AMER: VIR round four race notes

Giancarlo Vilarinho Sweeps Formula BMW Americas Weekend at VIR Giancarlo Vilarinho came to the United States from his native Brazil a year ago to pursue his racing dream, moving to Miami to join the Formula BMW Americas Championship without ...

Giancarlo Vilarinho Sweeps Formula BMW Americas Weekend at VIR

Giancarlo Vilarinho came to the United States from his native Brazil a year ago to pursue his racing dream, moving to Miami to join the Formula BMW Americas Championship without knowing a word of English.

His English is improving after having been in the U.S. for a year, and after his impressive performance this weekend at Virginia International Raceway, Vilarinho will be adding the words 'victory' and 'championship contender' to his list of ready vocabulary terms.

The 17-year-old Vilarinho dominated the two-race weekend at VIR, as a victory in Sunday's event gave the Eurointernational driver a sweep of the two races and moved him to within 15 points of teammate Gabby Chaves for the lead in the series standings after four races.

"Today's race was a little tougher for me," Vilarinho said after beating Chaves to the checkered flag by .510 seconds. "The track was hotter, and it was hotter inside the car, then we had the caution period on the third lap, so I had to concentrate and get a good restart. But I did and we got the result we needed to get back into the championship hunt."

Vilarinho led from the drop of the green flag, although the 15-year-old Chaves never fell more than a second back after wresting the second spot away from James Kovacic (Team Apex) at the start. Chaves, who ran the fastest lap of the race with a new track record time of 1:56.293, stayed within reach of Vilarinho, but could never get in range to make a pass after 11 orbits of the 3.27-mile VIR road course.

""Yesterday it was a bigger gap to the leader, so I am happy that it was closer today," Chaves said. "We fought hard and were able to continue scoring points and maintaining our lead in the championship."

Gianmarco Raimondo (Autotecnica) took advantage of a fast car and his year of Formula BMW Americas experience to snare the third spot, earning his second podium result of the season. He moved into third when Kovacic and then Alex Ellis (Autotecnica) suffered problems, and then fought off a strong challenge from Team Apex's Martin Sala to stay there.

"I had to use all my experience today to avoid incidents, find the right line to defend my position and to find the best way around the track," explained the 18-year-old Raimondo. "There were a couple of moments that were close and I was starting to have a problem with the car, but it worked out well."

Sala started fourth but had slipped back to sixth before making his late-race charge. He moved to within a half-second of Raimondo in the waning laps of the event, and finished as the race's top rookie after his fourth-place run.

Michael Lewis (Eurointernational) rounded out the top five, rebounding from a problem on Saturday that left him out of the top 10. Ellis battled back from his brief off-course excursion to finish sixth, allowing him to widen his lead in the rookie point standings to three points over Kovacic.

The Formula BMW Americas Championship will return to action in May with a trip to Miller Motorsports Park for three races, May 15-17, which will signal the halfway point of the 14-race campaign.

-credit: bmw

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Michael Lewis , Giancarlo Vilarinho , Gianmarco Raimondo , Martin Sala , James Kovacic , Gabby Chaves