Philipp Eng had a near-perfect weekend at the Formula BMW World Final in Valencia, and he capped it with a dominating performance in the final race.
Starting from the pole position, Philipp Eng held position into the first corner against Daniel Morad's challenge, and never looked back, taking victory by 3.778 over his Mucke-Motorsport teammate, Josef Kral.
The emotional Eng celebrated his victory with an Austrian flag, happy to have achieved his dream but still at a loss for words. Third in the German Formula BMW championship, Eng won the Super Pole, and took two victories in the three heat races, and the one that really mattered -- the win in the final.
"My goal for the weekend was podium," Eng said. "In the end I won, and I'm so happy for the team. They worked so hard the last couple of days. We had some little problems and they did a fantastic job, I always had a perfectly prepared car. I'm so happy for the team!"
Eng had had some trouble with wheel spin in his heat race starts, but he nailed the start in the final. With Morad also getting a good start, the two were nose-to-tail into the first corner, but with Eng crucially in the front.
"I knew that if I could get into first place, I could pull away and do my pace," he explained. "It was quite a perfect start, but Daniel also had a good one -- but I managed to keep P1. I think that was they key to winning the race."
After the first few corners Morad's challenge never did quite fully materialize, though, as the Formula BMW USA champion's engine failed, apparently due to an electrical short in the steering wheel, before he was able to complete the third lap.
"I'm really sorry for what happened to Daniel," Eng said. "But that's racing, and it could happen to anybody. Until the very end, I kept looking at the displays, checking that the water temperature was not high, the oil pressure was not low ..."
After that, Kral took up the gauntlet, chasing his teammate. But Kral, who was driving only his second race weekend for Mucke-Motorsport, could not make an impression on the determined Eng. The Austrian pulled away from his teammate, lapping a tenth faster here, a tenth there, and setting the fastest race lap (1:17.418) in the process.
"I had some wheel spin at the start again," said Kral, who had started from third on the grid. "It wasn't like the UK (Formula BMW championship), because there the tracks usually have more grip. So I tried to start like in the UK, but that was bad, I think."
The second-place finish capped a strong comeback season for Kral, though. In 2006, his first year of Formula BMW, he had finished 12th in the German championship, and then had his second-place 2006 World Final finish removed because of a seemingly trivial technical infraction.
This year, Kral finished second in the UK championship, second in every heat race in the World Final, and again second in the final race -- a solid performance that will surely help move him up the motorsport ladder.
However, he did not have quite enough to challenge for the victory: in an impressive demonstration of consistency, from the ninth lap on, Eng rattled off 13 straight laps below 1:18, a barrier that only four drivers were able to better at all.
Behind the two Mucke-Motorsport drivers, Jonathan Legris held third for the first half of the race for Motaworld Racing, defending his position against constant attacks by Marco Wittman and Jens Klingmann. Wittman finally forced his way past Legris on the 13th lap, and on the next lap Klingmann, too was through.
By this time, though, Eng and Kral were disappearing over the horizon, and it fell to Wittman to secure the podium position against attacks by Klingmann, who had climbed up from the 11th starting position that he had been relegated to after his contact with Kral in the first race heat on Saturday.
Wittman showed that he was the faster of the two, and although he finished 5.5 seconds behind Kral, he had a solid 4.8-second margin to Klingmann at the chequered flag.
After that, it was Legris in fifth, in a close fight with Sebastian Saavedra, Carlos Huertas and Henry Arundel, the foursome battling all the way to the final lap. Saavedra had made his way past Huertas on the third lap, and after Klingmann disposed of Legris, Saavedra set to work on the Briton. However, his pace was not enough to make his way past Legris.
"It was really crazy in the first corner," Saavedra said. "In the second corner, I was able to go around the outside and pass a couple of cars. I did not have quite enough speed, we took a lot of wing out, but it was maybe not the right choice."
Saavedra, in sixth, was the top finisher for the Formula BMW USA championship, while Jack Lemvard scored the best result, 20th, for the historically relatively weaker Formula BMW Asia championship.
It has been a strong Class of 2007 for FOrmula BMW, as highlighted by this weekend's World Final. UK series champion Marcus Ericsson has already signed with his Formula BMW team, Fortec Motorsport, to run Formula 3 next year, and most of the top Formula BMW drivers will be eyeing similar moves.
"My greatest wish for next year would be to do the F3 Euroseries," Eng said of his future. "In the same team, with Peter Mucke, as they are also very competitive in F3. But that's only a wish, it doesn't depend only on driving a car fast, there is also the little matter of budgets! But I think my chances have now increased ..."
Of course, Eng will also be able to test the BMW Sauber Formula One car at Valencia in conjunction with next year's World Final -- certainly something for the newly-crowned World Final champion to look forward to. And if he keeps his form, more regular Formula One drives should yet be in his future.