Ali and Jazeman take win apiece while BMW Juniors shine. Sepang, Malaysia -- Indonesia's Zahir Ali (19) and new team TARADTM scored their first victory today in Round 3 of the Formula BMW Asia 2007 season. Starting from pole, Ali triumphed...
Ali and Jazeman take win apiece while BMW Juniors shine.
Sepang, Malaysia -- Indonesia's Zahir Ali (19) and new team TARADTM scored their first victory today in Round 3 of the Formula BMW Asia 2007 season. Starting from pole, Ali triumphed after a chaotic start which saw BMW Junior, Hong Kong's Ross Jamison (17/Team Meritus) take an excellent 2nd place and Rookie Cup win, with the final podium going to another Rookie, Malaysian Johan Adzmi, giving another new team, Holzer PFX, their first podium of the season. Third Rookie finisher was BMW Junior David Zhu (16/Team Meritus), who bounced back well after disappointing opening rounds.
In Round 4, 14-year-old Malaysian sensation Jazeman Jaafar (Team Meritus) rounded off a superb Formula BMW Asia debut with his second win of the weekend after a fierce battle with team mate James Grunwell (18/THA). Second and third places were both taken by BMW Juniors: Kyle Mitchell (16/RSA/Eurasia Motorsport), who started the race from the back of the grid, and Zhu. Third Rookie Cup finisher was another BMW Junior, Akhil Khushlani (17/IND/Eurasia Motorsport). The superb performance of BMW Juniors so early on in the season illustrates both the effectiveness of the comprehensive BMW Education & Coaching programme.
After four races of the 22-round season, Jaafar tops the Driver Classification with 161 points, 33 points ahead of Khushlani, who leads Ali by 9 points. Khushlani's consistency has certainly paid off and the Indian youngster tops the Rookie Cup leaderboard, a full 14 points clear of Hong Kong's Jamison. Mitchell, despite taking two Rookie Cup victories this weekend, like Jamison, is third in the points.
Jaafar's exceptional performance has put Malaysia at the top of the Nations Cup, 12 points clear of Indonesia, with India in 3rd.
Round 3 got off to a dramatic start with Grunwell, winner of Round 1, Mitchell and Jaafar, who had won the opening round, anticipating the lights for which all three were given drive-through penalties. Grunwell and Jaafar realised their error immediately and allowed Ali to regain the lead, and the Indonesian didn't look back to take the chequered flag. Grunwell dropped further down the field before taking his penalty, with Adzmi, who had started from 8th on the grid, moving up to 3rd almost from the start. However, BMW Junior Akhil Khushlani (17/IND/Eurasia Motorsport) wasn't giving up on the final podium spot, and piled on the pressure.
Zhu was having an eventful race, clashing with both Khushlani and Dennis Vollmair (17 /GER/Engstler Racing), but finishing a superb 4th. Malaysian prodigy Jaafar recovered from his drive-through penalty to finish 6th, setting the fastest lap of the race. Mitchell also had a coming together with Vollmair.
If Round 3 was incident-filled, the last race of the 4-round weekend set new standards of drama. Ali got away well from pole, but Jaafar was lightning-quick and up to 2nd from 6th by the first turn and was challenging for the lead almost immediately which he took just four laps later. Ali spun and recovered, only to spin again and then retire, although there was no contact between the pair when Jaafar took the lead.
Grunwell then closed in on Jaafar, with Khushlani in third, while Mitchell was quickly picking his way through the field and was up to 4th. The ice man was taking no quarter on his journey, and swept aside all in his way. Zhu, meanwhile, was holding on to 3rd, and doing an excellent job keeping the chasing pack at bay before falling victim to the South African's relentless charge.
The battle for the win was heating up and the team mates inevitably clashed, with Jaafar managing to continue, but Grunwell out of the running. Even in the closing moments of the race the drama didn't end with Vollmair getting by Zhu, but the Chinese racer grabbing back his podium place just moments later after the German tussled with Mitchell.
Jaafar, who has rightly garnered considerable media attention during his debut on home soil, admitted the race had been more than eventful: "From start to finish, it was crazy. I had a really good start and was up to 2nd from 6th. I took Zahir, a little crazily I know. Then I had the fight with James. Our tyres clipped and we flipped. We're good friends and team mates, so I feel really sorry for him. I damaged my front wing (in the incident) but I just kept it cool to finish."
Formula BMW Asia continues next month, with Rounds 5 to 8 held as part of the Super GT Series at the Sepang International Circuit, and this time the drivers will be experiencing the full 5.542km Formula 1 Grand Prix track.