Hearn Motorsports Opens Formula BMW USA Season at Mid-Ohio Lime Rock Park to Play Host to Rounds Three and Four LEXINGTON, Oh., May 23, 2006 -- Hearn Motorsports debuted their Formula BMW USA Series team this past weekend at the Mid-Ohio...
Hearn Motorsports Opens Formula BMW USA Season at Mid-Ohio
Lime Rock Park to Play Host to Rounds Three and Four
LEXINGTON, Oh., May 23, 2006 -- Hearn Motorsports debuted their Formula BMW USA Series team this past weekend at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. While the final results were less than the team had hoped for in Rounds One and Two, the Richie Hearn-owned organization left the 2.25-mile, 13-turn road course feeling good about the overall effort. Ryan Phinny (Carmel Valley, Calif.) had the highest finish of the weekend, a 12th, for the two-car team owned and managed by IndyCar driving standout Richie Hearn, in the weekend's second race. He also had the team's highest qualifying effort, third for Race One. Phinny, a karting standout running his first full season in cars, finished 13th in the second-race of the weekend driving the No. 16 Baja Cantina/ Eagle Air Conditioning/ Hearn Motorsports BMW. Jules Duc, pronounced Duke, of Los Gatos, Calif., finished 13th in both Saturday's first race and Sunday's second round in the No. 12 Duc Housing Partners/ Hearn Motorsports BMW.
Weather conditions wreaked havoc on the BMW paddock as rain would soak one session, leaving another dry. Saturday's race was in the dry while Sunday's began in the wet. Hearn, engineering the cars this weekend with the team's race engineer in Indianapolis, worked between sessions to fine-tune the open wheel cars for the changing conditions and the newly paved circuit. Despite the unknowns, the drivers proved very consistent. The weekend's first qualifying session was successful as Phinny took third on the grid; Duc ran the 13th quick time. Phinny would fall to 13th in the first race while Duc came home 17th.
"Ryan and Jules both did a very good job in the first qualifying session," offered Hearn. "Both did their best time on the last lap. They complained the cars were really loose so we made some changes for Saturday morning. I overcompensated and they were pushing really bad. Plus track conditions improved giving a lot more grip. So, we didn't qualify as well as we could have. For the race, we went back to the way the car was the day before. I think the drivers were driving overcautiously and Jules had a bad shock. So, again, we didn't get the finish that we wanted."
With car setups changed, the rain stopped just minutes before the start of Sunday morning's second round. The sun began to shine as the 26 cars left the grid and the track continued to dry during the 30-minute event. Phinny sat 16th on the grid, Duc 19th. Both moved up quickly through the field with Phinny challenging for ninth. He would drop back through the running order after spinning off track following contact with another car. The 16 year-old put in an inspired drive to take 12th in the last race of the weekend. He was challenging for 11th and had just passed teammate Duc, 15 years-old, when the checkered flag flew. Duc crossed the line 13th.
"Ryan got up to tenth and Jules got up to 12th" reflected Hearn on Race Two. "Ryan had someone go inside of him and knocked him off the track on the straight going into [turn] four. He got going again and ran really strong through the field. He was running a half second quicker than the leaders and got back up to 12th and was racing for 11th coming under the checker. Without the problem, I think he would have had a top-five. Jules also had a great race. He ran the sixth fastest race lap."
"It was a pretty good weekend, I guess," Hearn reviewed. "While we aren't happy with the results, I think we can be happy with how we performed overall. Without an engineer on site the weather made it difficult. It was a really good learning experience. The results don't say it but we were pretty happy with how most of the race went. As long as we learned from this, it is a good weekend. I made some mistakes and the drivers made some mistakes. Both drivers did what they should be doing for the most part. We have a positive run going into Lime Rock."
The team now heads to the fast, but tight, Lime Rock Park course in Lakeville, Conn. The May 26-29 event will be the first visit to the track for either driver. Hearn Motorsports does have previous experience at the facility. In 2004, Raphael Matos drove Hearn's Star Mazda entry at Lime Rock while Hearn himself piloted a Shelby Can-Am car on the 1.54-mile, eight-turn road course in 1993. Round Three of the 2006 season will take place on Saturday, May 27th while Round Four will take the green flag on Monday, May 29th. There is no racing allowed at Lime Rock Park on Sundays.
Hearn commented on Lime Rock; "It will be a new track for most of the kids. We don't get that Thursday practice like we did at Mid-Ohio. So, hopefully, we start out with the cars close. If the drivers are mentally on it, we'll be fine. I feel better that we will do pretty well. The stress of the first weekend is gone and we can get down to business knowing better how the Series works. All those little things you have to learn as a new team.
"I'm looking forward to going to Lime Rock. I hope the weather is a lot better. The hardest part about Lime Rock is getting the confidence to come down the hill through the last corner as fast as you can. That is a pretty intimidating corner. For the team, getting the car setup so the driver can do that is the hardest part. If you can figure that out you'll be quick enough to win the race."
Hearn and Duc will leave directly from Monday's event to fly to Germany where Duc will race in an invitational Formula BMW Germany event. Duc and a number of drivers have been invited to visit the BMW Formula One factory to learn more about the highest levels of motorsports. It is the practice of BMW to expose its drivers to as many aspects of the sport, including media training, as possible. The visit to the Grand Prix facility is included in that.
"The Series ran the weekend very professionally," said Hearn. "That was one of the things that impressed me the most about entering the Formula BMW program. It is very impressive the lengths they go to benefit young drivers like Jules and Ryan. It is certainly beneficial to us as a team too."