Esteban Gutierrez, the reigning Formula BMW Europe champion, is leading the heat race point standings together with Daniel Juncadella, after two of three heats at the Formula BMW World Final in Mexico City.
"I'm really happy about this day," Gutierrez said. "We were competitive in both heats, despite taking a rather conservative approach, as I didn't want to risk a promising grid position for the final. One win is in the bag, and I want to add some more tomorrow."
Gutierrez and Juncadella each won one of the two heats run today, and finished third in the other, each scoring a total of three points. Results in the heat races are scored with zero points to the winner (and others a number of points equal to the finishing position), similar to sailing competitions.
Gutierrez started each of the heat races on the inside of the second row. He had taken fourth place in yesterday's Super Pole competition, but as Alexander Rossi was penalized four positions for an out-of-spec rear wing, the young Mexican moved to the third grid position.
From there, he moved swiftly past Juncadella and polesitter Jim Pla before the first corner. Halfway through the race, though, Pla managed to take the lead back after some sustained pressure.
Then things went from bad to worse for Gutierrez, as his Eurointernational teammate, Michael Christensen, took second place from the Mexican only four laps later. The Danish rookie, who had started fifth, took the lead from Pla on the following lap, and looked set for victory.
However, Gutierrez was not done yet, and he took the lead back on the final lap of the heat, finishing 0.714 seconds in front of Christensen. Pla fell back further, and Juncadella moved up to take third, 1.571 seconds behind Christensen -- and only 0.174 ahead of the charging Rossi. Pla eventually finished seventh.
In the second heat, Pla was likely feeling the pressure on his second pole position, and jumped the start, incurring a drive-through penalty. Juncadella and Gutierrez now had a clear road in front of them, but this time the Colombian held firm, denying Gutierrez any opportunity to make a pass.
"My good start laid the foundation for my win in heat two," said Juncadella. "I passed Jim Pla and kept the lead right until the finish. Of course I have high hopes for tomorrow now. It's all about not risking too much in the final heat - and then give your all in the final."
Meanwhile, Rossi fought his way up from sixth position, and taking second place from Gutierrez before the halfway point of the race. Jazeman Jaafar finished fourth, followed by Christensen.
"In the second race, I got a great start and the car was awesome," explained Rossi, who set the fastest lap times in each of the two heats. "Within six or seven laps I was up to second so I could not be happier."
The third heat will be held on Sunday morning, with the grid based on heat 1 results -- giving Gutierrez an advantage for the final heat.
The finals will follow in the afternoon, the grid being set based on the heat race points standings. The provisional standings have Gutierrez and Juncadella tied at three points, followed by Rossi with six and Christensen with seven. All other drivers have 12 or more points, making the final heat a four-way contest.