(PresseBox) (Denver, Colo., )Reed Stevens (HBR Motorsports Team USA) took the Round 12 Formula BMW USA victory today at the Grand Prix of Denver. He finished .517 seconds ahead of Ryan Phinny (Hearn Motorsports) in the 23-lap race around the 1.657-mile temporary street course. The win was Stevens' third of the year and moved the 21-year old Californian up one position to third in the overall points. Phinny, making the most of his first front row start, delivered his very first runner-up finish and set a new race record (1:14.854) on lap 22. Point leader Robert Wickens (EuroInternational) finished third, moving back to an 18 point margin over Matt Lee in second. Lee, the Round 11 winner yesterday and polesitter today, finished ninth.
Daniel Morad (AIM Autosport) was again the highest finishing Rookie driver in the field, moving up one spot from his Round 11 finish to fourth today. Race Johnson (HBR Motorsport Team USA) finished fifth, but was penalized by IMSA 20 seconds for unjustifiable risk that moved him back to the 11th finishing position. Following this decision Sebastian Saavedra (Gelles Racing) moved up to round out the top-five.
Maxime Pelletier (Gelles Racing) also received a 20 second penalty from IMSA for blocking and was moved from his 10th finishing position to 16th.
Simona de Silvestro (EuroInternational), moved to the rear of the 24-car field following post-qualifying technical inspection, kept her championship hopes alive by finishing sixth. Her fine drive, passing 17 competitors, meant she only lost one place in overall points to fourth, ten points from Stevens in third.
The race began with Lee - from the pole -, Wickens - from third - and Stevens - from fifth - getting good starts. With Phinny in fourth, the top-four began to pull a gap on the rest of the field in the opening laps. On lap 5 Lee made slight contact with the wall and he slowed allowing Wickens, Stevens and Phinny to pass by. On lap 7 Stevens passed Wickens for the lead. Further back in the field De Silvestro moved into the top-10. On lap 15 Phinny took the second spot from Wickens and began to chase Stevens. Holding off Phinny, Stevens took his fourth career Formula BMW USA win while Wickens finished third, 11 seconds ahead of Morad in fourth.
After Morad, the top-five finishing Rookie drivers were Sebastian Saavedra (P5), David Garza (P8), Maxime Pelletier (P16) and Robert Thorne (P17).
Wickens' third place finish secures him the lead in the Overall championship. Lee, scoring only two points in today's race, stands second - 18 points behind Wickens. Stevens' win moves him up to third in the points followed by De Silvestro. Stefano Coletti (EuroInternational), who returned to the Formula BMW Germany championship, rounds out the top-five.
With another best-Rookie finish today Morad moves up to the top of the Rookie points, four points ahead of David Garza (EuroInternational). Saavedra stands third, only one point behind Garza. Pelletier and Robert Thorne (Team Autotecnica) stand fourth and fifth respectively.
"My team stayed up late and completely changed the setup," said a happy Stevens. "They didn't tell me about it, but in this morning's practice session it worked out very well so that we decided to stick with it for the race. In the opening laps I realized my car was extremely fast and had a bit of luck with Matt falling out. Phinny came on very strong in the closing stages in the race, but I pushed 100 percent. I am very happy to come home first. If we continue this form at Mosport we can finish second place in the Championship."
Phinny said, "I had a great weekend and hope to be able to continue like this. Trying to keep up with the top guys is definitely tough. My first podium finish feels great and is definitely where I wanted to be all year. Unfortunately, it took quite long to get there. My car was the best it has been all year after we discovered some stuff Friday night and fixed it. Hopefully we can get the car as good for the next races."
Wickens said, "We missed the set-up for today a little bit. We thought the track was going to change a little bit more, but it didn't. For Mosport, EuroInternational will give me a high-speed track setup so I think we are going to my hometown race with a good advantage and gain maybe two wins. Finishing third today feels great because with my clutch breaking on the start yesterday I was very disappointed. It was hard because I only had an eight points lead in the championship. Now I have an 18 points lead and got back where I was at the start of the weekend. With two poles and a win at Mosport I think I will have the championship clinched."
The winner of the 2006 Formula BMW USA championship will be decided in the two final Rounds at Mosport International Raceway in Canada on September 1-3 in support of the ALMS.
Championship points after 13 of 14 races:
1. Robert Wickens (Team Apex Racing USA, 134), 2. Matt Lee (Team Autotecnica, 116), 3. Reed Stevens (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 107), 4. Simona de Silvestro (EuroInternational, 97), 5. Stefano Coletti (EuroInternational, 77), 6. Daniel Morad (AIM Autosport, 67), 7. John Zartarian (Gelles Racing, 60), 8. David Garza (EuroInternational, 44), 9. Ryan Phinny (Hearn Motorsports, 42), 10. Sebastian Saavedra (Gelles Racing, 39), 11. Race Johnson (HBR Motorsport Team USA, 38), 12. Tom Sutherland (Jensen Motorsport, 23), 12. Tobias Hegewald (Atlantic Racing Team, 23), 14. Doug Boyer (AIM Autosport, 21), 15. Adrien Herberts (Gelles Racing, 19), 15. Maxime Pelletier (Gelles Racing, 19), 17. Ryan Campbell (Gelles Racing, 15), 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), 20. Robert Thorne (Team Autotecnica, 6), 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. Daniel Morad (155), 2. David Garza (151), 3. Sebastian Saavedra (150), 4. Maxime Pelletier (142), 5. Robert Thorne (87), 6. Jordan Dick (85), 7. Steven Guerrero (77), 8. Joel Jackson (61)
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.