AP: Autopolis round 12 race summary

Title one step closer for Al Khalifa. Oita, Japan - Salman Al Khalifa (BAH/Team E-Rain) moved one step closer to the 2005 Formula BMW Asia title today taking victory Round 12 at the 4.6km Autopolis Circuit in Japan. Second was BMW Junior...

Title one step closer for Al Khalifa.

Oita, Japan - Salman Al Khalifa (BAH/Team E-Rain) moved one step closer to the 2005 Formula BMW Asia title today taking victory Round 12 at the 4.6km Autopolis Circuit in Japan. Second was BMW Junior Michael Patrizi (AUS/Team Meritus), with fellow Junior Armaan Ebrahim (IND/Team E-Rain), third, taking his second podium finish this season.

With just two rounds of the season remaining, Al Khalifa has increased his lead at the top of the championship standings to 29 points ahead of Patrizi who jumps to second on the leaderboard in the Driver Classification after his two second-place finishes this weekend, and who now also tops the Rookie Cup standings. Hamed Al Fardan (BAH/Team Meritus) is third in the championship standings, despite having had a weekend he would probably rather forget. Charlie-Ro Charlez (MAS/Team Meritus), fourth in the standings and second in the Rookie Cup classification, completes the list of four drivers still in contention for the title with two rounds remaining.

Al Khalifa, being from the Middle East and therefore not accustomed to racing in the wet, learned much from the first wet race of the day, but also gave credit to chief engineer Patrick Roberts for making a change to the set up, one which the Bahraini believes gave him the best set up of the car. Patrizi and Ebrahim were a true credit to the series, fighting a fair, clean and nail-biting battle which both youngsters enjoyed. Said Patrizi: "It was my toughest race in a long time. Armaan is very quick. He's only 16, has a lot of talent, and there's much more to come from him."

Weather conditions continued to deteriorate after the morning race as Typhoon Nabi moved closer to the area, and the fixture was moved forward to try and avoid the forecast torrential rain. However, the high altitude of the Autopolis Circuit meant the visibility was severely reduced and the rain continued. Therefore, the 10-lap race was started under the Safety Car as a precaution and it led the field for the first two laps.

Once racing got underway, pole man Hamed Al Fardan led the pack before the slippery track got the better of him and he spun off. He was able to rejoin the race and heroically finished fourth. Rookie Cup leader going in to Round 12, Charlez, was forced to retire with a technical problems, while Aaron Lim (MAS/Minardi Team Asia) and BMW Junior Robert Boughey (THA/Team Meritus) were involved in an incident shortly after the Safety Car pulled off, putting both out of the race.

As Al Khalifa concentrated on pulling away a comfortable lead, the focus was firmly on Patrizi and Ebrahim and their fascinating game of cat and mouse, with the Australian holding off the young Indian despite his best efforts. Both drivers enjoyed their sparring, as did the spectators.

Jordanian newcomer, Hamza Dirani (Team Meritus) acquitted himself well in his Formula BMW Asia debut and first ever weekend of single seater competition, finishing both Round 11 and 12 in seventh position.

Al Khalifa is confident of taking the Formula BMW Asia title in Shanghai next month, when the final two rounds of the 2005 season are support events to China's Formula 1 Grand Prix on October 15 and 16. "There will be a lot of pressure in front of the Formula 1 circus," he said. However, Ebrahim got naturedly disputed this, saying: "I think there'll be more pressure from the grid!" Either way, the stakes will be high as the series reaches its spectacular climax in the world's most populous country.

-bmw.asia-

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Robert Patrick , Armaan Ebrahim , Michael Patrizi , Aaron Lim