AP: Zhuhai rounds 17, 18, 19 preview

Three-way title chase in final showdown. Zhuhai, China -- All eyes will be on Zhuhai International Circuit this weekend as Formula BMW Asia makes its South China debut for what promises to be a thrilling championship-decider. Australian...

Three-way title chase in final showdown.

Zhuhai, China -- All eyes will be on Zhuhai International Circuit this weekend as Formula BMW Asia makes its South China debut for what promises to be a thrilling championship-decider.

Australian Sam Abay (19/Team E-Rain) leads the Driver Classification going in to the final three rounds of the 2006 season, with New Zealand Rookie Earl Bamber (16/Team Meritus) hot on his heels just 16 points behind. The pair took a win apiece in Shanghai earlier this month, where Formula BMW Asia was an official support race to the 2006 Formula 1 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix, but it is Bamber who has scored more wins this year with seven victories to Abay's five. However, three single-digit points scoring outings this season were a real blow to Bamber's title aspirations, but he fought back hard to stay in contention.

Another driver in with a chance of clinching the title at the weekend is BMW Junior Daniel Ricciardo (AUS/Eurasia Motorsport). Ricciardo lies 56 points behind Abay, but with a potential 63 points to be won over the three rounds (including the additional point awarded for pole position), he is still in with a mathematical chance of taking the title.

Out of the running for the Driver Classification, but in with a shot at the Rookie Cup is Formula BMW Asia Junior James Grunwell (THA/Team Meritus). Bamber currently tops the Rookie leaderboard ahead of Ricciardo, with Grunwell 3rd.

Sadly, it looks as though two drivers who have seen enormous improvement in their performance in the last few rounds will run out of races in which to show their true potential. Formula BMW Asia Juniors and Eurasia Motorsport team mates Aaron Lim (21/MAS), 5th in the Driver Classification, and Dominic Storey (16/NZL), 6th, have each notched up two podium finishes over the last four rounds and are looking ripe for a win. Lim struggled with his car at the start of the season before a replacement saw a change in fortunes, while for Storey, a bout of food poisoning in Indonesia in July resulted in a disastrous weekend where he collected just six points in three races.

Qualifying and Round 17 of Formula BMW Asia will be held on Saturday, October 21 at the Zhuhai International Circuit, with Round 18 and 19, the final race of the 2006 season, run on Sunday, October 22.

Following what promises to be an exciting grand finale to the 2006 season, a group of young karters, as well as media guests, from the surrounding regions of China will be given their first taste Formula BMW Asia at the track on Monday. The Formula BMW Experience Day has become a popular feature, and provides potential drivers with a full overview of the series and an opportunity to actually get behind the wheel of the FB02.

Always looking ahead, Formula BMW Asia is already prepared for its 5th season, and the teams recently announced a 22-race, six-event standard season package for 130,000 US-Dollars, representing a cost of less than 6000 US-Dollars per race.

The provisional calendar for 2007 features four races per weekend, plus two rounds held as official support events to the 2007 Formula 1 Sinopec Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. The season will get underway in May following an official introductory test the previous month, and will see Formula BMW Asia travel to Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, with three meetings in China: In Beijing, Shanghai and Zhuhai. Five of the six events will be held as part of the Asian Festival of Speed.

BMW Motorsport has also confirmed five Scholarships will be up for grabs for next season, each worth 50,000 US-Dollars, including a 10,000 US-Dollar credit for a spare engine and spare parts. BMW Scholarship winners also have the benefit of a full year in the comprehensive Education and Coaching Programme free of charge, and the trials to find Asia's brightest talent will be held at the beginning of March 2007. One Scholarship will automatically be awarded to the winner of this season's Rookie Cup.

-credit: bmw.asia

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Daniel Ricciardo , Aaron Lim , James Grunwell , Sam Abay , Earl Bamber , Dominic Storey