Lee Is Highest-Finishing America at Formula BMW World Final SYOSSET, N.Y., Jan. 19 - Bahrain is more than 6,000 miles from Matt Lee's home in Syosset, N.Y., but the 16-year-old says that competing in the first annual Formula BMW World Final...
Lee Is Highest-Finishing America at Formula BMW World Final
SYOSSET, N.Y., Jan. 19 - Bahrain is more than 6,000 miles from Matt Lee's home in Syosset, N.Y., but the 16-year-old says that competing in the first annual Formula BMW World Final there recently was well worth the trip.
Lee was one of only three American drivers from the Formula BMW USA series and the only driver from the Northeast to compete in the World Final, which pitted drivers from 15 different countries in a head-to-head, $60,000 event. After advancing through a series of preliminary races Lee started 11th out of 35 drivers in the final race and finished 14th, the highest finish by an American.
With a test drive in a BMW Formula One car up for grabs the competition was a wild and wooly affair, and two crashes cost Lee a better position. One in the third heat sent him from fifth position to 17th. Then, in the final restart of the last race, he was struck from the rear and pushed back to 27th, but he still was able to work his way back up to 14th at the checkered.
The driver who crossed the finish line first in the final was later penalized and ended up third, and another driver in the top five lodged a protest about another matter, so the event was not without drama. Despite the rough action, Lee feels he is richer from the experience of competing against drivers from around the world.
"I picked up so much stuff that you can't pick up racing in America, because our rules are so tight," he said. "There were tons of crashes at the World Final. About eight people crashed out of the race; it was an accomplishment just to finish.
"The biggest difference was how the drivers from other countries block," he elaborated. "Passing is easier in America. But at the World Final you had to use your brain for every single move. Mistakes could really kill you."
It was a totally new environment both on and off the track. Although Lee didn't have much free time to sightsee, he said Bahrain is "pretty westernized."
He was especially impressed with the circuit, a new, state-of-the-art facility built to host Formula One events.
"It was the nicest racetrack I've ever seen," he said. "Everything was perfect. The maintenance, the layout, just everything about the facility was amazing."
Prior to going to Bahrain Lee had wondered if dust blowing across the desert would affect the track surface. "It was clean all race weekend, but two days later when we were testing there it was like driving in a sandstorm, so we were lucky it didn't affect the races," he said.
"BMW put on a good race," he concluded. "Everything was good. We could have used more fans, but this was the first year for the World Final, so hopefully it will build from here."
Now Lee will look forward to testing in preparation for the 2006 Formula BMW USA season opener. He and Twin tooth Racing teammate Robert Thorne of Sherman, Conn. will drive for the 2005 championship-winning team, the Autotecnica Group, this year.
The series' first official test is March 27-28 at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. The series will consist of 14 races run as seven double-race weekends from May through September. The first two races will be held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio May 19-21. The highlights of the season are support races for both the United States Grand Prix and the Canadian Grand Prix.
For more information see the team's Web sites at twintooth.com and autotecnicagroup.com, as well as the series' Web site at formulabmwusa.com.