Ali and Jazeman share the spoils at new Chengdu track. Faced with a completely level playing field in the form of the brand-new 3.376km Chengdu Goldenport Circuit in China, it was Indonesia's Zahir Ali (20/Team TARADTM) and Malaysian ...
Ali and Jazeman share the spoils at new Chengdu track.
Faced with a completely level playing field in the form of the brand-new 3.376km Chengdu Goldenport Circuit in China, it was Indonesia's Zahir Ali (20/Team TARADTM) and Malaysian sensation Jazeman Jaafar (CIMB Team Qi-Meritus) who shared the spoils in the first two races of the weekend. The two rounds were arguably the most exciting of the season so far, with the wide and sweeping circuit providing plenty of overtaking opportunities. The results for Round 14 are provisional only, and pending the outcome of a protest against car number 33 (Jazeman Jaafar/CIMB Team Q-Meritus).
BMW Junior Kyle Mitchell (16/Eurasia Motorsport) was the star of the show in the Rookie Cup category, winning both races, but was also a real threat to Jazeman in the second race, briefly grabbing the overall lead. The South African, whose talent has been recognised in the form of backing by telecoms giant Vodacom, just missed out on an overall podium in the first race, but charged back to take 2nd in Round 14.
Driver Classification leader going in to Round 13, James Grunwell (18/THA/CIMB Team Qi-Meritus), finished 3rd in both races but that was not enough to retain the lead in the Driver Classification, and team mate Jazeman now leads by five points. Ali is third, while Mitchell moves up to 4th, overtaking fellow Junior Ross Jamison of Hong Kong (17/CIMB Team Qi-Meritus).
Mitchell's sterling performances also mean he now heads the Rookie Cup standings, snatching the lead from Jamison with a three point lead.
In the first race of 18 laps, Ali lost his pole position advantage almost immediately after a bad start with Jazeman and newcomer Jack Lemvard (23/THA/ CIMB Team Qi-Meritus) quick to pounce. Lemvard took the lead into turn one, but by the end of the opening lap Jazeman had got by and set about pulling away from both Lemvard and Ali. However the newcomer, who was still getting used to the car, caved under pressure and both Ali and Grunwell got by him on lap four, demoting him to 4th.
Ali began closing the gap to Jazeman with Grunwell unchallenged in third. Mitchell meanwhile had ploughed his way through the field to 4th from 7th on the grid and, despite a brief off on lap 14 temporarily putting him back to 6th, the determined South African regained his position to take the Rookie Cup win and set the fastest lap of the race.
Back at the front, Ali had managed to rattle Jazeman and made his move on Lap 12 to claim the lead which he held to the chequered flag, with Grunwell crossing the line in 3rd. Jamison was second Rookie Cup finisher followed by Zhu. Lemvard was 5th overall on an impressive single seater racing debut.
Said Ali: "My start was crazy, really bad. I saw Jazeman on my outside and Jack on the inside, so I just backed off. It was a really tough race -- a new environment and a new track, but it feels great to be the first Formula BMW Asia winner here."
Despite being outclassed by his friend in qualifying and the early stages of the race, Grunwell was pleased to have Lemvard in the series: "Sure it brings a bit more pressure, but I've been racing against him since I was 13 and he's always been a star in Thailand. There was never any other expectation other than that he would do well. After qualifying I knew I had to beat him in the race, so I'm very glad I did!"
Ali was also on pole for the second race, but a jammed clutch meant a disastrous start and he was helpless as the field charged by. Jazeman once again took the lead and Mitchell was up to second on the opening lap having stolen the march on Grunwell, with Lemvard in 4th.
Grunwell reclaimed 2nd place and Jazeman had pulled out a lead of more than four seconds when the Safety Car was called out after an incident. That closed up the field, much to the annoyance of the race leader but the delight of his challengers. When the race resumed Jazeman tried to pull away again, as Grunwell and Mitchell fought it out behind him, but once the BMW Junior had got past the Thai he took the charge to the race leader: "When I saw it was a Junior car behind me, I just knew it was Kyle", said Jazeman.
The pair were engaged in a furious battle for the remaining laps but the young Malaysian kept his cool this time, even when Mitchell briefly took the lead, to take victory. Mitchell recorded his second Rookie Cup victory of the day, and once again set the fastest lap of the race.
Lemvard missed out on a podium finish in just his second single seater race, while local hero Zhu faired better this time out finishing second in the Rookie Cup. Things were also looking up for BMW Junior Akhil Khushlani (17/IND/Eurasia Motorsport), who has suffered car problems so far this weekend, and he crossed the line 6th in the second race.
Newcomer Lemvard joins Formula BMW Asia this weekend for his first ever taste of formula racing having taken part in a two-day introductory test at Sentul in July. Introduced to the series by his friend Grunwell, Lemvard was born in Pattaya, Thailand to a Danish father and Thai mother. He started karting at 13, and has more recently competed in touring cars in his native country. With backing from the Ocean 1 Tower development, he hopes to contest the rest of the 2007 Formula BMW Asia season.
Delighted to be immediately competitive, Lemvard was quick to point out that his friendship with Grunwell does not extend as far as the race track!
Dennis Vollmair (17/GER/Engstler Motorsport) had to sit out the weekend's racing due to school commitments, but hopes to be back with the series in Shanghai next month.