USA: Autotecnica/Twin Tooth testing update

Lee and Thorne Continue Aggressive Pre-Season Formula BMW Testing Schedule SYOSSET, N.Y., March 8 - The Formula BMW USA season opener is still two months away, but Team Autotecnica and Twin tooth Racing drivers Matt Lee of Syosset, N.Y. and...

Lee and Thorne Continue Aggressive Pre-Season Formula BMW Testing Schedule

SYOSSET, N.Y., March 8 - The Formula BMW USA season opener is still two months away, but Team Autotecnica and Twin tooth Racing drivers Matt Lee of Syosset, N.Y. and Robert Thorne of Sherman, Conn. have been testing extensively in the off-season as they prepare to pursue some lofty goals.

Lee, 16, will try to win the national championship, while Thorne, 15, hopes to earn the series' Rookie of the Year title.

Their team principals have been pleased with both teens' progress in the off-season. "We're headed in the right direction," said Enrico Diano, Team Autotecnica co-owner and manager. "We think we're in the right position to achieve those goals in 2006."

Both Lee and Thorne are participating in a three-day test at Virginia International Raceway (VIR) in Alton, Va. this week, just the latest stop in a busy pre-season testing schedule they're juggling along with their schoolwork.

Their team, Autotecnica, based in Toronto with a U.S. shop in Lake Park, Fla., won the title last year with another driver and it would like nothing better than to record back-to-back championships this year with Lee.

Lee finished 16th last year with another team as a rookie in the series.

The Formula BMW USA series prepares young drivers, many of who like Lee and Thorne have distinguished themselves in karting, for careers as professional race car drivers.

Thorne did not race in the series last year but he won one of five Formula BMW Junior scholarships for the 2006 season due to his performances at a two-day run-off at the Formula BMW Racing Center in Valencia, Spain last Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

Both teens have been working hard. The pre-season testing began immediately after Lee was the highest-finishing American at the Formula BMW World Final in Bahrain in December.

"We did two days of testing in Bahrain after the event with Matt, which really was our first test for the 2006 season," said Diano. "Then we did two days with both Matt and Robert in Louisiana at No Problem Raceway. We went to Roebling Road in Savannah, Ga., for two days, and last week we did two more days at Carolina Motorsports Park. This week we're doing three days at VIR. Both boys participated in all those tests except Robert missed Bahrain because he had schoolwork that he couldn't miss."

The team will also participate in the series' first official test of 2006 on March 27-28 at Road Atlanta Motorsports Park in Braselton, Ga., followed by two series tests in April: VIR on April 8-9 and Carolina Motorsports Park April 29-30. There is also one day of testing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio on May 18 prior to the season-opening doubleheader there May 19-21.

Diano said that the team has been pleased by both young drivers' progress. "It seems like a lot of progress happens between the tests," he said while driving to VIR. "Their brains put together what they've learned on the track the day before, or what they learned at the last test, and there is improvement almost automatically the next day and at the next test," he said. "Their levels of concentration have improved immensely, and they don't make the same mistakes twice.

"Matt has really come around 180 degrees from where we started; he's a totally different driver now," Diano continued. "His commitment to the sport was already strong, but it seems unbeatable now. He's very committed to improving himself in every way possible; technically he wants to improve his knowledge of the car and how it works, and he also wants to improve himself physically and emotionally, especially as it relates to the level of concentration required.

"We've worked with Matt longer than Robert; we've been working with Matt for six months compared to two with Robert, but nevertheless Robert is also improving by leaps and bounds," Diano added. "Matt ran in the series last year but Robert is a rookie, and coming in with such a limited amount of experience in the car, Robert's strides are much bigger," he noted. "We're improving by tenths of a second on the track with Matt and we've improved whole seconds with Robert. Now Robert is within a few tenths of a second of Matt's times, whereas before he was a couple of seconds back. He's been able to close the gap and he's feeling more confident. He's looking forward to working with Matt this season to learn from him and use it to his advantage to make up for the fact that he's a year behind his teammate in terms of experience."

Thorne will drive the car that won the championship last year, while Lee will drive another car that won four races in 2004. "They've been switching between the cars, and Robert preferred the one he's going to drive and Matt preferred the one he's getting," Diano said.

Both teens are also working hard on their physical conditioning. "Robert is signed up with the PitFit Training program out of Indianapolis as part of his scholarship, and Matt is working with our driver coach, Christian Boudon," Diano noted. "He has many years of experience at every level of racing. He was an official coach of the Formula BMW series in 2004, and he was an integral part of our team and our strategy in Bahrain. He stresses physical fitness and nutrition; those are things we put a lot of importance on.

"Plus, in the end they still have to get good grades in school," Diano added with a smile.

Lee, who turned 16 on Nov. 27, is a junior at Syosset High School. Thorne, who turns 16 on March 24, is a sophomore at Canterbury School in New Milford, Conn.

Their race cars are sponsored in part by Auto Parts Warehouse/Bumper to Bumper. Both teens are searching for additional sponsorship too.

They also both volunteer for the not-for-profit Think First Foundation, which strives to prevent brain and spinal cord injuries by promoting safety and the wearing of protective devices such as seat belts and helmets by the public. The foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.

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Series Formula BMW
Drivers Robert Thorne , Matt Lee