Race 1 Grid Position: 22 Result: 18 Race 2 Grid Position: 26 Result: 12 Formula BMW is not exactly uncharted territory for Philipp Eng -- after all, he is the reigning world final victor in this category. Since his last Formula BMW race, ...
Grid Position: 22
Grid Position: 26
Formula BMW is not exactly uncharted territory for Philipp Eng -- after all, he is the reigning world final victor in this category. Since his last Formula BMW race, however, there have been a few changes. The series has become a European championship. "It's not the same as it was before. Formula BMW Europe has got a lot tougher," says Philipp. "Last year, a gap of 1.2 seconds on the leader would probably have meant P12 or P13 on the grid. This year, it would most likely put you right at the back," says Philipp emphatically. All the same, he is immensely satisfied with his race comeback. "It was great to be racing again."
How difficult was the adjustment to Formula BMW?
"At the beginning, very difficult," is Philipp's blunt reply. Because it's been a long time since he sat behind the wheel of a Formula BMW racer. "In Formula 3, you have a lot more power and downforce, so that meant I was pushing the car too much at first." It wasn't until the second race on Sunday that Philipp managed to get the measure of his old/new vehicle. "In the second race, I was gradually able to match the leaders for lap times."
As a result, he was able to mount a strong pursuit, moving up from 26th to twelfth. "I had an excellent first lap, managed to find some useful gaps on the first three corners and moved several places up the field," he recalls. After that, he continued to make ground on the drivers in front but had to give credit to them for the pace they set from the start. "Also, it was quite difficult to overtake in all the traffic."
So what induced him to make a comeback in Formula BMW?
Even after the switch to Formula 3, Philipp didn't lose contact with his former Team Principal, Peter Mucke. A few weeks ago they reached an agreement whereby Philipp would drive for Mucke in the Formula BMW Europe series. "At the same time, we're also working on a deal for 2009," says Philipp.
Why is race practice so important?
Philipp's comeback is a good thing for two reasons: on the one hand, racing drivers always want to be racing; on the other hand, Philipp still has the highlight of his season to look forward to -- a Formula One test with the BMW Sauber F1 Team, his reward for winning the Formula BMW World Final in 2007. "I've been training like a man possessed, particularly in the neck muscle department so that my head doesn't fly off during the F1 test," says Philipp, describing his programme over the last few weeks. "It would not have been a good idea to go into the F1 test without having done any proper driving for six months."
About Philipp Eng...
Eng has been driving competitively since the tender age of nine. He started off in go-karting and took a string of Austrian titles in various categories - Division IV Cadets 80cc (2000), Division V Bambinis 60cc (2001) and the ICA Junior Class (2002). In 2003, he embarked on a year's training in Italy. In the 2004 European championships, he was fastest in qualifying, and in the Italian Open, he took the overall victory. In 2005, he once again returned to karting in Italy before finally making the switch to Formula BMW. The pinnacle of his career was third place overall in the 2007 season and winner of the Formula BMW World Final in Valencia. And his reward for this achievement was a Formula One test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.