Teams hail brilliant Formula BMW Pacific season.
The 2008 Formula BMW Pacific season has been hailed as the best yet, culminating in a triumphant debut at the Macau Grand Prix last month.
It was a brilliant season and one which will be remembered as much for its superb racing as for the circuits on which the talented young field competed.
Highlights of the year included being the first-ever racing cars on the Marina Bay street circuit at the inaugural Formula 1 SINGTEL Singapore Grand Prix in September, and seeing the FB02 on Macau's legendary Guia street circuit for the first time. In 2008, Formula BMW Pacific supported no fewer than three rounds of the FIA Formula One World Championship -- in Malaysia, Singapore and China -- and ensured plenty of track time for the drivers during the Asian Festival of Speed weekends in Malaysia and Indonesia.
Newly crowned champion and 2007 Formula BMW Junior Ross Jamison (18/HKG/Meritus) worked tirelessly throughout the year to clinch the title in his second season. By the close of the season, Jamison had built an impressive margin of 49 points, and had topped the leaderboard throughout the year. Jamison's success is just the latest example of the merits of the Formula BMW Education and Coaching Programme, unique in Asia and worldwide.
One of this season's Formula BMW Juniors, Simon Moss (17/RSA/Mahara), worked hard to hone his skills and was rewarded with the 2008 Rookie Cup title. Moss also finished third overall in the Driver Classification, while Sean McDonagh (19/USA/Team E-Rain), Jamison's arch, on-track rival all year, was second overall.
The Pacific version of the world's premier young driver development programme got underway in late March, with the first two of the 16-round season held at the Sepang International Circuit in support of the 2008 Formula 1 Petronas Malaysian Grand Prix. Jamison made his championship aspirations clear immediately, taking his first Formula BMW Pacific victory in the opening round. Moss soon followed suit with his own emphatic win in Round 2.
The series returned to Malaysia in May, before moving to the Sentul International Circuit in Indonesia in July for a total of nine races, all a part of the Asian Festival of Speed. In front of his home fans, Melvin Moh (20/MAS/Team Holzer PFX) scored his first pole position and followed it up with his first podium finish in Round 3. In Indonesia, Moh scored his first Formula BMW Pacific win.
The series then took a month's hiatus which allowed the drivers, some as young as 15, to recoup before the extraordinary final five races of the season.
When Formula BMW Pacific returned in September, the series drivers were joined by several guest entries from both Europe and Asia, who were all curious to get a taste of Singapore's brand new Marina Bay street circuit. Guest driver Doru Sechelariu (15/ROM/Meritus) put together a perfect weekend, taking pole position and winning both Rounds 12 and 13.
But as the guest drivers were ineligible to score points, it was Jamison who reaped the rewards of his level-headed performances.
Singapore was an enormous success, but Formula BMW Pacific had little time to relish being the first cars to ever take to the circuit as Shanghai beckoned.
For the second consecutive race weekend, the series was in support of the FIA Formula One World Championship. Shanghai proved to be one of the most important fixtures of the season as Jamison, McDonagh and Moss secured their final Drivers Classification positions, and Moss won the Rookie Cup.
However, other drivers made their mark with 15-year old Gabby Chaves (COL/Atlantic Racing Team) finishing second in Round 14 in what was his best season result to-date. Moss completed a stellar weekend with two podium finishes, while McDonagh returned to the podium after missing out in Singapore.
Another unique experience for the Formula BMW Juniors and drivers in the Educational and Coaching Programme was the opportunity to meet with BMW Sauber F1 drivers Nick Heidfeld and Christian Klien to ask their advice on Formula BMW and, of immediate concern, Macau's famous Guia Circuit.
Heidfeld cautioned the youngsters to get to know the track as well as possible before the race, and Chaves certainly took note as he finished fourth in the season finale at the Macau Grand Prix. Chaves was the top-scoring series driver at Macau and for the first time, scored full championship points.
Guest driver Mihai Marinescu (ROM/19/Motaworld) took the win at Macau in spectacular style, beating out teammate Michael Christensen (DEN/18), in the action-packed race. Taking the final podium place was Japan's Kimiya Sato (19/Eurasia Motorsport).
Experience of Macau's demanding Guia Circuit was invaluable to the young drivers, all of whom will be hoping to one day receive a coveted invitation to the FIA Formula 3 Intercontinental Cup held there each year. For Formula BMW Pacific guest driver Yuji Kunimoto (18/JPN/ART Motorsport), that dream was brought closer when his elder brother Keisuke spectacularly won the Macau Formula 3 Grand Prix on the same day he finished 5th in his race.
While Round 16 rounded off a memorable Formula BMW Pacific season, both Moss and Chaves competed in the Formula BMW World Final from December 4-7 in Mexico City, alongside drivers from the Europe and Americas series, including 2007 Formula BMW Asia champion Jazeman Jaafar (16/MAY/Eiffelland Racing). Chaves put in fantastic qualifying and Super Pole performances, qualifying fifth for the first two of three intermediate heats. He qualified 14th for the World Final, with Moss qualifying one position better.
American Alexander Rossi (17/Eurointernational) was the winner of the 2008 Formula BMW World Final and was awarded a test drive in the BMW Sauber F1. Jaafar finished fifth in the race, while Chaves and Moss finished 14th and 18th respectively.
Fast approaching are next season's scholarship trials to be held in Kuala Lumpur from December 17-19. Up to four scholarships of 50,000 Euro (approximately $70,000 USD) put towards the 2009 Formula BMW Pacific season are on offer to fledging drivers who demonstrate the most all-round potential to achieve motorsport excellence.
Formula BMW Pacific's sixth season was one to remember. As the series looks ahead, the 2009 provisional calendar is set to offer further excitement with race weekends in Kuala Lumpur, Sentul and on the streets of Singapore. Next season Formula BMW Pacific will be a support event to the FIA World Touring Car Championship for the first time, at the Okayama circuit in Japan, and will be hoping to follow its successful Macau Grand Prix debut this year with a return to the Guia Circuit in 2009.
-credit: fbmw pac