GREAT START FOR MERITUS DRIVERS SEPANG (APRIL 4, 2009): Rio Haryanto and Dustin Sofyan gave Meritus Racing a great start to the new Formula BMW Pacific season when they finished third and fifth respectively in the opening round at ...
GREAT START FOR MERITUS DRIVERS
SEPANG (APRIL 4, 2009): Rio Haryanto and Dustin Sofyan gave Meritus Racing a great start to the new Formula BMW Pacific season when they finished third and fifth respectively in the opening round at Sepang International Circuit today. Formula BMW is one of the support races for the Malaysian Formula 1 Grand Prix.
Despite the fantastic start to the new season, team manager Firhat Mokhzani, ever the perfectionist, could not hide his disappointment they failed to get both drivers on the podium.
"We had a bad qualifying session yesterday and today was all about damage limitation," said Firhat, who has been behind Meritus' success of winning the last six Formula BMW team championships.
"Both our drivers have the potential to be on the podium and while I'm happy Rio and Dustin finished in the points, I know we can do better. Hopefully we can give our fans something to cheer about in tomorrow's second race."
Sixteen-year-old Rio, who started fifth on the grid, admitted he felt a little nervous going into the season opener.
"Everyone knows about Meritus' reputation as the best team in Formula BMW. They have won the last six team titles and they have also won the drivers' championships and Rookie-of-the-Year awards. There was a lot of pressure to perform and I let it get to me," explained Rio, who clocked 22:29.717s in the 10-lap race.
"It is a valuable lesson to learn and although I was the quickest in all the tests, racing in a championship means staying focus at all times. I hope to build on this podium finish and aim for the top step tomorrow."
Dustin, meanwhile, climbed from eighth to eventually finish fifth with a time of 22:33.601s.
"I'm pleased to finish fifth after my terrible qualifying session yesterday but there is still a lot of work to do," said the 14-year-old driver.
"The team did a great job and I just followed their advice on the track. I just need to push myself a little more as the car can certainly go faster."
Team founder, Peter Thompson, said: "They drivers suffered from stage fright during the qualifying as this is the biggest championship of their young lives. We must remember they are only 14 and 16 years.
"I think they showed today that they are coming to terms with racing for us and I'm confident they can only get better."
Tomorrow's second race will flag off at 2.45pm.
Meanwhile, My Qi Meritus.Mahara must be wondering what they have to do to get back into the points after Lady Luck once again deserted them.
It is becoming a familiar tale as My Qi Meritus.Mahara have always shown great pace but nothing goes right during races. In yesterday's morning practice session, Italian driver Marco Bonanomi broke the throttle when he started the car, thus eliminating any possibilities of him getting a good run in the qualifying. He qualified 22nd.
Despite those problems, he still had a good start to today's and was even running second at one stage after several of the leaders went into the pitlane but, just as it looked like the Malaysia-Saudi team would get some good fortune, Bonanomi's brakes gave away and he had to retire on lap 15 of the 34-lap race.
"It was a tough race. We were climbing quickly back in the classification. The 15 laps I completed were good fun and I hope we put up a good show for the 7,000 guests invited by our team sponsor Questnet. I hope I did not disappoint them: A pity that I had to retire because of a brake issue. I will push again tomorrow for a good finish in Race 2"
Portugal's Parente, who arrived in Malaysia as the fastest driver at last week's European GP2 tests, started on the fifth row but any hopes of him getting on the podium was effectively ended on the first lap when a clutch problem and a stalled engine saw him drop from 10th to 20th.
He fought back courageously before a problem with his radio meant a longer than planned pit stop but he eventually overtook several other drivers to finish 11th.
Parente said: "I completed my pitstop on lap 11 but it went very slowly because the mechanics had to fix the radio which was loose in the car after the start.
"It was a busy race with constant traffic that made it difficult to pass Michael Herck (DPR) and later Sakon Yamamoto. But I worked hard and probably lost two kilos because of the heat. I am happy to have finished 11th."