Alex Ellis and Gabby Chaves Score Poles For Formula BMW Americas Doubleheader Qualifying for this weekend's Formula BMW Americas doubleheader at Lime Rock Park tested the teams and drivers with a pair of drastically different conditions, as dry...
Alex Ellis and Gabby Chaves Score Poles For Formula BMW Americas Doubleheader
Qualifying for this weekend's Formula BMW Americas doubleheader at Lime Rock Park tested the teams and drivers with a pair of drastically different conditions, as dry and fast racing gave way to a wet and tricky session to end the day as the fields were set for the eighth and ninth rounds of the 2009 season.
Friday's opening session was dry and lightning fast as Eurointernational's Gabby Chaves set a new track record in scoring his third pole of the year ahead of Autotecnica's Giammarco Raimondo. The afternoon saw the Formula BMW Americas series run its first wet-weather session of the year, as Autotecnica's Alex Ellis beat the raindrops to secure the first pole of his racing career while the Colombian-American Chaves scored the second starting spot.
Chaves stormed around the 1.53-mile Lime Rock Park layout in 58.044 seconds (93.033 mph) to score the pole for Saturday's opening race, using shrewd tire management to earn his first pole since the season-opening event in Puebla, Mexico.
"At the beginning of the session the car felt OK and it kept getting better so I knew there were quicker times in it," Chaves reported. "So I ran a slower lap and cooled my tires down a bit and then went after it and got a good lap. It was good since things hadn't really been going my way in the last few races, and I needed to gain ground."
The second qualifying run was a tricky one for the Formula BMW Americas drivers as a light rain greeted them at the drop of the green flag. Drivers stayed on the slick Michelin racing tires for the start of the session with the track just starting to dry as Ellis carded his quick lap of 1:09.076 (78.175 mph). But just as the track appeared to be drying, the Connecticut clouds dropped their watery cargo, forcing everyone to dive into the pits for rain tires.
The rain kept anyone from making a serious challenge to Ellis' time, allowing him to slip home with his first career pole in any form of racing. The pole is the first of the year for Autotecnica and capped a big day for the Ontario-based team, who also earned the third starting spot for the second race with the Canadian Raimondo.
"Rain is the great equalizer and I was looking forward to running a wet session against these guys," Ellis grinned. "The team gave me a great car and I was able to put up a couple of good laps. I probably could have gone faster in those conditions but it got worse and it was over. It's a huge day for me to get the pole after having a rough weekend in Utah. The Putnam test last month was important for us in getting up to speed on a new track and we used a lot of the lessons that we learned there to help us find ways to find speed through the day."
Series points leader Giancarlo Vilarinho had a tough day that saw his five-race pole streak end, as the Brazilian driver will start fifth in the first race and fourth in the second one. Australian James Kovacic had a pair of strong qualifying sessions as the Australian Team Apex driver earned the third grid spot for the opening race and will start fifth in the second as he looks to extend a three-race streak of top-five finishes.
The Formula BMW Americas series will get started early on Saturday as Round 8 starts the day at Lime Rock with a 9:00 a.m. start. The second race of the day will take place at 12:30 p.m., as Ellis leads the field to the green flag for the first time.