Wickens wins 2006 Formula BMW USA championship as Lee takes Round 14 victory; Morad takes Rookie title Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada - September 3, 2006-- Matt Lee (Team Autotechnicia) took the Round 14 Formula BMW USA victory today at ...
Wickens wins 2006 Formula BMW USA championship as Lee takes Round 14 victory; Morad takes Rookie title
Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada - September 3, 2006-- Matt Lee (Team Autotechnicia) took the Round 14 Formula BMW USA victory today at Mosport International Raceway, finishing 5.658 seconds ahead of Reed Stevens (HBR Motorsport Team USA) in the 16 lap race. Eliminated from a run at the championship following his third place finish in yesterday's Round 13 contest, Lee's second win of the season gave him a well-deserved second place in the final standings. Dicing with Stevens in the closing stages of the race, Lee recorded a new race lap record (1:24.408) on lap 15. Steven's eighth podium finish, that included a season-best four wins, finished third in championship. Adrien Herberts (Gelles Racing) finished third for his second podium of the year.
Race Johnson (HBR Motorsport Team USA) finished fourth today. Robert Thorne (Team Autotechnica) finished a season's-best fifth, today's top-finishing Rookie.
With a sixth place finish today Canadian Robert Wickens (EuroInternational) won the 2006 Formula BMW USA championship. The 2005 Formula BMW USA Sportsman of the Year led the 2006 title chase from Round 3, amassing three poles, three wins and seven podium finishes on the way to his first major open wheel championship.
Wicken's EuroInternational teammate Simona de Silvestro did all she could to race Wickens for the championship. Second in points entering Round 14, the 18-year old was forced to start at the rear of the 25-car field following post-qualifying technical inspection. She finished a fine 10th, but dropped to fourth in the Overall standings. EuroInternational won the 2006 Formula BMW USA Team championship.
The 2006 Formula BMW USA Rookie championship was won by Canadian Daniel Morad (AIM Autosport). His ninth place finish today was enough to give him the title after a season-ending battle with David Garza (EuroInternational) and Sebastian Saavedra (Gelles Racing). Saavedra and Garza had contact on lap eight and disappointing finishes today, 23rd and 25th respectively.
The final race of the 2006 Formula BMW USA season began under drying skies with each driver starting on wet tires. Only Herberts selected to change to slick tires before the start, forfeiting his 11th qualifying position to start from the back of the grid. Polesitter Wickens took the early lead, but Stevens and Lee were soon able to get by. By the fourth lap Stevens and Lee had built a gap to Wickens while de Silvestro had already broken into the top-10 after starting last. On lap seven the complexion of the race changed as the caution flag flew for contact between Saavedra and Garza. Some drivers elected to use the slowed pace to pit for dry tires, among them Lee. After the restart on lap 10 Lee led the charge from the rear of the field and by lap 14 was back to second and closing on Stevens. As the drying track favored those with slick tires Lee drove past Stevens on lap 15 for the win. Stevens held onto second, just ahead of Herberts and Johnson.
The top-five finishing Rookie drivers were Robert Thorne (P5), Maxime Pelletier (P7), Daniel Morad (P9), Jordan Dick (P12) and Steven Guerrero (P16).
The top-four drivers in Overall points are BMW Junior driver Wickens (149), Lee (143), Stevens (142) and de Silvestro (133). Stefano Coletti (77) rounds out the top- five.
The top-five in Rookie points are Morad (189), Saavedra (166), Pelletier (163), Garza (161) and Thorne (104).
"I am very excited about this win today," said an elated Lee. "After the last race in Denver I found that first place in the championship was really out of reach and so I am very happy to be second. I made the first recommendation to pit and then my team and driving coach agreed. So at the caution I came in, changed to slicks, and went right back out. Under the yellow the field tightened up and the cars were very close. That made it a lot easier for me to pass them."
A disappointed Stevens said, "We had a good start and we were able to overtake Wickens and take the lead in the race. Weather-wise it is such a gamble and just luck if the slick tires paid off. Loosing the championship is very disappointing. We had a good shot at it, but we didn't have the luck with us today with the weather."
A very pleased Herberts said, "It was probably the best race in my entire career. At the beginning after changing tires we were pretty nervous, but the track dried quickly and we started moving up to the field. I made two passes on the final lap to get on the podium. This is extremely pleasant for me."
Wickens, the happy 2006 Champion, stated, "How can I explain how excited I am right now? I was going into the race as nervous as I have never been in my life. I knew that I just needed to score a top-seven finish to win the championship. I was running in the top-six the whole time and I thought everything was going very well, but then I saw people on dry tires started to pass me and I became very concerned. As soon as I saw that Matt Lee was taking the lead I did the math and Reed Stevens could not win the championship. I just tried to finish the race and score sixth place points. It was not an outstanding result for the end of the year. I would have liked to stand on the podium in my home town race, but I think to be on the top-step of the championship is even better. The title means a lot to me. I improved two steps from last year when I finished third in the championship. I had a much more difficult season this year. I had a lot more ups and downs and a lot more confusions than in 2005. It is very good the win the championship and to put it on my resume."
Equally pleased, Morad said, "It is an incredible feeling. I thought our Rookie championship hopes were gone after San Jose, but I was able to win three out of the four remaining Rookie races. It feels great to be able to come back next year to Formula BMW USA as a Junior driver."
A total of 32 drivers competed in at least two Formula BMW USA races this year and while the titles have been decided at Mosport, the season will not be completely finished for some. All Formula BMW drivers worldwide can participate in the Formula BMW World Final at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo in Spain on November 24 through 26. Formula BMW drivers from the Asian, German, UK and North American Formula BMW series will compete for the World Final crown and a test with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.