Syosset, N.Y.'s Lee Wins Season Finale And Finishes Second In Formula BMW USA Championship After Mosport Doubleheader BOWMANVILLE, Ontario, Sept. 4 - In the movie "Tin Cup," Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy, played by Kevin Costner, doesn't win the U.S....
Syosset, N.Y.'s Lee Wins Season Finale And Finishes Second In Formula BMW USA Championship After Mosport Doubleheader
BOWMANVILLE, Ontario, Sept. 4 - In the movie "Tin Cup," Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy, played by Kevin Costner, doesn't win the U.S. Open but he goes down in golf history by following through on his "defining moment" until he successfully makes his shot.
And in the end, with the crowd cheering wildly, Rene Russo's Dr. Molly Griswold tells McAvoy that nobody will remember who won the tournament, but they'll always remember his hole in 12.
Matt Lee's story isn't exactly like that, but he can relate.
On Sunday at Mosport International Raceway the 16-year-old from Syosset, N.Y. came from 23rd place on lap eight to take the lead on the next-to-last lap and win a stirring 16-lap Formula BMW USA season finale in storybook fashion.
Coupled with his third-place finish in Saturday's race he finished second for the overall national championship in the 14-race series by six points. Robert Wickens won the title with 149 points to Lee's 143. Lee had just one point more than the third place finisher, Reed Stevens.
It was the closest points battle in the series' history.
Lee went into the weekend with two victories, but on Friday one of them was taken away after the series' sanctioning body granted Simona de Silvestro's appeal regarding her disqualification from Round Four at Lime Rock Park in Lakeville, Conn. in May. Lee ended the season with two victories (round one at Denver and round two at Mosport), four seconds, one third and two fourth-place finishes, which means he was in the top five in more than half the events, nine out of 14.
Reed Stevens won Saturday's race over de Silvestro with Lee third, 2 seconds ahead of Wickens. Lee also set the fastest lap of the event on the final lap, establishing an automatic track record of 1:45.468 since this was the series' first visit to the 2.46-mile, 10-turn road course.
That made an already tight point battle even tighter. Even though Lee finished on the podium on Saturday, with de Silvestro's victory reinstated he was mathematically out of the running for the championship when the checkered dropped. Three drivers were still alive in the title fight: Wickens, Simona de Silvestro and Reed Stevens. Lee was in fourth place.
Saturday's race was held under heavy rain from the remnants of Tropical Storm Ernesto which caused five drivers to have accidents, including Lee's Team Autotecnica teammate, Robert Thorne of Sherman, Conn., who ended up 23rd. His accident occurred on lap seven of the 15-lap race.
Lee started fifth on Saturday. "The rain didn't bother me and I had a great race," Lee told the Formula BMW press officers afterwards. "I'm happy that I gained some valuable points today. The start was quite different today, but my team did a great job telling me exactly what was going on. For tomorrow's race I definitely have to think smart and stay on the track. I hope it will be a dry race. I hope to finish tomorrow in first or second place in order to ensure hopefully second place in the championship. To win the title is out of reach now.
"Due to the rain, the first lap was under caution, and they did a single-file restart at the beginning of the race instead of the usual standing start," Lee elaborated later. "Some people didn't know we were going to do that, but I did and I got a good start.
"Maxime Pelletier was blocking me and I couldn't get by him, and then Race Johnson spun and got stuck, and I was third. But Stevens and de Silvestro were too far away for me to catch them. My car was all right, but we had some understeer on Saturday," he said.
Although his title hopes were over, Lee made sure the fans at Mosport knew he was there during Sunday's race, which was held on a wet but drying track. He started fourth but immediately vaulted to second place behind Stevens.
Stevens had a 4-second lead over him when a yellow flew on lap seven for an accident, and Lee used that opportunity to dive into the pits to change from wet tires to slicks. That put him in 23rd spot out of 25 drivers for the restart on lap nine, and itching to go.
Go he did. He was 12th by lap 11, and then passed eight cars during the next two laps to advance to third on lap 13 behind Stevens and Wickens. Stevens had a 3.208-second lead over Wickens at that point, and Lee was 0.100 of a second behind Wickens.
He made the winning pass on the next lap to lead lap 15, and he had a whopping 5.658-second advantage over Stevens at the checkered on lap 16. Adrien Herberts ended up third.
Lee set the fastest lap of the race in that event too, breaking his own day-old mark with a 1:24.408 (104.876 mph), run on lap 15.
"I was in second place early, and at that point the track was dry on the racing line and wet off it," Lee explained afterwards. "I said over the radio, 'Guys, it's getting dry; we need to come in for slicks if we get a caution.' We got one and the timing worked out perfectly. I got back out before the end of the caution. The field was stacked together for the restart, so that really helped. But I never passed so many cars in such a short time. I got the lead from a pass that started on the straightaway and ended mid-corner in Turn Eight on the second-to-last lap, and I had more than a 5-second lead at the end."
As far as the championship goes, Lee said, "It was unfortunate that we didn't win, but it happened anyway. I have to congratulate Robert Wickens; he did a great job. We had a disqualification and a couple of crashes that hurt us, but we gave it our best and that's all you can do. I also want to thank everyone at Team Autotecnica for all their hard work all year."
Lee's teammate, Thorne, also had a thrilling race on Sunday. He qualified 12th, was tenth by lap two, and used the same caution flag as Lee did to also dive into the pits for slicks. He was back up to 14th by lap 11 and moved back into tenth by lap 13. He passed two more cars on the next lap to move into eighth and then just kept coming, taking the checkered flag in fifth spot for his best career finish ever. His best previous finishes were three ninths.
Thorne ended up fifth in the rookie championship and 18th out of 32 drivers in the overall championship.
-credit: restart communications