AP: Season finale qualifying notes

Lee's campaign right on track. October 16, 2004. - Taebaek, Korea - Marchy Lee's (HKG/Team Meritus) campaign to clinch victory in 12 of this season's 14 Formula BMW Asia races, beating the record set by 2003 champion Tung Ho Pin, was right on...

Lee's campaign right on track.

October 16, 2004. - Taebaek, Korea - Marchy Lee's (HKG/Team Meritus) campaign to clinch victory in 12 of this season's 14 Formula BMW Asia races, beating the record set by 2003 champion Tung Ho Pin, was right on track today as he took pole for the final two rounds of the series.

Times were close in both qualifying events on the tight 2.5km circuit and the new champion Lee, who clinched the title last month in Japan, admitted he was lucky to get in a quick lap in the closing minutes of the first session, which was hampered by intermittent drizzle.

Starting alongside Lee for Round 13 will be Hamed Al Fardan (BRN/Belgravia Motorsport), setting the second quickest time just 0.033 seconds behind Lee. Local hero and BMW Junior You Kyong-Ouk (KOR/BMW Korea a E-Rain) was third fastest but had topped the times earlier on in the session. The 24- year-old was happy with his grid position, more concerned with what happens in the race in front of his home crowd: "As long as my podium position is right in the centre, I will be happy!", he said.

Series youngster, 17-year-old Tyson Sy (PHI/Minardi Team Asia), admitted he could have made an error of judgement when, after taking provisional pole, he pitted, only to see the lap times plunge in the dying moments of the session. Sy was eventually relegated to 6th.

Second quickest BMW Junior was Robert T. Boughey (THA/Minardi Team Asia) who, despite having a difficult session, was enjoying the track: "It's very challenging," he said. "You have to get your head down and see just how much heart you have."

In qualifying for Round 14, luck was once again with Lee when he correctly read the dark clouds gathering overhead and set his fastest time just before the red flag came out. During the break, rain began to fall putting pay to any chance of quicker laps. This year's Rookie Cup champion, Mehdi Bennani (MAR/Team Meritus) was right back on form, setting the second quickest time after Lee and recovering from his earlier lacklustre performance. "I can say I have never driven in the rain," said the talented 21-year-old Moroccan, "but I have to learn!"

Hanss Lin Po Heng (TPE/Belgravia Motorsport) was third quickest, followed by Al Fardan. You was one of several drivers caught out by the rain after the re-started session, and only managed to qualify 12th.

For series newcomer and local driver, Ken Lee Kook-Hyun (KOR/Team E-Rain), tomorrow's races will be his first ever in Korea. The 24-year-old, who has a karting background and has competed in single seater series in the US, is having to make a quick adjustment to the Formula BMW this weekend but hopes to compete in a full season. Racing for the first time in Asia and with other Asian drivers, Lee is surprised by the level of competition. "These drivers are quick. I didn't really think they'd be at this high a level," he admitted.

Boughey was this time quickest BMW Junior, but felt his performance did not do justice to the improvements he showed during the previous days' practice sessions. "It's a fine balance," he said. "I want to be on the podium tomorrow, but I need to finish for the points." Boughey is currently second in the Rookie Cup standings.

Background

The ultra-modern Formula BMW which allows 15-year-olds to enter the world of motor racing has been lining up on the grid since the 2002 season. It sets standards above all on the safety technology front. The single-seater, driven by a 140 bhp BMW motorcycle engine that takes it up to 230 km/h, features a carbon-fibre chassis, fulfils the safety requirements of the much higher-performance Formula 3 cars, and even matches certain Formula One standards.

Formula BMW Asia, drawing to the end of its second season this weekend, runs as part of the Asian Festival of Speed (AFOS) organised by Motorsport Asia Limited. This year the series was run over 14 rounds at seven venues, including Bahrain, where it was a support race to the Formula One Grand Prix, Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan and Korea, with the second Formula One Grand Prix support race in Shanghai last month.

In 2004, four different Formula BMW series were staged in Germany, the UK, Asia and the USA. Formula BMW events were part of the Formula One support programme on five occasions around the world. All the series go hand-in- hand with a comprehensive education and coaching programme, as well as substantial financial backing for promising young talent.

-pprplus-

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Robert T. Boughey , Tyson Sy , Marchy Lee