AP: Rounds one, two Malaysia preview

Strong international field for Formula BMW Asia 2006. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - As Formula BMW Asia gears up for the start of its fourth season at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, the field this year is the most international ...

Strong international field for Formula BMW Asia 2006.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia - As Formula BMW Asia gears up for the start of its fourth season at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix this weekend, the field this year is the most international ever, with drivers from the Middle East, across South and East Asia, and all the way "down under" to the Pacific.

Three of the four BMW Juniors this year, each of whom will receive a 50.000 US Dollar cash contribution and the benefit of the season-long Education & Coaching programme, are: Australian Daniel Ricciardo (Eurasia Motorsport); New Zealander Dominic Story (Team Eurasia); and Thai-based Briton James Grunwell (Team Meritus), all 16 years old.

Ricciardo is a full-time student and has already been karting for six years - winning the Australian CIK Championship and the West Australian State Championship. Bangkok-based Grunwell has flown the flag for Thailand during his promising karting career, most recently in the Rotax Max World Junior finals. As well as karting, Grunwell has raced formula concept cars and MINI Coopers in Thailand. Auckland-based Storey won a Bruce McLaren Kartsport Scholarship in 2004, and finished 2nd in the New Zealand Rotax Max Challenge last year.

The fourth BMW Motorsport scholarship, which is traditionally reserved for the winner of the Rookie Cup the previous season, this year goes to Malaysian Aaron Lim (Eurasia Motorsport). Lim, 20, made a successful transition from karting last year finishing an impressive 8th overall in the championship, despite having only joined the series in Round 3.

Winner of the 2005 Rookie Cup title, Michael Patrizi, inherited the overall title prize from champion Salman Al Khalifa and is about to embark upon a full season in the Formula BMW UK Championship, compliments of BMW Motorsport.

Last year Patrizi became the first ever Australian to compete in Formula BMW Asia, and news of his success has spread quickly through the Antipodean countries resulting in two entries each from Australia and New Zealand this year.

Joining Ricciardo from Australia is Sam Abey (Team E-Rain), 18, who began his karting career at the age of nine, going on to win the GKCV Rotax Light Karting Championship in 2004 and the Deloitte Junior Rising Sports Star Award the following year.

The second "Kiwi" entrant is Earl Bamber (Team Meritus). The 15-year-old from Wanganui began racing aged eight and last year finished 3rd in the final of the Rotax World Championship in Lanzarote.

Heading north from Australia and New Zealand, Zahir Ali of Indonesia is Team Eurasia's third entry. Ali, 18, has an impressive karting pedigree having competed in both National and regional championships.

Hoping to follow in the footsteps of a string of exciting young Indians who honed their early single seater racing skills in Asia - Narain Karthikeyan, Karun Chandhok and, most recently, Armaan Ebrahim - comes Aditya Akkeneni (Team E-Rain). The 17-year-old Hyderabad-born driver competed in last year's Indian Rotax Max Senior Championship.

Also returning to Formula BMW Asia this year is Mohammed Al Baharna of Bahrain, 25. Al Baharna competed in 2004 finishing 12th overall, and has this year been selected by Bahrain's Unstoppabulls Racing Team owner, Shaikh Khalifa bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa to participate Formula BMW Asia 2006. Al Baharna still races with the Unstoppabulls karting team and has been in training for his season in Asia.

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen: "Being part of the Formula One support programme means a lot to our Formula BMW drivers: They can show their mettle in front of huge crowds and the most influential people in international motor sports."

The 2006 Formula BMW Asia season gets underway this weekend at the Malaysian Formula One Grand Prix, with the opening round on Saturday afternoon (March 18), and the second race held on Sunday morning.

The series returns to the 5.6km Sepang International Circuit for rounds three to five on May 14, then on the Beijing's Goldenport Circuit in China in June, Indonesia's Sentul Circuit in July, and Thailand's Bira race track the following month. On October 1, Formula BMW Asia will be a supporting event to the Formula One World Championship for the second time in 2006, at the Shanghai International Circuit in China. The final three races of the 19-round season will be held at a brand new racing facilitiy in Taichung, Taiwan on October 21 and 22.

Formula BMW is the world's leading entry-level class in Formula racing. In 2006 the series will be held in Germany, the UK, Asia and the USA. Up-and- coming drivers as young as 15-years-old are given the opportunity of entering motor racing with the high-tech, standard FB02 race car.

This racing car has been seen on the grid since 2002 and has set standards particularly on the safety technology front. The single-seater is propelled by a 140 bhp BMW engine up to 230km/h and exceeds the FIA safety requirements for its class. BMW Motorsport has developed the FORS Formula Rescue Race Seat especially for Formula BMW. The HANS safety system is also mandatory.

In 2006, Formula BMW will be staged five times as part of the Formula One support programme. All the series offer a multifaceted Education and Coaching Programme as well as sponsorship for promising racing talents. The best-known alumni of this talent hothouse are Formula One drivers Ralf Schumacher, Christian Klien and Nico Rosberg.

BMW Motorsport Director, Mario Theissen: "Formula BMW offers talented young drivers more than just a car. In the Education and Coaching Programme we have designed specially for them, they learn everything they need to know to hold their own in the big wide world of motor racing. Formula BMW has shot out of the blocks to become the top entry-level class for Formula racing worldwide."

From 13th to 16th December 2005 the Bahrain International Circuit hosted the first Formula BMW World Final. Young racing drivers from the four regional Formula BMW series competed against each other. The winner Marco Holzer will get a test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.


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About this article
Series Formula BMW
Drivers Narain Karthikeyan , Nico Rosberg , Karun Chandhok , Christian Klien , Armaan Ebrahim , Mario Theissen , Michael Patrizi , Daniel Ricciardo , Aaron Lim , Zahir Ali , Earl Bamber
Teams Sauber