Philipp Eng put it all together in the single-lap Super Pole shootout at the Formula BMW World Final in Valencia. Starting last in the Super Pole session, the Austrian set a time of 1:18.418, good for first by more than half a second.
More important than the prize money, the 17-year old will start each of his three heat races from pole position.
"It wasn't easy, for sure," Eng recounted after claiming the Super Pole. "I tried to warm up the tires and brakes as much as possible. I tried to carry as much speed as possible through the last corner (of the out lap) to get top speed on the straight. I think I just warmed up everything perfectly, and the lap was 100%, not over, but not under!"
Eng, who finished third in the German Formula BMW championship, had set the fastest time of the day in the second qualifying group with the fastest time of the day, at 1:16.832. That was just ahead of Daniel Morad's time of 1:16.986, and the two were the only drivers to brake the 1:17 barrier on the day.
Morad's qualifying session, though, ended with some drama with Sebastian Saavedra running off the track at turn 1 in front of him, and spraying him with gravel. The stones damaged the car's floor, windscreen and mirrors, and the Eurointernational team had to work at a frantic pace to get the car ready for the Super Pole -- no time for any adjustments.
"I wasn't pushing 100% for the first three corners," Morad explained. "After I got some temperature in the tires I could push, but it was too late by then. There was no need to destroy the car!"
That resulted in a time of 1:19.329, seventh in the Super Pole competition, but given the complex system of seeding the heat race groups, he will still start on the front row in each of the heat races, and on the pole in one of the three.
"There is a lot of potential in the car, and we'll just see how it works in the heats," he continued. "You have to finish the (heat) races, and my goal is to start on the front row in the final."
Josef Kral, who had qualified fourth in the first group, started third in the Super Pole for Mucke Motorsport. His time of 1:18.927 stood at the top of the charts until the last possible moment, when Eng put his perfect lap together.
Third fastest was Sam Abay, driving for Double R Racing for the first time. The young Australian was pleased to claim third place in the Super Pole competition after switching to Double R from Loctite Racing for the World Finals, although he still felt he could have done better.
"I made a mistake going into turn two, braked a little bit too late and missed the corner," he explained. "But I absolutely ragged it on the out lap, I shucked the car around like a rag doll to get heat in the tires, rode the brakes, anything I could do. The trick is not to go slow, you need to go flat out, but still get as much heat as possible."
Kral and Abay, though, will have to be satisfied with second-row starting positions under the complex Super Pole system; Jens Klingmann (sixth-fastest in the Super Pole), will start in front of Kral in Group B, while Morad is ahead of Abay in Group C.
Top starter in Group D will be Carlos Huertas in the second Double R Racing entry, ahead of Adrien Tambay. Huertas, who had finished a modest 13th in the UK championship, put it all together today. Second-fastest in group 1 qualifying, behind German champion Klingmann, Huertas followed up with a fifth-fastest Super Pole time.
"It was difficult," Huertas said. "It could have been better. I had a bad exit from the last corner on my out lap, and again on the last corner of my hot lap I braked too early. But it's my first Super Pole so I'm still happy."
For the fans of Formula BMW USA, the disappoint was in seeing Alexander Rossi and Esteban Guterriez, both championship front-runners, miss out on the Super Pole competition altogether. Both were badly caught by the red-flagged group 1 qualifying session. Rossi ran low on fuel before he was able to get another hot lap in, and Guterriez did not have a fresh set of tires left any more.
Both will now start from the third row in tomorrow's heat races, Rossi in Group B and Guterriez in Group D. Saavedra, who spun off in front of Morad, will be starting from fourth row with Group A.
The first two heat races tomorrow morning will face off Groups A & B, and C & D. The afternoon will see the A & C and B & D match-ups, while the final heat races (A & D and B & C) will be early Sunday morning.
The winner of each heat race will receive 0 points, with all others receiving a number of points corresponding to their finishing positions (e.g. 2 points for 2nd, 3 points for 3rd and so on). The driver with the least points will then start Sunday afternoon's final from pole position.
Eng is in a strong position for the heat races, and is looking forward to the racing action: "I have a good starting position tomorrow for the heats and we'll see!"