PAC: Series Macau qualifying report

Marinescu on pole for season finale race at Macau. Macau -- Mihai Marinescu (ROM/19/Motaworld) took the first ever Formula BMW Pacific pole position at the Macau Grand Prix today. Michael Christensen (DEN/18/Motaworld) missed out on the top...

Marinescu on pole for season finale race at Macau.

Macau -- Mihai Marinescu (ROM/19/Motaworld) took the first ever Formula BMW Pacific pole position at the Macau Grand Prix today. Michael Christensen (DEN/18/Motaworld) missed out on the top spot by less than four tenths of a second at the end of an eventful session.

With series newcomers Motaworld taking up the front row of the grid with two guest drivers, Meritus nabbed the second row, with guest driver Alex Sims (GBR/20) and 2008 Formula BMW Pacific Champion Ross Jamison (HKG/18). India's Aditya Patel (20/Eurasia Motorsport) was the fastest rookie, and qualified ninth.

As the 2008 Drivers Classification and 2008 Rookie Cup were decided in Shanghai in October, the field of 22 series and guest drivers have each come to Macau with a clean slate, and an opportunity to become the first Formula BMW driver to win on the famed Guia Circuit. Just as important is the chance to gain the invaluable experience of racing at Macau before one day advancing to the annual headline Formula 3 race.

Macau's Luis Jorge Sa Silva (18/Eurasia Motorsport) qualified 19th, while Hong Kong driver Jim Ka To (24/Aran Racing) will start from 12th on the grid.

With limited practice time on Thursday, the drivers set about trying to push to the limits. On the first lap, Marlon Stockinger (PHI/17/Eurasia Motorsport) hit the barrier at Paiol and could not rejoin the session. Qualifying was halted early after Ollie Millroy (GBR/18/Motaworld) also crashed at Paiol. Millroy did not rejoin the session.

After the restart, the drivers continued to get a feel for the 6.2km street circuit, with Marinescu clocking his best time of 2:31.199, with Christensen 0.396 seconds behind him.

Having finished the 2008 Formula BMW Europe season sixth in the Drivers Classification and winning the Rookie Cup, Christensen said he was not totally pleased with his performance, and knew that he had the pace to be on pole: "The car is fast enough and I can win from this position, so for sure I'm not finished with this race," Christensen said. "This is a very good experience to come and race on this difficult track before one day coming here to race in Formula 3. I want to win here, no question about that but the main thing is to learn the circuit."

Meritus guest driver Sims said he believed the start was the key to the race. "I need to get as good a start as possible and hope to make up a couple of places on the first corner," Sims said. "I realize that everyone is going to want to do that and it's going to be difficult, but basically I need to go out there, drive as fast as possible and put as many people under me as I can."

While some of the drivers were able to make their mark on the Guia Circuit, others quickly learned the circuit's unforgiving character. Gabby Chaves (COL/15/Atlantic Racing Team) was one of those whose small error proved costly: "I was doing okay and getting used to the track , but then I made a small mistake on braking and hit the wall," said Chaves, who qualified seventh. "I think I was up to fourth at one point and I had good pace, and just as I was starting to push, I made the error. It's a shame my session had to end so soon."

And though some drivers had better sessions than others, all had praise for the street circuit. Sims described it as "fantastic", while Chaves said it was a big challenge where precision was an absolute must. Said Jamison, who considers the Macau Grand Prix almost a home race because of its proximity to Hong Kong: "It's an absolutely amazing circuit and so much fun. If you make one single mistake, you're in the wall."

-credit: fbmw

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Ross Jamison , Ollie Millroy , Mihai Marinescu , Marlon Stockinger , Aditya Patel , Gabby Chaves , Jim Ka To