerging with a badly bent rear wing. Behind the race leader, who was busy pulling out a comfortable gap, Storey led fellow Formula BMW Junior Aaron Lim (MAS/Eurasia Motorsport), Abay and Zahir Ali (INA/Eurasia Motorsport).

Ricciardo, spurred on by his mistake at the start, was a man on fire. From 8th, the Australian staged a phenomenal comeback, ploughing through the field to finish 2nd, and setting the fastest lap in the process.

Like the start, the final lap was drama-filled. Storey got by Lim and, as Ali followed him to also pass the Malaysian, Abay charged past both to take 4th.

Having wrapped up a successful 4th season, Formula BMW Asia swings back in to action tomorrow as its driver search continues, this time in Southern China. Several young karters will join local journalists for the Formula BMW Experience, an in-depth introduction to the series and a chance to drive the FB02. Next up will be the Formula BMW Asia Scholarship trials, where aspiring racers will have the chance to earn a 50,000 USD contribution towards the 2007 Formula BMW Asia season, plus a year in the comprehensive Education and Coaching Programme. The trials will be held at the start of March 07 at the Bahrain International Circuit.

Having just crowned a 16-year-old New Zealander Formula BMW Asia champion 2006, the search is already on for the next star of the future.

-credit: bmw, asia

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