AP: Scholarship drivers confirmed

Five Formula BMW Asia Scholarship drivers confirmed for 2007. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The region's premier entry-level single seater series, Formula BMW Asia, has announced five new proteges for the 2007 season. Youngsters from China, Hong...

Five Formula BMW Asia Scholarship drivers confirmed for 2007.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia -- The region's premier entry-level single seater series, Formula BMW Asia, has announced five new proteges for the 2007 season. Youngsters from China, Hong Kong, Japan, India and South Africa have each earned a coveted Formula BMW Asia scholarship which includes a 50.000 USD cash contribution to the cost of the season and enrolment in the Education & Coaching Programme, a driver development scheme which is unrivalled in the region.

The five were selected from more than 20 hopefuls who took part in the Formula BMW Asia Scholarship Qualifying trials at the BMW Performance Centre in Bahrain in February.

David Zhu of China is arguably the hottest motorsport prospect ever to emerge from the world's most populous country so far. Now 16 years-of-age, Zhu dominated the 2006 China Formula Campus season, taking the title with a massive 20 point margin.

Ross Jamison, who has recently celebrated his 17th birthday, becomes the first Hong Kong SAR driver to win a Formula BMW Asia scholarship. Jamison began his career in electric karts in 2001, going on to win the Asian Karting Open Championship and the China Senior Rotax Max Challenge in 2005. Last year, he was named Asian International Karter of the Year.

Indian karting star Akhil Khushlani (17) was inspired by his father, a motorcycle racer and has the distinction of being the first Indian to secure a top five finish in the Rotax Max Junior World Karting Championship. Karting since the age of 10, the Hyderabad-born racer got his first taste of single seater racing in 2005 in Formula LGB (Chennai), winning the novice cup.

Like Hong Kong, Japan has this year earned a Formula BMW Scholarship thanks to karting star Shohei Shiromoto (17). Shiromoto was second runner-up in the 2006 All-Japan Karting series.

As the truly international series spreads its wings even further afield, Kyle Mitchell (16) becomes the first South African driver ever to compete in Formula BMW Asia. Mitchell began karting at the age of 10 and was runner-up in the national championships in 2002. In 2003, he won the Mini Max World Championships in South Africa before injury forced him to sit out the 2004 season entirely, returning to the sport during the following year. A late start to the season didn't prevent him clinching the 2005 Junior Rok National Championship, and winning a seat to represent South Africa in the Junior Rok World Championship. He went on to clinch the title last year.

For the five Formula BMW Asia scholarship drivers, and the rest of the 2007 field, the season gets underway with an introductory test at Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia this weekend, with the opening four races of the 22-round calendar starting at the same circuit in May as part of the Asian Festival of Speed.

In other Formula BMW Asia news, 2005 Rookie Cup winner Michael Patrizi of Australia has signed with the championship-winning Prema Powerteam for the 2007 Formula 3 Euro Series. Patrizi's Formula BMW Asia performance won him a fully-funded season from BMW Motorsport in Formula BMW UK Championship last year, and he is now ready to take the next step on the ladder of international motorsport in arguably the world's most competitive Formula 3 series.

Also moving up to the Formula 3 rung this season are former Formula BMW Asia Bahraini drivers Hamad Al Fardan and Shaikh Salman bin Rashid Al Khalifa, champion in 2005, who will contest the British championship. Shaikh Salman will be driving for Promatecme, while Hamad will be contesting the championship with Performance Racing.

-credit: bmw.asia

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Hamad Al Fardan , Michael Patrizi , Ross Jamison , Kyle Mitchell , Shohei Shiromoto , Akhil Khushlani , David Zhu