(PresseBox) (San Jose, )Californian Reed Stevens (HBR Motorsport Team USA) won Round 9 of the 2006 Formula BMW USA championship in front of a home-state crowd today at the San Jose Grand Prix. The 21-year old, from Palo Alto took the lead from polesitter Robert Wickens (EuroInternational) on lap 3 and, in a race that saw nine cars not finish because of accidents, held on for the remainder of the 23-lap contest for his second Formula BMW USA victory of the year. He finished .668 seconds ahead of Tom Sutherland (Jensen Motorsport) whose runner-up finish was a career-best for the Los Gatos, California driver who now holds the record for the most Formula BMW USA starts and finishes at 31. Rookie driver David Garza (EuroInternational) stood on the last step of the podium for his second third-place finish of the year.
EuroInternational teammate Simona de Silvestro finished fourth for her seventh top-five result of the season. Race Johnson (HBR Motorsport Team USA) rounded out the top-five finishers, equaling his season's-best finish.
Despite setting the fastest lap of the race (1:03.172) on lap 13 championship points leader Wickens finished 17th after a rare mistake put him into the wall on lap 20 after a race-long chase of Stevens. The race ended under the yellow brought out by Wickens crash.
Other finishes of note were achieved by Doug Boyer (AIM Autosport) who started from the back of the field but moved up strongly to finish eighth. Matt Lee (Autotecnica), who started from the 24th position after yesterday's post-qualifying exclusion, finished 11th.
The top-five finishing Rookie drivers were David Garza (P3), Maxime Pelletier (P7), Jordan Dick (P12), Steven Guerrero (P13) and Joel Jackson (P14).
Wickens still leads the championship over De Silvestro whose fine finish today moves her to second. Stefano Coletti (EuroInternational), who had a guest appearance with Formula BMW USA for four Rounds, holds third place. Lee and Stevens round out the top-five. Sebastian Saavedra's (Gelles Racing) 16th-place finish maintains his lead in the Rookie championship by five points over Garza whose podium finish moves him to second. Maxime Pelletier (Gelles Racing) stands third; and Daniel Morad (AIM Autosport) and Jordan Dick (Team Apex Racing USA) round out the top-five.
"It is awesome to finish here with so many friends and family," said a happy Stevens. "I am sure there are more than one hundred people out there to support me. On the first lap I was pushing really hard, but didn't want to take any risk overtaking Robert so I followed him for two laps. My car was very fast and I decided to make the pass on the third lap. From this point on the car was consistent and I was able to pull quite a large gap. The car was very fast on the restart. I will start fifth tomorrow and we know for sure that the car is very good in the opening laps. I think another win is certainly possible."
Sutherland said, "It is not only my best finish in Formula BMW USA it is also my best finish in any series. It is my first time on the podium in my three years of race car driving. I feel very excited and I am very grateful to my sponsors and my team. My team is working hard all the time and gave me a great car. It is kind of a coincidence that I am on the podium near my hometown. I have got a lot of friends and family here watching me on the race track. I am very excited and I hope I can do it again tomorrow."
Garza said, "It is the best thing in the world to be on the podium. All the hard work, sweat and pressure pay off when you are holding the trophy in your hands. I feel very comfortable on a street course and my team gave me a wonderful car. I also had good luck and everything came together. I will approach the race tomorrow with exactly the same attitude and hopefully I can make it on the podium again."
The Round 10 race is scheduled to start at 3:50 p.m. PT tomorrow.
Championship points after 9 of 14 races: 1. Robert Wickens (Team Apex Racing USA, 92), 2. Simona de Silvestro (EuroInternational, 81), 3. Stefano Coletti (EuroInternational, 77), 4. Matt Lee (Autotecnica, 76), 5. Reed Stevens (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 60), 6. Daniel Morad (AIM Autosport, 41), 7. David Garza (EuroInternational, 38), 7. John Zartarian (Gelles Racing, 38), 9. Race Johnson (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 35), 10. Sebastian Saavedra (Gelles Racing, 27), 11. Tobias Hegewald (Atlantic Racing Team, 23), 12. Doug Boyer (AIM Autosport, 21), 12. Ryan Phinny (Hearn Motorsports, 21), 14. Tom Sutherland (Jensen Motorsport, 19), 14. Adrien Herberts (Gelles Racing, 19), 16. Maxime Pelletier (Gelles Racing, 18), 17. Ryan Campbell (Gelles Racing, 14), 18. Scott Schroeder (American Spirit Grand Prix, 12), 19. Yannick Hofman (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 8), 20. Jordan Dick (Team Apex Racing USA, 6), 20. Philip Major (Atlantic Racing Team, 6), 22. Robert Thorne (Team Autotecnica, 4), 23. Alex Navejar (Jensen Motorsport, 1), 24. Jules Duc (Hearn Motorsports, 0), 24. Marco Santos (Haberfeld & Walker Racing, 0), 24. Steven Guerrero (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 0), 24. David Rangel (Haberfeld & Walker Racing, 0), 24. David Farias (Jensen Motorsport, 0), 24. Joel Jackson (Gelles Racing, 0), 24. Frankie Muniz (Jensen Motorsport, 0), 24. Maryeve Dufault (Hearn Motorsports, 0)
Rookies: 1. Sebastian Saavedra (119), 2. David Garza (114), 3. Maxime Pelletier (112), 4. Daniel Morad (98), 5. Jordan Dick (78), 6. Robert Thorne (67), 6. Steven Guerrero (67), 8. Joel Jackson (47)
Background: Formula BMW is the world's leading entry-level championship in Formula racing. In 2006 the series will be held in Germany, the UK, Asia and the USA. More than 80 up-and-coming drivers, some as young as 15-years old, will compete worldwide. Racing five times in support of the Formula One World Championship, Formula BMW offers a worldwide stage, training through a multifaceted Education and Coaching Program and BMW's longstanding Junior scholarship for deserving drivers.
The FB02 race car is propelled by a 140 bhp BMW engine, reaching speeds up to 140 mph. The design exceeds the FIA safety requirements for its class, with the BMW Motorsport developed FORS (Formula Rescue Race Seat), and the mandatory HANS (Head and Neck Support) safety system.
From November 24 to 26, 2006 the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo will host the second Formula BMW World Final. Young racing drivers from the four regional Formula BMW series will compete against each other with the winner receiving a test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team.