AMER: VIR round three race notes

Giancarlo Vilarinho Scores First Career Formula BMW Victory The pole appears to be the goal early in the Formula BMW Americas Championship season as Eurointernational's Giancarlo Vilarinho turned his first career pole into his first career...

Giancarlo Vilarinho Scores First Career Formula BMW Victory

The pole appears to be the goal early in the Formula BMW Americas Championship season as Eurointernational's Giancarlo Vilarinho turned his first career pole into his first career victory on a sunny Saturday at Virginia International Raceway.

Vilarinho fought off the early advances of teammate and series points leader Gabby Chaves to hold the lead through the first corner, then built a six- second cushion before a pair of late incidents led to a full-course caution flag that ended the race. Vilarinho's victory made him the third driver in as many races this year to win a race from the pole.

"It was great to get my first Formula BMW Americas Championship victory here and get back in the championship fight," Vilarinho said. "I got a good start and was able to build on it. It has been a good weekend for me and my team and we're hoping to keep it going tomorrow."

Vilarinho snapped off a series of laps that were faster than his polewinning time from Saturday morning's qualifying en route to building his lead, while Chaves and Michael Lewis battled side-by-side for second. Lewis eventually succumbed to a power failure however, ending the fight and conceding the runner-up spot to Chaves.

"It was tough out there today," Chaves reported after seeing his series lead slip to 20 points over Vilarinho. "This weekend hasn't been as good as I had hoped so far, but I have to keep working hard and getting points. At the end of the year, people only remember who won the championship and that's our goal."

Lewis' electrical troubles ended a spirited battle for second place that saw him and Chaves go side-by-side throughout much of the eighth lap before Lewis' car started to lose power. The Autotecnica duo of Alex Ellis and Gianmarco Raimondo were waging their own war for fourth and fifth, but when Lewis tried to get in the pits on Lap 9, he left the door open for Ellis.

"GMo (Raimondo) had a run on (Lewis) but when Lewis went to go to the pits, he inadvertently came down on him, so I went to the left side and was able to get around both of them." Ellis explained.

Ellis blew into third with the pass, but the incident set the stage for the full- course caution that ended the race. Since Lewis was unable to get into the pits, he continued on before he lost power completely and stopped just off the course.

That stoppage coincided with a spin from Robert Garcia that brought out the yellow flags and effectively ended the event. Raimondo continued on to finish fourth while Team Apex's Joao Horto rounded out the top five ahead of teammate Martin Sala.

The podium finish gave Ellis a narrow one-point lead in the Formula BMW Americas Rookie Championship over James Kovacic (Team Apex), with Horto just eight points behind Ellis in third.

The fourth round of the championship will take place tomorrow at VIR, with Vilarinho starting from pole again, by virtue of leading Saturday morning qualifying as well. James Kovacic of Team Apex earned his first-ever front- row start by qualifying second while Chaves and Sala will start on the second row, marking Sala's best-ever grid position in the series.

-credit: bmw

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