USA: Road Atlanta: Matt Lee preview

Long Island Driver Hopes for Good Showing In Formula BMW Races at Road Atlanta AMITYVILLE, N.Y., Sept. 27 - Fifteen-year-old Matt Lee of Syosset, N.Y. would like to end the 2005 Formula BMW season on a winning note. He'll have two chances to do...

Long Island Driver Hopes for Good Showing In Formula BMW Races at Road Atlanta

AMITYVILLE, N.Y., Sept. 27 - Fifteen-year-old Matt Lee of Syosset, N.Y. would like to end the 2005 Formula BMW season on a winning note. He'll have two chances to do just that this weekend when the Formula BMW series holds a doubleheader at Road Atlanta Motor Sports Center in Braselton, Ga. as companion events to the Petit Le Mans American Le Mans Series (ALMS) race on Saturday.

Lee, a junior at Syosset High School and a former go-kart champion, will be behind the wheel of Twin tooth/BRM Motorsports' No. 44 sponsored by the international financial services group Credit Suisse.

The team is based in Amityville, N.Y.

Formula BMW race cars are 1,003-lb., single-seat formula cars that use 140-horsepower, four-cylinder BMW motorcycle engines. Similar to FIA Formula 3 race cars, they cost approximately $70,000 and their top speed is about 143 miles per hour. Although the schedule can change, the first race is slated to get the green flag at 3:20 p.m. on Thursday. The season finale is scheduled for 12:45 p.m. o n Friday. Both will be 30-minute events.

Lee, a very accomplished go-kart racer who switched to formula cars at the beginning of the season, will be making his first official start on Road Atlanta's challenging 2.54-mile, 12-turn road course this weekend. He has tested there twice though, once on an official practice day organized by the series and once during a private test. Both tests were held before the season opener in April.

And, being a teen in the video age, Lee has also gotten accustomed to the course by playing video games that mimic it.

Does it help?

"Kind of," he said.

"Road Atlanta is cool; it's one of my favorite tracks," he added. "I like the long straights and some of the corners. It's a driver's track."

As a rookie in the Formula BMW series, Lee has found the year to be very challenging, although his finishing positions don't reflect how well he ran. He's currently 16th in the overall Formula BMW USA point standings and 11th in the series' rookie point standings.

"Hopefully we'll do well at Road Atlanta," he said. "We need a win. It would be nice to end the season that way. "I've learned a lot this year," he noted. "Just running the car and getting experience is the biggest thing.

When asked to elaborate, Lee explained that "improving your race craft is one of the most important things.

"Cars are nothing like go-karts," he acknowledged. "They're a lot bigger and they have a suspension. Learning how to set up your car for the different tracks is crucial, especially in a spec series where the cars are all alike."

Lee and his crew chief, Bruce Miller of Northport, N.Y., will be doing their best to come up with a good set-up when the first official practice session is held Wednesday morning. Qualifying for the first race will be held at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday. Qualifying for the second race will be held at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday.

Although these two races are the last two of the year for the Formula BMW USA series, there is a chance that Lee will also participate in the World Final of Formula BMW at the Bahrain International Circuit Dec. 13-16. Drivers from the four regional Formula BMW series (Germany, England, Asia and the United States) will go head-to-head at that event.

"We don't know if we'll go to Bahrain yet or not, but it's a possibility if we can find additional sponsorship," Lee noted.

For more information, see formulabmwusa.com. Twin tooth Racing's Web site, which the team plans to revamp in the off season, is located at twintoothracing.com.

-lm-

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Bruce Miller , Matt Lee