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This weekend, DAMS raced in the eighth and last round of the 2009 Formula BMW Europe Championship, part of the Italian F1 GP meeting. The Monza circuit with its long straights and tricky chicanes was a daunting challenge for the drivers in the season’s final event. It enabled them to find out what using slipstreaming to overtake is all about!

After a couple of good weekends in Valencia and at Spa, DAMS met with less success in Italy. Despite a good qualifying session in which Jim Pla set the third-quickest time for race 1 and bagged pole position for race 2, the results were disappointing. Pla had to make do with seventh in the first race, and in the second he was eliminated in a collision. Nonetheless, he finished fifth overall in the championship.

Javier Tarancon also had a good qualifying session, and on Saturday he finished just outside the top 3. On Sunday he collided with Jim when the 2 drivers were lying third and fourth – end of story!

Côme Ledogar had a more difficult weekend. He went off in free practice, which ruined his qualifying, and his grid positions prevented him from fighting at the front.

DAMS finished its second season in Formula BMW Europe in fifth place in the teams’ classification. Although the result is a satisfying one, it could have been better with a bit more success at Monza. But the overall performances in the second half of the season have been very encouraging, and will help the team to be one of the 2010 title contenders right from the green light.

Eric Boullier, Team Manager: “First of all, congratulations to the whole team on our second year in Formula BMW Europe. We had a great second half this season, and our three drivers showed that they have the talent to shine in this category. Our recent performances are an indication that had we got the championship off to a better start, we could have aimed for the title. It’s very encouraging for next year.”

Jim PLA
Race 1: 3rd on the grid, 7th at the finish.
Race 2: pole position, eliminated by a collision.
5th in the championship with 222 points.

“Each weekend is different. After four wins on the trot in Valencia and at Spa followed by a good qualifying session here at Monza, my season has ended on a frustrating note. On Saturday, I was fighting at the front until I spun and rejoined in fifteenth place. I went pedal to the metal to pull back places but my hopes of a podium were dashed. On Sunday, I was in fourth place when a misunderstanding with one of my team-mates led to a collision. It’s a pity as I reckon I could have finished third or fourth of the championship. I think the second half of the season showed what I’m capable of. I’d like to thank DAMS very much for the season.”

Javier TARANCON
Race 1: 8th on the grid, 4th at the finish.
Race 2: 5th on the grid, 21th at the finish.
12th in the championship with 91 points.

“I was very quick in qualifying and my fourth place on Saturday gave my hopes a big boost for the next day. I made a good start and unfortunately, my race ended very early due to a collision. These things happen but it’s a shame for the team. I think I’ve grasped the specific aspects of this championship, which will help for the next step in my career.”

Côme LEDOGAR
Race 1: 13th on the grid, 14th at the finish.
Race 2: 12th on the grid, 19th at the finish.
17th in the championship with 50 points.

“I had a tough qualifying session due to my accident in free practice. As a result, it was difficult to close the gap to the front-runners mainly because of the characteristics of the Monza circuit. The performances were very close. The first race was on a wet track and there were several collisions. I tried to make the best of the situation but it wasn’t enough.”

Surrey racing driver Ollie Millroy returned to Formula BMW Europe this weekend at Spa Francorchamps, alongside Formula 1, with a very solid top six finish on Sunday to the delight of his team Raikkonen Robertson. After a disappointing qualifying session on Friday which left him on grid 16 and 15 Ollie had two very solid races although Saturday’s race was unfortunately brought to an abrupt end by mechanical failure.

“I had a problem during qualifying because my radio wasn’t working and I had no contact with the team said Ollie. This caused me to overrun on my first set of tyres and only gave me two quick laps on my second set. I decided I didn’t have time to look for a tow and put two quick laps in on my own which around Spa cost me a lot of time although it could have been worse. Race one on Saturday was going well and after a good start I made up two places at the first corner and worked my way up to 11th place and with still three laps to go there was a failure with the rear wheel bearing which ended my race. In race two on Sunday I again had a good start and throughout the race the car was quick and felt good which allowed me to finish sixth at the chequered flag.”

“After a not such a good start on Friday and Saturday I think I came away with about as good a result as I could expect. The team are great to work with and the car feels good so I can go to Monza in a couple of week’s time confident of getting a good result. I was quickest overall there at the official test earlier this year and with Double R we will be going for the win.”

Gabby Chaves (5th in the American Driver Ranking) did something no one else has ever done in Formula BMW Americas history. In fact, one would be hard pressed to find anyone who has pulled off this feat in any racing series anywhere in the world. Gabby Chaves finished on the podium in every one of the 14 races in the 2009 season. A fitting way to bring the series, which has been dropped by BMW, to closure.

The dual Columbian, American citizen completed the accomplishment with another runner up finish, his second at Mosport, after starting once again in the second spot.

“I think that’s what gave me the championship,” Chaves said stating the obvious. “I did really well in the opening races, and then stayed consistent with seconds and thirds, five races in a row. Then at Lime Rock, I think that’s what got the championship with a win and a second that gave me a gap followed by two wins at Road American which clinched it.”

Read the entire article at American Driver Ranking:
Mosport Coverage: Day Three, Part One Chaves Achieves FBMW History

British racer Ollie Millroy will join Raikkonen Robertson for this weekend’s Formula BMW Europe race at Spa-Francorchamps, as well as the season finale at Monza next month.  The 19 year-old will race along side the team’s regular Formula BMW drivers Rupert Svendsen-Cook and Gregoire Demoustier.

It’s been a quick turnaround for the Formula BMW Europe teams this week, who have travelled from last weekend’s race in Valencia, to the historic Belgium circuit of Spa for rounds 13 and 14 of the season.  Last time out in Valencia, Svendsen-Cook added a fifth place finish to his tally of six top six finishes so far this season, which has put him seventh in the drivers championship.

This weekend will be the first time Millroy has raced with the Raikkonen Robertson team, although the Surrey based driver has previous experience in the Formula BMW car, having competed the first three rounds of the year and having raced in Formula BMW Europe last year.

In 2008 Millroy also competed in the Formula BMW Pacific championship, taking second place in his first race in the series, followed by a victory in Singapore.

Millroy will be aiming for a good result on his favourite track – the 4.2 mile Spa circuit which will also play host to the Formula One Belgian Grand Prix this weekend.   Millroy also has a strong record at the final venue of the season – Monza, having been the fastest driver overall at this year’s pre season test at the Italian circuit.

“I thought my career in Formula BMW Europe was behind me,” said Millroy, “but the opportunity to race with Raikkonen Robertson at the final two rounds of the season was too good to turn down.  I feel like I’ve got some unfinished business in the series, so I’m very pleased to have the opportunity to prove myself in the remaining four races.  Spa is one of my favourite tracks and I was quickest at Monza in testing, so I’m really looking forward to two strong weekends.”

Team Principal Anthony Hieatt added, “We’re very pleasedthat Ollie will be joining us for the final two events of the season.  His experience in Formula BMW and his speed at the official test at Monza earlier this year will undoubtedly make him an asset to the team.  Rupert is similarly experienced in the series and we’ve really seen him develop into a regular front runner.  Hopefully he can push for his first win in the remaining four races.”

This weekend, DAMS raced in the sixth round of the 2009 Formula BMW Championship, part of the European Grand Prix meeting on the Valencia city circuit. The French squad was again represented by Jim Pla, Javier Tarancon and Côme Ledogar.

Jim Pla had an extremely good weekend winning both races. After his third and fourth places in Budapest a month ago, the Frenchman has got the monkey off his back and is now one of the leading lights in the championship.

Javier Tarancon and Côme Ledogar enjoyed mixed fortunes. On Saturday, the Spanish driver finished just outside the top 3 on home turf and had a collision on Sunday. Côme started from the middle of the pack – always a dangerous place – and did not finish due to collisions.

Next round: Spa-Francorchamps this coming weekend for the seventh round of the championship.

Eric Boullier, Team Manager: “Since the Nürburgring, we’ve felt that things were looking up, but race incidents haven’t allowed us to demonstrate our progress. Jim had the perfect weekend and his potential exploded. Hats off to him and the whole team! Our mission is to achieve the same performances until the end of the season. Our other aim is to help Javier and Côme close the gap to the leaders.”

Jim PLA
Race 1: 2nd on the grid, winner, fastest lap in the race
Race 2: 2nd on the grid, winner, fastest lap in the race
5th in the championship with 149 points

“I’m very happy with this weekend’s result. Front row, victory and fastest lap. Difficult to do better! I’d really like to thank the whole team with whom I share this performance. The conditions were difficult this weekend. The track was very slippery off-line and it was very hot. You had to stay concentrated till the end and not take too many risks in the two races. This approach paid off. I can’t wait for Belgium!”

Javier TARANCON
Race 1: 8th on the grid, 4th at the finish
Race 2: 9th on the grid, retired (collision)
13th in the championship with 66 points

“I had a reasonable qualifying session. I was very satisfied with the car’s handling in the race. I just missed out on the podium on Saturday as another driver squeezed me in the last corner. On Sunday, I was in fifth place when another car hit me, and that was the end of my race.”

Côme LEDOGAR
Race 1: 11th on the grid, retired (collision)
Race 2: 15th on the grid, retired (collision)
17th in the championship with 31 points

“It was just one of those weekends when nothing goes right. In qualifying I wasn’t able to string all the sectors together and that was a pity. By adding together all my best sector times, I would have set the fourth-quickest time. I started in the middle of the pack in the races and I was harpooned twice. There was nothing I could do about it! It’s frustrating, and I hope to be able to improve my performance at Spa.”

Timmy HansenIt wasn’t Timmy Hansen’s weekend when Formula BMW raced in Valencia. In Race 1 Timmy was just ninth at the finish, after a collision when he was advancing to fifth. He managed to stay clear of the dreaded walls around the street track and was able to continue. Hansen was then 12th and re-started his hunt towards the top. And he did it in style. Lap after lap he posted quickest sector times and was fastest on track until the last lap when Michael Christensen and Jim Pla, who crossed the line as first and second, squeezed by with a tenth. During his comeback Timmy made some good overtaking manouvers and ended up ninth.

- It feels good for the future that I have the capacity to battle up front, Timmy says.

- Valencia is challenging and fun, but very risky as the consequences for an off are huge.

Race 2 was short and intense for Timmy. Like he often does he started better than the ones around him and in the second turn he passed Kazeem Manzur.

- Coming in to turn four I was in the normal racing line when “BANG” I got one of the DAMS cars into my side, says Timmy disappointed. I spun and the suspension broke. End of race.

Already next weekend, 28-30 August, the next rounds are being raced on the legendary Spa track in Belgium.

Photo by Hansen Motorsport

Gabby ChavesRoad America is a track where drivers have long gone to make their names, and this weekend was no different.

Young Colombian-American racer Gabby Chaves won the 2009 Formula BMW Americas Championship with two race wins on Sunday at Road America to seal the title with two rounds of racing yet to run. The victories and title-clinching performance confirmed young Chaves as a star of the future for the karting graduate, who raced his way to the podium in every round of the 12-race Formula BMW Americas season to date.

“It has been our consistency and our ability to be there at the end that has won this championship,” Chaves said. “You have to have some luck to win a championship, but we have put ourselves in position to score big points in every race and that is what a champion does. I am very happy to have been a part of the Formula BMW Americas series this year and am excited to have won the title.”

The title is the newest line on an already burgeoning racing resume for the Café do Colombia-sponsored racer, who was a tennis prodigy by the age of 10 before a chance trip in a kart changed his career trajectory forever. A successful career in karting led to the chance to race his way to a Skip Barber scholarship in Formula car competition, where he at one point enjoyed a 17-race undefeated streak of competition.

His performance in the Skip Barber National Championship then paved the way for his move up to Formula BMW Americas, which is the North American-centric chapter of the global competition formula that has spawned the careers of several current Formula One stars.

“For me to race in Formula BMW was an amazing opportunity and I want to thank Café de Colombia for being such fantastic supporters for me and my career,” said Chaves. “I am very happy that we were able to make the most of this opportunity and I hope that it continues to lead to more good things happening in my career.

Chaves, who set a record as the youngest-ever race winner in Formula BMW competition world wide with his first victory at the age of 15, set another new mark this weekend as no Formula BMW Champion has taken the season-ending honors at only 16 years old.

His record of performance is awe-inspiring, amassing five wins, six runner-up results, and one third place finish. His season has been marked by not just consistency, but also speed, as underlined by the eight different track records he has set.

The performance has gained a lot of attention for the youngster, who has also been invited to participate in the Singapore round of Formula One competition by racing in the Formula BMW event in support of the Grand Prix on September 26.

Gabby Chaves Achievements:

CHAMPION-2009 Formula BMW Americas
Skip Barber National Championship -2008 five races, 3 victories, one 3rd and one 4th place finishes. (Had to withdraw  after leading  the championship to compete in the BMW pacific series)
UNDEFEATED CHAMPION  2007-2008 SKIP BARBER SOUTHERN REGIONAL SERIES ( 10 races , 10 victories)
RUNNER-UP 2007 SKIP BARBER EASTERN REGIONAL SERIES
WINNER 2007 COLOMBIAN GRAND PRIX FORMULA RENAULT 2000
WINNER 2006 SKIP BARBER ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIP SHOOT-OUT
WINNER 2008 FLORIDA WINTERTOUR NATIONAL KARTING SERIES (ROTAX JUNIOR CLASS)   Ocala Grand Prix March/24/2008
CHAMPION 2006 HOMESTEAD FL SUMMER CHAMPIONSHIP EASYKART 60
3RD PLACE  2006 EASY KART GRAND NATIONALS  100 cc.
CHAMPION 2006 FLORIDA WINTER TOUR CHAMPIONSHIP/ ROTAX MINIMAX
2ND PLACE 2006 CRG GRAND NATIONAL NORTH CAROLINA /CADET CLASS
CHAMPION 2006 STARS OF KARTING NATIONALS CHAMPIONSHIP/ CADET CLASS
CHAMPION 2006 ROTAX EAST COAST DIVISION / ROTAX MINIMAX
2ND PLACE 2006 ROTAX GRAND NATIONALS / ROTAX MINIMAX
7TH PLACE 2006 EASY KART WORLD FINALS JESOLO, ITALY/ EASY KART 100 cc.
CHAMPION 2005 FLORIDA ROTAX CHALLENGE / ROTAX MINIMAX
4th PLACE   2005  EASY KART WORLD FINALS PARMA,  ITALY/ EASY KART 100 cc.
CHAMPION 2005 EASY KART GRAND NATIONAL / EASY KART 60 cc.
CHAMPION 2005 HOMESTEAD, FL SUMMER CHAMPIONSHIP/ EASY KART 60 cc.

James KovacicEvery athlete, regardless of their idiosyncrasy, has a defining moment in life that draws them to their sport. A spark, if you will, that says, “I want to do this, I’m good at this.”. That moment came for Australian race driver James Kovacic at a very young age. James had been watching the go kart drivers run laps at Forrester’s Beach for a few years before he was able to get behind the wheel himself. Despite repeated attempts to drive the karts, James was turned down and told, “You aren’t tall enough.”. Eventually, when James was 8 years old, he was given the chance to get behind the wheel of a go kart. No, it wasn’t a racing kart, it was a rental kart. At the time, it didn’t matter because James just wanted to drive. He had finally attained the proper height requirement to participate, but he was still too short to reach the pedals and to see over the steering wheel. The track attendants at Forrester’s Beach Go Kart solved that problem by placing six cushions underneath the youngster.

Read the interview at Junior Open Wheel Talent:
Driver Profile: James Kovacic

For Australian James Kovacic, Connecticut seemed an unlikely destination to celebrate his 16th birthday, but since the Formula BMW Americas schedule took him to Lime Rock Park, Kovacic figured he should do something special to mark the occasion.

The young Team Apex pilot became the first driver to win a Formula BMW Americas race from a starting spot other than the pole this year as he came from fifth on the starting grid to score his first career win. Kovacic split the race weekend with Colombian-American Gabby Chaves, as Chaves’ victory in Saturday’s first race propelled him back into the series points lead.

Chaves won the day’s first event in dramatic fashion as he swiped the lead from Autotecnica’s Gianmarco Raimondo on a late restart, then held off a fierce last-corner charge from the Canadian to win by 0.032 seconds. Raimondo got a great run coming off the final corner of the 1.53-mile Lime Rock track, drafted right to the gearbox of Chaves’ Eurointernational machine before coming up half a carlength short in the drag race to the checkered flag.

“I caught a gap on the restart and was able to get inside and take the lead, then was able to build it a little,” Chaves recalled. “Gianmarco came at me hard at the end but I was able to hold him off. This was a great weekend for me, as we moved another step closer to our goal of winning the Formula BMW Americas championship!”

Raimondo settled for his second runner-up finish of the year while Kovacic showed a glimpse of things to come by snaring the third spot ahead of a season-best fourth-place run by Dominican Daniel Vela. The win for Chaves, coupled with an eighth-place finish by Eurointernational’s Giancarlo Vilarinho, moved Chaves into the points lead.

The second race was a fierce battle, run under sunny skies and the hottest temperatures of the weekend. Alex Ellis controlled the race from the pole for the first 13 laps, while Kovacic steadily made his way through the field. The Aussie moved to fourth on Lap 5, was third by Lap 7, and dashed by Chaves for second after just one more orbit of the LRP circuit. He then set his sights on Ellis, chasing him for nearly three full laps before an Ellis spin promoted Kovacic to the lead.

Kovacic held off strong challenges from Chaves and Raimondo over the next two laps, but was equal to the task, stretching his lead to a full second before a Robert Garcia crash brought out the yellow flag under which the race would eventually end.

“I can’t even explain how happy I am about getting my first win,” grinned Kovacic. “I don’t know what our Team Apex guys did to this car but it was really fast. I tried to keep out of trouble, find good spots to make my passes and drive hard.”

Chaves held on for second and maintained his streak of finishing on the podium in every race through the nine rounds of 2009. Raimondo finished third for his sixth podium of the year while Brazilian Joao Horto set a new career high by bringing his Team Apex machine home in fourth. Horto’s countryman Vilarinho rebounded from a tough opening race to round out the top five.

The series will compete at the 4.048-mile Road America layout with a tripleheader August 14-16, and will wrap up the 2009 schedule with a doubleheader at Mosport two weeks later.

A decision was made following the two championship rounds at Silverstone, which took place alongside the British Grand Prix, to withdraw Ollie from Formula BMW Europe. Due to reasons beyond his control it was felt that there was little to be gained in completing a second year in the junior championship without being in a position to win and a move onto testing and racing in a senior Formula now would be more beneficial for the young Surrey racing drivers career in preparing for 2010.

Ollie is actively talking with teams from all over the world at the moment and a decision will be made as soon as possible on what he will do for the rest of the year to keep him racing.

“I’m very disappointed not to be completing the Formula BMW championship to say the least because for sure at the start of the season I expected to be one of the front runners and competing for the championship. The trouble is we just weren’t on the pace and I had nothing to gain running in the middle of the pack for the rest of the season with little chance of getting up the sharp end. At the end of the day these things are out of my hands but I can understand why I have been withdrawn and I trust the judgement of those around me who have made this decision. All I have to do is keep myself fit and wait for a decision to be made. I’m already getting a lot of interest from the UK, America and Asia so hopefully I should be back in a car very soon. We are also still looking for sponsors or an investor, which is especially difficult at the moment because of the economic situation but my immediate concern is that I’m back in a race car as soon as possible so I can get my career back on track”.